The government will only call an independent commission of inquiry into allegations of a “Phantom squad” that carried out unlawful killings if evidence comes forward, Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira said yesterday.
Just back from accounting at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, both Teixeira and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkette contended that the chance for an independent commission is “slim” at this point in time.
The United Nations Human Rights Council provides for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) every four years, examining the human rights record of each state.
In Geneva, Minister Rodrigues-Birkette declared that since the restoration of democracy in 1992, Guyana has managed to ensure that there is no reversal or regression of human rights, or the overall democratic gains, despite several major challenges including a period of upsurge in violent crimes, a hostile international economic environment and the intensification of the negative consequences of climate change.
However, Guyana’s major donors took one of their strongest positions on human rights. The United Kingdom and Canada called for an independent probe into human rights abuses and allegations of a death “phantom squad” responsible for numerous deaths in Guyana. The United States also expressed concern.
Rodrigues-Birkette said that the allegations of the Phantom Squad are currently being addressed and investigations are ongoing by the Guyana Police Force.
Teixeira was emphatic that evidence was needed to accede to the demands of those calling for an inquiry into the alleged death squad.
“We have been probing the matter and we shall wait to see if the evidence will be provided to lead to further investigations; until then there is no inquiry. You can have no inquiry with no information coming forward,” she stated.
Reacting to concerns about public confidence in the Police to undertake such an investigation, Teixeira declared that the Police Force is the agency by law that has the authority to investigate.
“The evidence leads us to an investigation; until there is no evidence there is no inquiry, it is a totally logical argument,” she declared.
According to Teixeira, all Commissions of Inquiry, by law, are independent and impartial.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Minister said that Guyana had no hesitation in appearing before the UN Human Rights Council.
“The government of Guyana is of the view that the UPR process is a very useful tool in determining the progress states have made with respect to human rights. We believe Guyana fared well in this review and we will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that we continue to improve,” she stated.
She said Guyana’s progress was recognised “far and wide” and the country was commended for a number of things, including an inclusive model of governance, bringing into domestic law int’l treaties, the setting up of constitutional rights commissions and the Low Carbon Development Strategy.
Of the 112 recommendations, Guyana accepted 57, Rodrigues-Birkette said, while the other 55 would be responded to before the Council meets in New York.
Of the 57 recommendations accepted, she said 31 are already at various stages of implementation, including setting up a human rights institution with UN accreditation, providing adequate training on human rights.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said Guyana’s delegation was not in a position to make any commitments on these issues as adequate consultation with stakeholders is required.
However, she said while those were pressing concerns for international countries, the local reality might be different.
“As such, in the scheme of things, the priorities identified by some developed countries such as gay rights, and abolishing the death penalty, might not necessarily be in synched with the wider Guyanese population at this particular point in time,” Rodrigues-Birkette declared.
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