Death of Friendship six raises ‘serious questions’
-human rights association

Stabroek News
June 6, 2003

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The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) yesterday said the account given by the security forces of how six men, including notorious wanted man Romel Reman, met their end early Wednesday morning raised “serious questions” about the intent and the methods employed in the operations.

Six men were shot to death during a joint police/army anti-crime operation in Friendship village early Wednesday morning, among them Reman, Akeem Hack, Scyeon Norton and 17-year-old Hue Hamilton Glasgow. They were in a broken down store house at the time of the confrontation and the joint forces said they fired back after the six opened fire.

But the human rights organisation points out that since the police were initially unable to identify four of the men it was “clear they did not know much about the six men they surrounded in the bond”. GHRA noted that the speed with which the incident was concluded contrasts sharply with the efforts made in other countries to arrest killers.

“Cleaning up the criminal situation in Buxton was never going to be easy. However, press reports on the shooting...raise serious questions about the intent and the methods employed in this operation. In particular, the fact that all six died - no one was wounded, no one gave themselves up and no one was arrested - is simply not credible. The impression given by the incident is that the joint operations intended to execute the six men,” the GHRA stated. Neither the police nor the army responded to the GHRA press release yesterday.

The release further stated that: “Even in cases of unhinged youths who have killed fellow students, some efforts are made to arrest, even if the incidents end with the criminals being killed. The emphasis on the Buxton operations must be to restore law and order - not the elimination even of known suspects. This is the only way to distinguish between the acceptable and the unacceptable, between the civilised and the inhuman.”

The GHRA said the priority task should be restoring law and order on the East Coast Demerara and to apprehend the criminals so as to bring an end to the violence. However, the GHRA said, killing the criminals may achieve the former, without securing the latter.

“A second goal of the operation is to deny the extremist elements - racial and political - any pretexts (such as extra-judicial executions) for continuing their incitement to lawlessness. A final part of the operation must be to lay the basis for restoration of confidence in the forces of law and order, among the genuinely law-abiding residents of Buxton and other affected villages.”

The GHRA says restoring law and order to Buxton and the East Coast in a manner which itself undermines law and order will not secure all of these goals and, too, that unrealistic public expectations are being encouraged that the elimination of criminals will achieve law and order. “Among other things, carrying this strategy to its conclusion results in little being learnt - at least publicly - about the networks and support systems which sustained months of organised criminality. The public has a right to know more than a body count about what has been going on over the past year on the East Coast. On the other hand, the fact that dead men tell no tales may be comforting in some quarters. The sensational coverage of the shootings in the Guyana Chronicle which managed to claim five of the dead men were both wanted and unknown panders to the faction which wants vengeance rather than justice for the victims of the violence of the past year. Unless this attitude is tempered, what is hoped will be a quick fix for the East Coast violence may end up taking much longer than any of us contemplate.”

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