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Civil society orgs; ordinary Guyanese demand tougher action against police in baton-sexual assault case

Several representatives of non-governmental organisations as well as ordinary folk picketed outside the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation in solidarity with badly injured Colwyn Harding who remainsa a patient in the Male Medical Ward suffering from ruptured intestines

Although the policeman allegedly involved in the baton-sodomy of a detainee has been placed under close arrest and several others transferred, civil society organisations Wednesday afternoon believed that was so far insufficient.

More than 50 persons braved heavy rain and picketed outside the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) where 23-year old Colwyn Harding remained a patient suffering from severe rupture of his intestines dating back to November 15, 2013.

Red Thread’s Joy Marcus told reporters that her “really angry” organisation wanted justice for the injured man and a halt to police brutality by the persons hired to protect the nation. “The officers- all of them who were there- should be charged for this and also the entire force and government should take responsibility for what has happened and they should stand all the medical expenses,” she said.

Marcus expressed some disappointment with the poor turnout for a severe incident that has enraged so many persons because the nation largely felt “beaten down”.

Joel Simpson of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) said the injury meted out to Harding during his arrest at Timehri North in connection with the theft of several items was a matter of human rights. “The Guyana Police Force as a state agency must protect its citizens and not harm them.” SASOD wants the young man’s plight to be taken to the recently appointed Ombudsman, Retired Judge Winston Moore. He dismissed moves to have the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) probe the incident, saying that Guyanese lacked confidence in the police force. “To say that the police will be investigating the police doesn’t inspire any confidence in me but I think now that we have a new Ombudsman and he has claimed that he is resourced-enough to investigate matters, he should tackle this as his first case in his new office,” said Simpson.

A representative of the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA) urged Guyanese across all divides to engage in a “concerted” effort to crush police brutality and increase crime-solving.

Eve Blackman of HBTV Channel Nine said expressed grave disappointment in the unprofessional conduct of the police force.

Afternoon rush-hour traffic, including speeding minibuses, slowed down to get a glimpse of the picketing demonstration and read the placards. Slogans included “Rohee must go, Brumell must resign now”, “Solidarity with Colwyn Harding”, “Why must Colwyn suffer while the police go free?” , “Criminals in uniform must be brought to justice”, “Justice for Colwyn Harding now”, “Guyana government don’t allow the police to brutalize our children any longer”, “Police must serve and protect, not hurt us”, “Sodomy is a crime, Justice now,” and “End police brutality now.”

The Guyana Police Force on Wednesday sought to assure the public that unbecoming behaviour by members of the Force would not be tolerated and condign action would be taken against any rank found culpable of such action. The Force confirmed that the Constable who allegedly committed the act has been placed under close arrest and the other officers implicated transferred to other police stations.

Police Commissioner, Leroy Brumell, the force said, has ordered that the matter be handed over to the Office of Professional Responsibility because a probe that was done by ‘A’ Division was incomplete.

The Home Affairs Ministry later Wednesday said it expected condign action would be taken by the Commissioner of Police against the Rank(s) found culpable after a speedy, full and proper investigation is conducted into the allegation and legal advice sought from the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

While 23-year old Harding, his mother and lawyer Nigel Hughes have reported that the assault occurred on November 15, 2013; the police force said it was first informed about the incident in a text message from a female to the Police Commissioner in December.

The Police Force confirmed that Harding was arrested on November 15 and was charged on November 18 for assaulting a peace officer and disorderly behaviour. After he was placed on GUY$50,000 bail he was remanded to prison.

Hughes, on behalf of his client, has demanded GUY$100 million in damages for assault and injury to Harding that amounted to a violation of his constitutional right to protection from inhuman treatment.