Human rights body agrees Brickdam lock-ups should be closed
Stabroek News
February 1, 2002

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) agrees with the findings of British judicial expert, Lord Brennan, who suggested that the Brickdam lock-ups be closed because of its condition.

Lord Brennan made this announcement on Tuesday after he had visited both the Brickdam lock-ups and the Camp Street prison.

Speaking to Stabroek News, GHRA official, Merle Mendonca said that in 1999 her organisation had welcomed the decision of Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, to close the Brickdam lock-ups.

In a press release on the issue on December 14, 1999 the GHRA said that it welcomed the decision to close the lock-ups as its experiences were a symbol of the stark levels of degradation to which the society had fallen. That release had noted that men had died violently and many of them were physically and emotionally scarred for life, particularly those who were totally unprepared and not equipped for the foul and repulsive conditions in the lock-ups.

Mendonca said it was unfortunate that the lock-ups were only closed temporarily for construction work to be done.

She noted that the GHRA had been monitoring the locks-up since in the early 80s and its first recorded death there was that of Ramkissoon Saymar in February 1982. She pointed out that 18 years after, the death of Mohammed Shafeek, who died in September 2000, was remarkable in that its bestiality paralleled that of Saymar's demise.

Mendonca further stated that the death of Saymar had provoked a public outcry as well as Shafeek's.

According to her it was after 20 years of complaints from the GHRA and other institutions the indescribable condition of the Brickdam lock-ups was finally acknowledged by the Home Affairs Minister.

She noted that this was done after a public outcry over children being held at the lock-ups. She pointed out that the children were moved to the Kitty Police Station and because the same conditions obtained there, they were moved to the Ruimveldt Police Station. Mendonca said that the last time the GHRA checked about five of the children were still at Ruimveldt.

She pointed out that although the GHRA had made several requests it was never granted the opportunity to visit any lock-ups.

"Our knowledge of the police lock-ups comes from numerous statements from persons who pass through the facilities and who testify to the high level of violence some detainees exercise over each other," Mendonca said.

She said that sexual assaults, unsanitary conditions of the lock-ups, overcrowding and lack of adequate lights and air were also testified to.

According to Mendonca it is difficult to find any of the UN rules for the treatment of offenders which have not been violated in the Brickdam lock-ups.

She noted that other police lock-ups drew less attention because they housed fewer detainees, but all continued to be unacceptable.

She noted that an announcement by Gajraj that a new facility would be constructed for women had not materialised.

She added that the GHRA had been informed that at the East La Penitence lock-ups, where women are held, there were improved water facilities, but little else had been done.

When Stabroek News attempted to get a comment form acting Commissioner of Police Floyd McDonald on Lord Brennan's findings, he said that he had not read the newspaper article and as such could not comment.