Army still to break silence on reported abuse of soldier

Akeem Charles in his cell last week.

Today marks six days since allegations surfaced that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) was mistreating 21-year-old Absent Without Leave (AWOL) accused Akeem Charles, and the army is still to utter a word regarding the situation.

In the December 22 edition of the Stabroek News, it was reported that Charles was being subjected to beatings and inhumane conditions in a Camp Ayanganna cell, where he had been held for more than 30 days.

Since the initial publication of the allegations, this newspaper has made several attempts to contact GDF Public Relations Officer, Major Lorraine Foster via telephone calls and email, all to no avail.

Sources had mentioned that the days leading up to, and following December 25 were usually filled with a lot of activities for the army and that was probably the reason the officer could not be contacted when attempts were made.

Attempts to contact the office of the PRO were made again yesterday, but those failed as well.

Akeem Charles in his cell last week.

Brigadier (retired) and Opposition Leader David Granger told Stabroek News on Monday that the inhumane treatment allegedly being meted out to Charles would definitely not be in accordance with army regulations.

Granger, who made it clear that he was not sure if the allegations were true, stated that if things were as reported then they constituted 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 AWOL, as sources said 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 be as described in the report. He added that there was no regulation which prescribed that a person accused of being absent or a deserter, should be subjected to the kind of punishment it was alleged that Charles was subjected. He further stated that the length of time suggested in the article was inordinate, sharing that once held, ranks accused of the crime in question should be given a trial within 24 hours.

It is alleged that Charles, who went AWOL to solicit assistance for a back injury he had sustained on a course in the GDF after the army said it lacked the requisite funds to tend to his injury, turned himself in when his information was published.

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 stated 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.

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