Surprised at Commissioner Greene’s suggestion that the army may have been guilty of torture

Dear Editor,

One can appreciate the apparent candour displayed by acting Police Commissioner, Mr Henry Greene, that his officers will “meet fire with fire” when confronted by armed criminals, because this shows that Mr Greene will not allow dangerous criminal elements to get and maintain the upper hand over the police.

In fact, in all criminal situations being dealt with by the police, the police should always have the upper hand, yet within the confines of standard operating procedures and the law.

At the same time, however, Mr Greene needs to know that a discerning public also knows that there are times when the police have violated standard operating procedures and the law, which they swore to uphold, in the execution of their duties. To gloss over this fact by simply saying police will shoot if shot at is to try and pull wool over people’s eyes, because there are people with horrific tales of being beaten and shot by cops without cops ever being shot at by victims.

That said, I still want to know why, after so many instances of dangerous crimes committed by elements toting high-powered weapons, there is a conspicuous absence of major arrests to determine their operating bases and their leaders. Almost all of the dangerous criminals with high-powered weapons have died in so-called police or Joint Services shoot-outs.

For example, we have been told of the recovery of a few of the AK-47 assault weapons pilfered from Camp Ayanganna, but just how many of those criminals carrying the weapons have been arrested and charged? Or what information was gleaned from the arrested to ascertain their modus operandi, thereby leading to the recovery of the other weapons that are still missing? Did the army contingent in the Joint Services raids and patrol actually shoot and kill those criminals purportedly carrying the AK-47s that were recovered? If so, why?

I also noted that Mr Greene vehemently denied his officers tortured the two Buxton men; instead fingering the Guyana Defence Force as being culpable. Not only is this shocking revelation itself a surprise to many, but the fact that the acting top cop could publicly lob the ball into the army’s court instead of there being a Joint Service press conference to answer questions and an announcement made acknowledging torture, with punitive actions to be taken against the officers involved, tells us something is wrong in the working relations between the army and the police.

Did the army’s operatives in the fight against crime overreach in their non-civilian roles here? Isn’t the army always supposed to play a supporting role in the police-led civilian crime fighting efforts? Is there need to review operating policy and practices guiding these police-army crime fighting patrols?

Mr Editor it is very clear, at least from the pictures I have seen and victims’ accounts read, that these men were tortured and then released without ever being charged. And based on what Mr Greene disclosed, the government owes these men a public apology and appropriate monetary compensation for what may be life-time injuries, because the torturers happen to be employed by the state.

On a slightly separate note, I also noted that the police acknowledged that execution-style killings have dropped in Guyana since accused drug baron, Roger Khan, was arrested and now awaits trial in New York. I have recently been making the same observations in posts on the Guyana Gazette blog, and even wondered if Khan literally played gangs against gangs and then intervened in an orchestrated attempt to show he had the capability of dealing with dangerous criminals. Did he not boast of such capability?

It remains dizzying, however, that the police said they could not have arrested Khan during his narcotics dealing days in Guyana for lack of evidence, yet even though Khan and two others were arrested and charged by the police with being in possession of a cache of high-powered weapons and electronic equipment capable of intercepting phone calls, their case was dismissed in court.

How could the police, or even the government, not know who Khan was and what he was all about? Given all we are learning every day, how can it not be possible that we had or still have criminal elements in and out of government? Perhaps this explains why the police force still cannot experience long overdue reforms.

Yours faithfully,

Emile Mervin

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