Urgent action needed on witness protection
-- Amnesty International
Guyana Chronicle
June 26, 2004

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THE murder Thursday of George Bacchus, the self-confessed death squad "informant", demonstrates once again the urgent need for a comprehensive protection scheme here, Amnesty International said yesterday.

"Since allegations of the existence of a death squad in Guyana surfaced six months ago, Amnesty International has repeatedly urged the Guyanese authorities to take action to protect individuals involved in investigations regarding murder, `disappearance’ or other crimes", the international human rights group said.

It noted that George Bacchus was due to testify at the preliminary inquiry of two men charged with the murder of his brother, Shafeek, on January 5.

Bacchus claimed that he had been the intended victim and that members of the death squad were responsible for the murder of his brother.

"The Guyanese authorities are under a legal obligation to take proactive measures to investigate these latest incidents thoroughly and impartially, along with other credible allegations that a death squad has murdered, `disappeared’ and tortured numerous individuals since 2002. Anyone found responsible must be brought to justice", Amnesty urged.

"In light of reports alleging the involvement of members of the security forces, neither the Guyana Police Force nor the Ministry of National Security should be linked to related investigations or witness protection efforts”, it said.

The organisation said the authorities must protect victims' relatives, witnesses, members of the judiciary, lawyers, journalists, police officers and human rights defenders against all forms of intimidation.