GHRA report emphasises the need for reform of police execution squad
Stabroek News
February 22, 2002

Dear Editor,

I write to compliment the Guyana Human Rights As-sociation for finally adding weight to the debate on extra-judicial killings. Many commentators may want to seize on the facts garnered over twenty years and massage them to their advantage whilst others, may smart at the mention of days of old. It is good to know however that we can have a holistic view of this Frankenstein from several angles. For me, this represents a start in the right direction. It has been said that before God can deliver us, we must undeceive ourselves and this report appears to agree with this truism. The facts as confirmed by the GHRA report appropriately entitled "Ambivalent About Violence" shows that within the Guyana Police Force there is a unit operating above the law. This unit is constituted from time to time by different faces and characters. From the limited report in the Stabroek News, however, it is difficult to discern the precise causes of these killings and one would expect that at sometime soon we may see a breakdown of the circumstances, whether they were all due to the usual "man attacks armed police party with cutlass drawn from the waist", or some other incomprehensible reason. Interestingly also, the report does not appear to address disappearances, torture, and near death beatings. There is no doubt that every police force needs a unit or squad to address serious crime. Such a unit is expected at all times to be disciplined and to function very much like a SWAT team as exists in other nations.

Our teams, for whatever the reasons, have in the past, and moreso in the present, redefined their own roles and responsibilities becoming judge, jury and executioner. This is frightening and can only get worse. People are appalled not only at the fact that people are dying but moreover by the manner of their deaths. No one believes any longer the excuses and explanations given for the deaths. The police hierarchy ought as well to be very concerned about the functioning of ranks of this unit as ordinary members of the society. What happens for example if one of these persons desires to retire or resign, can he easily re-integrate into society and carry on a normal family life? I doubt it. In closing, I once again add my voice to the thousands of others and call for a thorough review of policing in Guyana leading to a redefining of the role of the Guyana Police Force and supporting services. We have the report of the British experts and suggestions from eminently qualified Guyanese to start with. The continued right of existence and methods of operation of the Black Clothes squad is more a symptom of the continuing disintegration of the state than we may care to acknowledge, and quite honestly is likely to continue until we manage to pull ourselves back from the edge of the precipice, or indeed tumble over. I do believe that the Police Force, like other institutions, has been attempting to hold the pieces together hoping and praying for the politicians to come up with answers and solutions quickly. For this they must be commended but not for allowing a mere handful to decide what that solution is.

Yours faithfully,

Raphael Trotman