Police under fire in US human rights report
`It continued to commit unlawful killings’
April 5, 2003
aThe Guyana Police Force has once again been criticised in the just released US State Department Human Rights Report for 2002.
The report said, “many justice authorities and human rights activists stated that due to rising crime and pressure from urban businesses, which were often the targets of criminals, the Government did not actively pursue investigations of alleged police abuses”. The report says, “The Government continued to refuse to recognise police killings as a problem and did not conduct any special investigations into the operations of the TSS.”
In its report for 2002, the report says of the force that, “it continued to commit unlawful killings” and of generally committing these abuses with impunity.
It also notes the lack of success the Police has had in tackling the crime wave started by the February 23, 2002 escape from the Camp Street Prison of five prisoners.
The report notes, “The GPF had little success apprehending the criminals, who began targeting police officers.
From February to October, 12 law enforcement officers were killed in separate incidents.” By the end of the year the number of law enforcement officers killed had climbed to twenty.
The report details the reported circumstances of the April 6 slaying of Shaka Blair, the May 10 killing of Wesley Hendricks, the July 3 shooting deaths of Mark Crawford and Albertha Fife, the July 25 shooting of Kwame Pendleton and Leroy Lowe, the September 21 killing of Dexter Dubissette, and the October 11 slaying of Shawn Welcome while in Police custody.
The report notes too the High Court ruling in February nullifying the November 2001 Coroner’s finding of police culpability in the death of Mohamed Shafeek who died in the Brickdam lockups; and the lack of developments in the investigation into the shooting deaths of Azad Bacchus, H Bacchus, and F Ally in 2000.
The report chronicles the calls over the years for an inquiry into the extra-judicial deaths caused by the police including one call in June 2001 by the GHRA suggesting a National Oversight Committee to implement a national security policy. The GHRA statement had said that the GPF was overwhelmed by criminal and politically induced lawlessness, citing the eight police killings that took place during the 2 months after the national elections in 2001, and recommended investigations into the coincidence of periods of high levels of political lawlessness and such killings.
It recalls too that in March 2000 the UN Human Rights Committee made 22 recommendations to the government, including a call for a prompt investigation by an impartial body of police killings and excessive use of force. The UNHRC also called for measures to ensure the prosecution of offenders, to provide effective remedies to victims and recommended that all law enforcement officials receive thorough training in international human rights standards.
During the year, the GHRA conducted two general human rights training programmes for the GPF, two programmes for the Prison Service, and one session for the GPF and the GDF.
The report also notes the repeated calls by the PNCR at its weekly press conferences for an inquiry into the operations of the Target Special Squad/Black Clothes Police, and more specifically the call on April 9, by then PNCR leader Desmond Hoyte calling for the disbanding of the squad. Hoyte at the meeting, the report said, had said that the Shaka Blair shooting “must be laid at the feet of the PPP Government.”