Geneva, Switzerland – In light of observed incidences of torture being repeatedly applied to citizens in Guyana by members of that country’s Police Force, the influential Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) is urging tortured victims or their representatives in Guyana to submit their cases to that body for review and possible future referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Switzerland based body which has been instrumental in gathering information for cases against several government operatives (from other countries) who were later indicted by the International Criminal Court, reiterated that torture incidents in Guyana are becoming more prevalent on their radar.
References were drawn to the recent case of a teen who was allegedly burnt on both hands while being questioned by Guyanese police, and several other claims including that of an unarmed lad who was shot in his mouth by a police officer; a man who was severely sodomized by police with a baton, and an older case in which a boy was severely burnt on his genitals several years ago, to eek out a confession,
In an invited comment, Leonardo Zeibisi, an investigator with that body told this publication that the organization has been monitoring various incidents of torture that were occurring in Guyana for several years now.
He sufficed that based upon Guyanese media reports, the number of police engineered deaths, and the nature of torture incidents in Guyana seems to be very systematic, and appears to be an integral part of State Policy against a certain section of the population.
He added that if there is enough evidence that the incidents were condoned by the State, then the APT may urge the International Criminal Court to investigate Guyana’s National Security Minister, the Hon. Clement Rohee, who heads that country’s Police Force, or even the State itself, for Crimes Against Humanity.
This may be the first time that these incidents in Guyana are being examined by an international organization as possible cases of State sponsored torture and killings.
A former British colony, Guyana is a small English speaking country which sits on the Atlantic coast of South America, with a population of less than a million people.
A local human rights group and several activits have in the past accused the previous Bharrat Jagdeo administration, and subsequently the Donald Ramotar administration of using the Guyana Police Force to intimidate and torture its citizens, especially those of a particular ethnic group, and political affiliation.
But the country’s current President Donald Ramotar, and its National Security Minister Clement Rohee have repeatedly denied this.
According to the statutes of the International Criminal Court (the ICC), Crimes Against Humanity encompass the systematic torture, imprisonment, or murder (among other things) against persons belonging to sections of a population, either because of their ethnic, political or other entitled association.
The law stipulates that mere knowledge of the occurrences by a supervising authority (such as a Minister of Government) and their apparent deliberate failure to curtail those acts being committed by themselves or by anyone under their authority, may be sufficient to assume that they themselves are guilty.
Since its establishment, more than thirty persons including current and past Presidents, Ministers of Governments, war lords, and security officials have been indicted by the ICC.
A few have so far received sentences ranging from fifteen to fifty years in Prison. Only two persons were ever found not guilty.
The ICC can launch criminal investigations into a long list of offences at the fair request of an affected State or proprio motu as a result of information received from various notable human rights organizations such as the APT.
As such, Mr.Zeibisi says that affected persons or persons with vital information about State torture in Guyana or its diaspora are urged to contact the APT via post, phone, fax or email, at:
Centre Jean-Jacques Gautier
10, route de Ferney
CH-1211 Geneva 19
Telephone: +41 22 919 21 70
Fax +41 22 919 21 80
The organization says that any information of torture that is received will be treated with the strictest of confidence. However a decision to investigate can take several months or even years to be effected, depending on the nature of the incidents.
It would also require sound evidence to satisfy the requirements pertaining to accusations of Crimes Against Humanity in order for the organization to determine if it is worthwhile to pass on that information to the prosecutor at the ICC.