Death squad allegations
Police 'absurd' not to get Bacchus statement -lawyers
Stabroek News
February 2, 2004

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Police did not take a statement from death squad informant George Bacchus because under normal circumstances it has no duty to ask anybody for information, says one senior member of the force, a position that some lawyers find strange

The officer says it is not a norm for the police to force or beg any person to give a statement about anything he or she might have knowledge of.

But that's bad policing, says Guyana Bar Association President Khemraj Ramjattan. He thinks the police wasted an opportunity to obtain an official statement from Bacchus who says he was once an informant for a gang responsible for over twenty murders in the last six months and even more before then.

"Obviously so, because whenever information comes, from whatever source or circumstances, they have an obligation to pursue it," he says, "it would be a deliberate act on the part of the police if they didn't do it."

Nearly four weeks ago, Bacchus admitted in interviews with local media houses and US Embassy officials that he once used his own money to locate criminals for a gang, which killed several wanted men in what were well-planned executions. He said the group operated with the knowledge of the Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj.

Based on Bacchus' disclosures there have been calls for an independent investigation into the killings and the state's alleged involvement. But it was not until two weeks after Bacchus went public that the acting Police Commissioner, Floyd McDonald, announced that the police were trying to make contact with him about the allegations. He said they have not been successful, despite five attempts by officers from the Criminal Investigation Department.

But Bacchus visited police stations on several occasions while giving statements in relation to his brother, Shafeek's murder. While policemen took statements at the scene on the night his brother was killed, he was in a fit of hysteria, in the midst of which he named the men he believed responsible and spoke about the activities of the gang. No statement was taken from him that night. Two days later he was in the Brickdam Police Station, where he gave a formal statement about the murder that resulted in the criminal charges against the three men.

"When he was giving evidence they should have asked him about the allegations," Ramjattan says, "that is exactly how policemen ought to be trained, they have an obligation to find out."

According to the police officer, if anyone has incriminating evidence they should make a statement to the police force or they could write a statement and give it to the police.

He said if a person volunteers to make a statement and the police do not facilitate that process, the person can make it public that he or she was prepared to make a statement but was refused.

But attorney Raphael Trotman describes this position as absurd and he says that given the fact that the information was already in the public domain any policeman worth his salt would have taken a statement.

"If they are aware that a person has made a complaint about a murder and he has also made a statement about serious crimes that were committed and other things it is absolutely preposterous that any police rank would not see the need to inquire into the matter."

Trotman points out that the police force is not a reactive but a pre-emptive institution that has a duty to detect as well as suppress criminal activity.

Although it is still unclear whether Bacchus refused to tell investigators about the allegations he has made, the police force, as was stated before, is now trying to secure a statement to get answers.

"Why is he running?" the senior officer asks, "Why can't we find him when we need him to give a statement?"

While he is yet to give an official statement to local authorities he has given detailed statements to US regional law enforcement authorities who were in the country earlier in the month.

Minister Gajraj has denied any knowledge about the existence of the group and dismisses Bacchus' statements as mere allegations.