Rejection of Commission suggests grandstanding - GHRA
-IAC wants investigation into 2002/2003 crime wave
May 19, 2004
The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) said that it is prepared to cooperate with the Presidential Commission of Inquiry but recommends that international involvement in the process in an advisory or monitoring capacity should be considered.
The commission comprises Justice of Appeal Ian Chang, Major General (Rt’d) Norman McLean and retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Ivan Crandon. Mr. Crandon is also Chairman of the Police Service Commission.
The GHRA believes that Crandon’s role as Chairman of the PSC could be said to link him to an institution that falls under the scope of the inquiry and diminishes the appearance of impartiality.
“To this extent, he does not meet the test and should decline,” the statement read.
The GHRA applied tests set out by the United Nations in dealing with the composition of the Commission.
The UN guidelines refer to “impartiality, competence and independence as individuals” and “independence of any institution, agency or person that shall be subject of the enquiry.”
The GHRA said that it is not aware of any evidence to suggest the members selected to the Commission do not meet the individual tests.
It stated, however, that if any such evidence exists it should be made public immediately.
“Accusations by innuendo are not evidence, nor are the ad hominen rumours that proliferate in small societies, discouraging people from making themselves available for public service,” the GHRA said.
The GHRA noted that concern for victims of extra-judicial killings is notably absent from the original proposals and the opposition’s reaction to it. The official announcement by the President virtually suggests that they do not exist, the GHRA said. The human rights body urged the Commissioners to ensure, in cooperation with relevant agencies, that witnesses are not subject to retaliation or intimidation in keeping with appropriate UN guidelines.
The “excessive” defence of Gajraj by the President is inappropriate and should cease, the GHRA also said.
The body said serious criminal charges must be openly confronted and dealt with, not defended by a President of a Republic who pledged to uphold the rule of law.
And the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) welcomes the establishment of the Commission to look into the alleged involvement of Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, in extra-judicial killings. The IAC, however, is deeply concerned about the limit of the Terms of Reference of the investigation but is encouraged by the announcement by President Bharrat Jagdeo that the government would consider investigating the 2002 jailbreak, the plight of the victims of criminal violence and political linkage to the 2002/2003 crime wave.
“The GHRA believes that the seriousness of the issues at stake – proliferation of guns, unexplained deaths and the restoration of the rule of law – all demand a more considered response that has been forthcoming from the opposition parties.
“Complete rejection of every detail of the proposal suggests grandstanding. Walking away from the Commission will inevitably revive suspicions that extra-judicial executions were always a political convenience, not a substantive concern.”
In a statement issued yesterday, the GHRA said that while the Commission is not what it had hoped for, given the track record of non-cooperation of the two major parties, it recognised that the likelihood of a Commission that meets the highest standards was always remote.
The GHRA is proposing three scenarios to deal with the issues. One involves the focusing on severely reducing Ministerial irregularities in the licensing of firearms and interference in the running of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
Another scenario seeks to identify links between the Minister, death squads and extra-judicial killings.
The other scenario looks at an investigation of all death squad violence that has taken place since February 2002.
Notwithstanding the limitations of the Commission, the GHRA believes that the political opposition and other organisations could secure historic gains with respect to eliminating the remnants of party paramountcy over the GPF and undermining party patronage over gun-licensing.
The GHRA noted that the Terms of Reference of the Commission permit exposure of extra-judicial killings and death squads if the opposition parties are prepared to mobilise the evidence they claim to possess.
The GHRA is of the view that international members and consultative selection do not guarantee effective Commissions.
As a case in point, the GHRA referred to the experience of the post-1997 elections audit.
The GHRA also recalled that the integration on international experience in the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC), in the person of Maggie Beirne, did not prevent her high quality recommendations from being set aside.
“Consultative membership of the DFC produced hardliners from the PPP whose primary concern seemed to be defending party interests,” the GHRA said.
The IAC is calling upon President Jagdeo to launch a separate inquiry as soon as possible, as a complement to his Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the allegations against Minister Gajraj, to include the investigation of all politically/ethnically-driven criminal acts that occurred in Guyana subsequent to the 2001 general elections.
The IAC believes that these investigations will lead to the unmasking of the masterminds who executed the politically/ethnically-driven unlawful acts that resulted in a wave of crime and terror.
The events impacted negatively on the lives of a large number of peaceful and law-abiding Indo-Guyanese and mixed Indo-Guyanese persons who were assaulted, robbed, raped, brutalised and terrorised solely on the basis of their ethnicity and supposed political affiliation, the IAC said.
The IAC expressed the hope that the investigations will result in the prosecution of those responsible for the planning and executing of the crimes against Indo-Guyanese and that the ethnic dimension of crime in Guyana will be fully documented so that closure would be brought to the matter.