Guyana torture claims taken to international community

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, October 31, 2008 – The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) wants the international community to get involved in forcing the Caribbean country to improve how they treat criminal detainees. The group is calling for agencies to make that improvement a condition of receiving further funding.

“Linking continued dispersing of funds to improve police performance and standards should be a clear requirement,” it said in a statement.

The call came against the background of the death of a prisoner, James Nelson, an ex-soldier who was found dead in a holding cell, as well as claims of torture by members of the joint forces. The police force said that Mr Nelson fatally injured himself, a claim which the GHRA described as ludicrous.

“The attitudes of the authorities have been fuelling a culture of violence that cannot be resolved by national action alone,” it said, charging that there has been an indifference to whether suspects are brought to justice or unlawfully killed by law enforcement authorities.

In fact, the group said, the “silence and intransigence” of the disciplined services and civil authorities, faced with mounting incidence of torture and death, suggest contempt for accountability to civil society.

The GHRA made specific reference to public statements by Police Commissioner Henry Greene on the case.

“Guyanese citizens have a right to expect more than the casual indifference reflected in [his] comments, particularly at a time when serious crimes by acting and former members of the disciplined services are becoming a daily news feature,” it said.