Bar Association calls for immediate, independent probe of Colwyn Harding allegations

The Guyana Bar Associa-tion has condemned “the alleged attack and egregious violations of the dignity and rights of Colwyn Harding” and has called for an immediate and independent probe of the matter.

In a statement yesterday, the Bar Association said that it is alleged that these violations were committed by one or more members of the Guyana Police Force causing Harding to be in hospital awaiting a third surgical operation to treat the serious injuries he suffered. It noted that up to the time of writing,

Colwyn Harding
Colwyn Harding

the Guyana Police Force had not challenged the veracity of these allegations of police brutality.

“The Guyana Bar Association is deeply concerned about continuing police brutality.

The severity and frequency of these allegations of police abuse suggest that there is maladministration within the Police and a systemic failure on the oversight from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Police Complaints Authority. We are reminded that in 2009, police officers at the La Grange Police Station beat Twyon Thomas, a boy of 14, and set fire to his genitals. In awarding damages against the Attorney-General and the Commissioner of Police, Justice Roxane George described the police behavior as torture and as cruel and inhuman treatment contrary to Article 141 of the Constitution,” the statement said.

“Of course, one does not need judicial pronouncements to conclude that constitutional proscriptions against cruel and inhuman punishment are commonly ignored by the Guyana Police Force,” it continued.

The Guyana Bar Association stated that it was also deeply concerned at the failure of the authorities to take any action to change the culture of law enforcement and to ensure that in carrying out its mandate, the persons charged with protecting citizens do not violate the rights and abuse the said citizens.

The association reiterated its condemnation of police violence and called on the Minister of Home Affairs and other authorities to ensure appropriate medical treatment is rendered to address the health and well-being of Harding immediately.

The association also recommended an immediate, impartial and independent investigation into the attack on Harding be launched.

It said that it would be appropriate to invite civilian or other external participation in the investigative process.

It urged that a thorough, professional reform of the Guyana Police Force be initiated, stating that there was already strict protocol governing police conduct and there was need to introduce measures to ensure that these were followed.

The Bar Association also pressed for a review of the Guyana Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to reform it so that it can fulfil its responsibility to protect citizens from excesses of members of the Police Force. It said that this authority must be imbued with greater powers to carry out meaningful investigations, gather evidence and recommend the initiation of disciplinary measures and where appropriate criminal sanction. It said that as it currently functions, despite the best efforts of the incumbent chairman, the citizenry correctly believes that referral to the PCA is futile.

The Bar Association restated its readiness to contribute to the institutional reform process.

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