Benschop dubs Camp St prison inquiry a ‘farce’

-after testimony disallowed due to insistence on public hearing

Social activist Mark Benschop yesterday expressed his displeasure with the Commissioners and Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Camp Street Prison unrest and deaths after he was asked to testify in private.

Benschop, having handed in his statement to the Commission last week, was called to testify before the tribunal yesterday but had been unaware that the hearing would be held in-camera.

  Mark Benschop
Mark Benschop

He related that on his arrival, he was informed that members of the public had been asked to leave, but he objected, stating that he had no desire for such, and enquired as to whether the inquiry was not meant to be a public one. He said that since he insisted that his testimony be public, he was subsequently dismissed from the hearing by the Chairman of the Commission, Justice James Patterson.

Benschop said that the move was a “slap in the face” and that he now believed the inquiry was a “farce” and a “waste of taxpayer’s dollars.”

Benschop, who was incarcerated for five years on a treason charge under a former PPP/C-led administration before being granted a presidential pardon in 2007, said that his time spent at the penitentiary coincides with the terms of all the current senior prison officers, who were all called to testify before the Commission. One of the terms of reference of the CoI is to investigate, examine, and report on the causes, circumstances and conditions at the Camp Street prison that may have led to the fatal disturbances on March 3rd, and any other subsequent disturbances.

On Wednesday, the media and public were informed at the end of the hearing that yesterday’s hearings would be held privately. The Commis-sion could not be reached last evening for a comment on yesterday’s events.

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