'Informant' execution shows need for witness protection - Amnesty
June 26, 2004
The murder of George Bacchus demonstrates the urgent need for a comprehensive witness protection scheme, according to Amnesty International (AI).
But in the wake of the murder of the self-proclaimed informant, who was shot dead at his home early Thursday morning, AI also said neither police nor the Ministry of Home Affairs should be linked to the investigation or witness protection.
"Since allegations of the existence of a death squad in Guyana surfaced six months ago, AI has repeatedly urged Guyanese authorities to take action to protect individuals involved in investigations regarding murder, disappearance or other crimes," an AI statement said yesterday.
AI noted that Bacchus had been due to testify at the preliminary inquiry of two persons charged for the murder of his brother. He had believed he was the intended target of the attack that claimed his brother's life, which he placed at the feet of members of a death squad with ties to the Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj.
It was also noted that Chief Magistrate, Juliet Holder-Allen who was conducting the inquiry recused herself, citing reports that she was one of the targets of the group.
AI said authorities must protect members of the judiciary, lawyers, witnesses, victims' relatives, journalists, police officers and human rights defenders from all forms of intimidation.
"The Guyanese authorities are under 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," AI noted.
It said that in light of the allegations against policemen, who have been accused of having ties to the death squad, neither the police force nor the Home Affairs Ministry should be linked with related investigations or witness protection efforts.