Over two years after a 15-year-old boy was locked-up and fire set to his genitals in a police station, the government has indicated that it is considering settling the matter but only if the youth comes forward.
Last year, Justice Roxane George, after describing the case as constituting torture, awarded the teenager $6.5 million in damages. The government subsequently appealed the ruling but to date the matter has not come up for hearing. When contacted yesterday, Attorney-General Anil Nandlall told Stabroek News that the government could settle the matter. “The state may even consider settling the matter but we will not settle the matter unless the young man comes forward,” he said. “We don’t even know if he is in Guyana,” he said while adding that he does not believe that attorney Khemraj Ramjattan knows where the teen is or even if he remains his client.
Ramjattan told Stabroek News that he knew where his client was and he was wondering what has happened to his damages. The teen, through Ramjattan, had filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Police and the two ranks accused of torturing him, asking for $40 million in compensation.
Last June, Justice George after describing the case as constituting torture, awarded the teenager $6.5 million in damages. In giving her ruling she explained that there had been a violation of his fundamental human rights. The government subsequently appealed the judgment. However, to date, six months after filing the appeal, the Attorney-General is yet to fix the record of appeal so that a date can be set for the matter to be heard, Ramjattan told Stabroek News.
“The government has not seen it fit to fix the record of appeal and nothing has started,” he said. “They just want to drag this thing out.” The record of appeal constitutes the documentation of the proceedings in the High Court and this is what the Appeal Court judges peruse before a date is set for the matter to be heard. Ramjattan said he has approached the court and asked if he can help to fix the record of appeal. He noted that it is the responsibility of the appellant to do this but it has made no move in this direction.
However, Nandlall said that it is for the court to indicate when it is ready to settle the record of appeal and the AG Chambers will comply with the notification when it comes. He said there has been no notification thus far but he knows that the decision of Justice George is ready. Asked when it is likely that the Appeals Court would move on the matter, Nandlall said that it “ought not to take an inordinate amount of time”.
He added that the state may consider “settling” the matter.
In 2010, Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira, had said that government would not seek to compensate the young man outside of the court system. “It might look as if we are trying to bribe the person, wouldn’t it?” she had asked rhetorically, saying that the government will have to abide by a court ruling if compensation is awarded. However, she noted at the time that it was within the state’s powers to appeal the matter if it considered the judgment an unfair one. She added that compensation is not done by handouts, saying that if the government goes that route it can be found to be “highly suspect”.
In November 2009, policemen, Mohanram Dolai and Narine Lall were charged with burning the genitals of the then 15-year-old teen with intent to maim, disfigure, disable or cause him grievous bodily harm. They were also charged with unlawfully and maliciously wounding Nouravie Wilfred. The duo along with Corporal Oswald Foo were also charged with unlawfully and maliciously wounding Deonarine Rafick, with intent to maim, disfigure, disable or cause him grievous bodily harm.
The offences were committed shortly after the teen, Wilfred and Rafick were arrested by police in connection with the brutal murder of Region Three vice-chairman Ramenauth Bisram. The teen was stripped and beaten before his genitals were burnt. The case drew international condemnation but the case against Dolai and Lall was dismissed in the magistrate’s court because the teen and other witnesses did not show up to testify. The dismissal came although the Ministry of Home Affairs had acknowledged that the teenage boy was tortured and expressed regret.
Meanwhile, Dolai and Lall, who were interdicted from duty for their role in the torture of the teenage boy remain in the employ of the Guyana Police Force but are off duty and receiving half-pay. Foo was also interdicted for his role in the treatment of Rafick. A police source told Stabroek News that an investigation is ongoing into an allegation that the victims were paid to stay away from court.
Ramjattan said it is an outrage that the policemen are still employed by the GPF. “They should have been dismissed,” he said. “What’s the difficulty in dismissing them? These people just want to waste taxpayers’ money,” he said. “Dismiss them and no court in the world will ever rule that they were wrongfully dismissed,” he stated adding that while they were not convicted in court, what they did was well known.
Last year, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud had said that it will take some time before the three interdicted ranks find out what their future with the force will be since the process is a long one. He had further explained that the internal inquiry (which would investigate the breaches in the conduct of their duties and impose an appropriate punishment) has to go through a process. Last year, Commissioner of Police Henry Greene, when questioned, had said that in instances where such a court case is dismissed against a policeman, the case is usually forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) a second time for advice on what disciplinary measures should be taken against the rank.
An investigation by the police’s Office of Professional Responsibility had found that the two policemen injured and tortured the teen boy by pouring methylated spirits on his genital area and setting it alight. The same report had resulted in Corporal Foo being charged with wounding another prisoner who was taken into custody along with the teen. Police surgeon Dr Mahendra Chand, who the report said treated the injured teen following the torture, was disciplined for his part in the incident.
Several others, including the then D Division Commander Paulette Morrison, were disciplined. Morrison was demoted and transferred. She has since retired from the force. The Ministry of Home Affairs had also publicly acknowledged that the teen had been tortured by policemen.
The uncertainty about the fates of Lall and Dolai has caused outrage among human rights activists and other concerned organisations and members of society.