Amnesty calls for death squad probe
Stabroek News
February 7, 2004

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Amnesty International yesterday called on the government to mount an inquiry into the allegations that a death squad has been in operation since 2002, piling further pressure on the Jagdeo administration.

In reply, the government yesterday said it intends to provide Amnesty with a comprehensive response that would contain the course of action outlined by the government to deal with the opposition allegations in the media made against Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj. Gajraj has dismissed the allegations as mere speculation.

Information Liaison to the President, Robert Persaud told Stabroek News that the government would also restate its commitment to a transparent investigation by the only legally competent organisation to conduct it - the Guyana Police Force.

Persaud's comments were in reaction to the statement by the United Kingdom-based international human rights group.

The statement, issued from Amnesty International's London office yesterday, urged President Bharrat Jagdeo to open an immediate inquiry into the allegations that a `death squad' has tortured, `disappeared' and killed dozens of individuals since 2002. "Serious allegations suggesting that members of the security forces may be involved in the illegal killings are currently in the public domain.

In the interest of protecting human rights and the security of all Guyanese citizens, the Government must take immediate action to prevent further killings and ensure that the culprits are identified and brought to justice."

The organisation observed that the government must send a strong message that it would not tolerate such crimes and must insist upon a full and independent inquiry and urged the government "to seek all necessary assistance to help undertake such an investigation".

"Technical expertise in areas such as pathology, forensic science and ballistics should be sought," the organisation urged.

However, Persaud ob-served that so far the allegations have been made by the media/opposition and a self-confessed informant.

He added that Amnesty would want to know that the Leader of the Opposition Robert Corbin has not responded to the invitation by the Commissioner of Police that he should share the intelligence/information he has on the phantom gangs with the police. Persaud observed that no one had come forward to provide the police with information and the only thing available are the allegations in the media and from the opposition party.

The self-professed death squad informant George Bacchus has said he is not inclined to provide a statement to the police because of the involvement of policemen in the activities of the squad.

Corbin has responded to the commissioner pointing out that his request, made at the instigation of President Jagdeo, was premature, as no independent inquiry had been set up.

With regard to Amnesty's reference to allegations of murders committed by a death squad, Persaud said that Amnesty International would also want to know that a Disciplined Forces Commis-sion was set up to look into extra-judicial killings and that its reports indicated that no evidence had been adduced to support these allegations.

"Despite months of hearings, no evidence was provided by anyone to prove the allegation of extra-judicial killings by the security forces," Persaud contends.

"One hopes that AI (Amnesty International) or any other group would not soon call for a probe of allegations made by the extremist lunatic fringe of our society that the government is practising economic genocide. There were no facts or evidence that extra-judicial killings were taking place."

The US, British and Canadian missions here have all said that they view the death squad allegations as serious.