Granger moves for commission of inquiry into police torture

APNU leader Brigadier (Ret’d) David Granger will be moving for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into police torture.

A motion in Granger’s name for the appointment of a COI has been submitted to the National Assembly, according to a Notice Paper released yesterday by the Parliament Office.

It resolves to have the National Assembly call upon President Donald Ramotar, in accordance with the Commission of Inquiry Act, to appoint a COI to inquire into the torture of persons by members of the Guyana Police Force and to make recommendations to prevent a recurrence of such torture.

The motion, which also resolves to have the Assembly express its sympathy with the victims of torture, specifically seeks an investigation of the torture of persons by the police force between 2006 and 2013. It notes that while the Constitution prescribes that no person “shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment,” it has been widely reported that persons were tortured by members of the police force over the preceding seven years.

Several motions, including one calling for a commission of inquiry into human trafficking, have been passed by the opposition in the National Assembly; however, the Ramotar administration is yet to act upon them.

The release of the notice of motion coincided with a call yesterday by the main opposition coalition APNU for an independent judicial inquiry into all reports of torture by officials.

Reading a prepared statement at an APNU news conference, Granger expressed the coalition’s alarm at the recurring reports of torture involving members of the defence and security forces. Recently, a man alleged that he was raped with a baton by a policeman during his arrest last year, triggering an internal probe and public outcry.

“APNU asserts that there is abundant evidence that the crime of torture has been committed repeatedly in Guyana,” he said, while also signalling to defence and police force officers that torture is a crime of a “universal jurisdiction.” “Those who order, or carry out such acts, can be prosecuted anywhere in the world, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or perpetrator. No one can claim exemption from this because of his or her official capacity. There is no statute of limitations for such crimes under international law,” he noted.

In addition to recent allegations by detainee Colwyn Harding, who claimed he was raped with a baton during his arrest, Granger identified the cases of Patrick Sumner and Victor Jones, who were allegedly tortured by the military after being arrested in 2007; soldiers Michael Dunn, Sharth Robertson and Alvin Wilson, who complained that they had been tortured between November and December 2007 in a military camp; David Leander, also called David Zammet and ‘Biscuit,’ who was arrested in November 2007 and was so badly injured that he was unable to walk and could hardly speak at his subsequent arraignment; and the 15-year-old boy, who had his genitals burnt by police in 2007.

No independent judicial inquiry has been conducted into these cases, he pointed out.

Guyana signed and ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment since 1988, Granger said, and he added that the state is obliged to “take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

Granger was accompanied by APNU MPs James Bond and Winston Felix at yesterday’s news conference and they were asked if the coalition, using its lawyers, could not take on some of the cases of torture and challenge the police and other bodies implicated in the torture claims.

Bond said that they have done so on a few occasions but added that this has not happened often because the victim must be willing to take the matter forward. He said that many of the victims usually express fear of repercussions.

Additionally, Bond said that even if the case was taken by the opposition lawyers, they would still be dependent on state institutions, including the police, to supply information and take action against their ranks. However, he said instances where police officers have been held but then released because of lack of evidence do not encourage confidence in the system.

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