2001 saw frequent killings suggested to be extra-judicial
Stabroek News
June 2, 2002

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Amnesty International (AI) says there were frequent reports of killings in Guyana in circumstances suggesting there were extra-judicial executions and that conditions and overcrowding in the prisons remained severe.

In its report covering the period January to December 2001, AI stated that torture and deaths in custody were also reported.

AI said that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had ruled that a petition in connection with the alleged disappearance of Franz Britton in January 1999 was admissible.

Death sentences continued to be imposed but no executions were carried out, AI said.

Approximately 23 persons, including two women, remained on death row at the end of last year.

AI stated that Shazad Bacchus, 15, Faddil Ally, 18, and Azad Bacchus were beaten and shot by members of the Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad (BASS) in circumstances suggesting extra-judicial executions.

According to relatives, AI said, Shazad Bacchus was arrested and beaten by BASS officials at his uncle's home before being taken to hospital with injuries to his face and body. BASS officials are alleged to have opened fire on a mini-bus the three were travelling in when they left the hospital. Witnesses alleged that the three were subsequently dragged from the bus and killed, the report said.

Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, had stated that an investigation into the killings would be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The findings had not been released up to the end of last year, AI said.

AI stated that in August, Saif Ghani and Steven Angel were shot in the head and four others were injured after police opened fire on an estimated 400 people who were protesting against the killings of the three men at the BASS headquarters.

The AI report stated that in May Anthony Brumesh died in the Aurora police lock-ups under disputed circumstances.

Witnesses that the man had been beaten and slammed against the wall by a police officer and was denied medical treatment. An autopsy was said to have revealed the cause of death as a fractured skull and hemorrhaging.

AI said that no response to its request for information on the investigations was received by the end of the year.

On the investigation and prosecution of police abuses, AI stated the High Court quashed a verdict on November 27 given earlier in the month by a coroner's inquest that the police should be held criminally responsible for the death of Mohamed Shafeek, who died in the Brickdam police lock-ups in September 2000.

AI said two police officers allegedly held Shafeek by the hands and feet, threw him against a concrete wall and refused him medical attention. One witness was allegedly intimidated by being arrested, held incommunicado, beaten around the head and tortured, including by mock executions, the report stated.

AI recalled that in September, the Chief Justice ordered the Police Commissioner and Chief Magistrate to ensure that an inquest be held by October 2 into the fatal shootings in July of Antoine Houston, Steve Grant and John Bruce by members of the Police Target Special Squad, in circumstances suggesting they were extra-judicial killings. AI noted the inquest had not started at the end of the year. The inquest has since started. An autopsy report on Houston revealed that he had been shot seven times, including once in the back of the head at close range.

AI declared that the conditions in prison amounted sometimes to cases of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The report stated that inmates of the Georgetown Prison staged a protest in July, alleging they were beaten by members of the police force specifically brought in for that purpose.

It said in a further protest in August, 22 inmates complained about the inadequate provision of food and hygiene facilities, lack of medical treatment and ill-treatment.

AI noted that legislation to establish a parliamentary commission on human rights was presented to the National Assembly.

Proposals included the monitoring of Guyana's compliance with international human rights treaties and initiatives for human rights education.

AI has observed that President Bharrat Jagdeo and leader of the opposition PNC/R, Desmond Hoyte, committed themselves in April last year to working to reduce tension and unrest.

AI also noted that the PNC/R submitted a parliamentary motion in June calling on President Jagdeo to establish an inquiry into the Guyana Police Force.