Opposition Leader, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger, yesterday stated that if Guyana Defence Force (GDF) procedures relating to the punishment of ranks today are anything like those which obtained under his command, the inhumane treatment allegedly being meted out to 21-year-old Akeem Charles is definitely not in accordance with army regulations.
In the December 22 edition of the Stabroek News, it was reported that Charles was being subjected to beating and inhumane conditions in a Camp Ayanganna cell, where he had been held for more that 30 days.
During a conversation yesterday, the former army man made it clear that since nothing has been confirmed or disclaimed by the army on the matter, he is not all informed about the situation; neither was he sure whether or not the situation reported was indeed the case.
However, he did say that if this was indeed the case, then it would constitute a breach of the rules concerning the incarceration of persons under close arrest, and suggested that the current Chief of Staff commission an immediate inquiry into the matter, and correct it, if it is found to be true.
Granger explained that once a rank would have been deemed as having gone Absent Without Leave (AWOL), as sources say Charles was, the requisite punishment to be applied would vary from a fine to dismissal depending on if the person was absent for more than 21 days. He further stated that even if the individual was charged with desertion, the punishment should not amount to abuse.
“There is no regulation which prescribes that a person, if accused of being absent or of being a deserter, should be subjected to” the kind of punishment he has allegedly been subjected to, said Granger.
He further stated that the length of time suggested in the article was inordinate, adding that once held, ranks guilty of the crime in question should be given a trial within 24 hours.
It is alleged that Charles went AWOL to solicit assistance for a back injury he had sustained on course in the GDF after the army said it lacked the requisite funds to tend to his injury. He turned himself in when his information was published.
Sources say that he has been in confinement ever since and that the conditions he is being subjected to are inhumane.
Stabroek News understands that on Thursday December 20, while being escorted to his cell by two MPs, Charles dove into a nearby drain to avoid going back to his cell since the conditions that obtained there became too much for him to bear. It is alleged that a senior soldier and another then proceeded to deal Charles several blows about his body for having done this.
The source started that after being dealt multiple blows about the body, Charles was thrown back into his cell, naked, after which his cell was soaked with water. It is alleged that the young man’s cell was, from that point, doused with water every half hour, presumably to make him as uncomfortable as possible.
Attempts made to solicit a response from the GDF were once again fruitless, and the army is yet to respond to these allegations. Considering the nature of the alleged injustice, Stabroek News also made attempts to contact the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), but was unable to do so.