Amnesty statement hasty, ill-advised
Stabroek News
April 24, 2002

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Government has dubbed a recent statement from Amnesty International (AI) hasty and ill advised, stating it ignored arguments that the Guyana Police Force and the Director of Public Prosecutions had initiated probes into alleged police excesses.

AI, in a news release it issued on April 19, cautioned the government on resorting to inflammatory language for fear that it might undermine the right of freedom of expression and lead to further human rights violations. AI issued its release after Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, accused the main opposition PNC/R and sections of the media of pursuing "terroristic" policies and increasing the risks policemen faced by encouraging anti-police sentiment.

In a statement yesterday, government replied that a responsible international organisation like AI had an obligation to base its public statements on "adequate comprehension of national issues," which the administration had never failed to provide.

Government said that the body had failed to address its mind to the merits of the government's case against the opposition PNC/R and certain media operatives.

According to the government, its case rested on the incitement by the opposition PNC/R and sections of the media against the police force. Included in the incitement, the government said, were the identifying of policemen and their families, the branding of the actions of the rapid response units of the force as being extra-judicial and calling for public mobilisation against the police at marches, rallies and on certain talk shows.

These avenues, the government stated, were being used by the PNC/R to launch attacks on the ruling party and government. The statement further claimed that the PNC/R's anti-government and anti-police campaigns had led to the shedding of innocent blood.

The government's statement also argued that the very PNC, during its years in government had targeted and harmed law-abiding citizens and continued this even after its defeat at successive elections.

The government charged that in the aftermath of both the 1997 and 2001 elections, participants in that process were hijacked and taken to PNC/R headquarters at Congress Place where they were interrogated.

The government statement also said that hundreds of Guyanese law-abiding citizens' human rights were violated when they were beaten, robbed and had extensive damage done to their property during a PNC/R organised civil unrest.

According to the statement, AI made no attempt to reject arguments put forward by government in support of its claims of "terroristic behaviour by the opposition PNC/R and sections of the media."

The government sought to assure AI that it need not worry about the abuse of fundamental rights locally since these had been restored with the restoration of democracy in 1992. It resolved to continue to protect the rights of all Guyanese through the maintenance of law and order, while firmly rejecting all "terroristic" behaviour.

AI's statement had said that the branding of the opposition party and the media as terroristic risked debasing legitimate public debate and encouraging violence against certain individuals. It called on all in society to unite to condemn abuses by the security forces and work towards a society where the fundamental rights of all citizens are respected.

It also called for an immediate review of the activities of the 'Black Clothes' squad following the receipt of several reports of its excesses.