After executive meeting…
GHRA outlines its stand on current issues
Guyana Chronicle
February 9, 2002

GUYANA Human Rights Association (GHRA), at its quarterly executive meeting, last Saturday welcomed the creation of the Judicial Reform Committee (JRC) by Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Desiree Bernard.

The organisation saw the appointment as an opportunity to address some long standing problems and decided to make submissions to the body on the issues of alternative and inconsistent sentencing and abolition of preliminary inquiries (PIs) into indictable charges to expedite the work of the Courts.

A release said the caucus also discussed the review on Police shootings over the past 20 years, which is to be published shortly.

Following resolutions passed at their annual general meeting last December, the executives explored, as well, ways in which GHRA can begin to monitor essential services.

Regarding the role of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), they agreed that GHRA should look at how it could support the work of consumer groups to make representation at public hearings, which it will continue to observe.

The statement said concern over the vulnerability of young people, especially girl children, to abuse and the apparent failure of the Courts to adequately protect them were agenda topics, too.

GHRA said its attention has been drawn to cases of abused minors in rural areas where more effective action by magistrates could have brought the perpetrators to justice and added that the Ministry of Education announcement to deepen the anti-truancy campaign was also welcome.

The watchdog grouping said, however, it remains concerned that the identities of children ensnared by the blitz should not be disclosed.

The statement expressed outrage at the recent High Court decision to effectively block any further action on the death of Mohammed Shafeek at the hands of the Police.

A coroner’s inquest had found that a named cop was criminally responsible for the killing of the Canal Number Two Polder, West Bank Demerara fisherman in the lock-ups at Brickdam Police Station, Georgetown.

GHRA said it feels both the substance and the procedural aspects of the case should be the source of grave public concern, as the holding of inquests has always required extraordinary pressure and judgements of the High Court nature only serve as further disincentives.

GHRA called for the discontinuation of the practice of suppressing verdicts from such inquiries, saying they are the principal legal mechanisms available to deter excessive use of force, instead of giving a blank cheque to elements in the Police Force inclined to execute extra-judicially.

As the criticised judgement seems to exhaust domestic remedies, the next step would be to have the matter taken to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, using the Optional Protocol, or to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the statement said.

Commenting on the recently staged mini-bus strike, GHRA lamented the absence of effective organisation and representation of the operators for resolving industrial disputes.

The statement said, without such mechanisms, the travelling public is vulnerable to political opportunists who seek to confuse the situation for their own ends.

“More effective organisation would allow mini-bus operators to express their grievances against excessive fines and uneven treatment by Police officers,” GHRA posited.