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Guyana gets UN help to destroy obsolete weapons, ammo

Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall receives the UNLIREC report from Juliet Solomon (Team Leader), UNLIREC Senior Programme Officer (Caribbean), Stockpile Management and Destruction

Guyana is preparing to begin destroying obsolete weapons with equipment and training that are being provided by the United Nations Office for Disarmament.

The Office’s Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) on Monday handed over a report on a legal study to Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall.

Presented by Team Leader, Juliet Solomon, the report contains a comprehensive assessment of Guyana’s obligations, internationally under treaties and agreement, in respect of firearms, ammunition and explosives.

A Hydraulic Shears and a Samll Arms Ammunition Burning Tank which would be used to destroy obsolete and surplus weapons, ammunition and explosives in Guyana, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported.

The Attorney General said training in the use of the equipment would begin this week with a view to beginning destruction.

In June 2013, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee had reported that Guyana was working in the context of international cooperation with the UN body to address the question of stockpiling firearms and ammunition, and how to deal with over accumulation of those which are obsolete. UNLIREC will guide Guyana on how to dispense with firearms, as well as securing stock piles in ways that are in keeping with certain international standards.

“We have received a copy of that report which would have chronicled all of Guyana’s obligations under various treaties in relation to this. In addition to that, a training session is being held for members of the Army and Police Force who are being trained to operate a machine which was donated, the purpose of which is to destroy arms and ammunition no longer in use,” he was quoted as saying by GINA.

The Legal Affairs Minister also explained that the training sessions would assist with regards to the implementation of the recently approved Firearms (Amendment) Bill, as well as the Evidence (Amendment) Bill.

The main purpose of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill is to create new offences in relation to possession and trafficking of components of a firearm. The prosecution of those types of offences would require expert evidence to be given, identifying alleged components of a firearm or ammunition as being exactly that. This testimony must come from a person who is duly qualified and who would be deemed an expert by the court. Additionally, the amendment to the Evidence Act increases the category of experts whose certificates or analysis can now be admissible in the court of law. Among the authorities listed in the Bill are ballistic and  fingerprint experts, and the analysis or certificate of scientific officers who are attached to the Guyana Forensic Laboratory.

“So far as these certificates touch and concern firearms, ammunition and explosives, we have requested from this very organisation, UNLIREC, assistance to train our personnel in the field of ballistics, fingerprints and any other area of activity which may be relevant in helping the State to establish a case of possession of firearms and ammunition and or explosives or any criminal offence which involves the use of firearms and ammunition and or explosives,” Minister Nandlall said.

Emphasising the need for expert help, he said that a request was also made “in terms of training for prosecutors which would include prosecutors at the Director of Public Prosecution’s Office, the Guyana Police Force, as well as training for experts who would be engaged as part of the prosecutor’s case in establishing or proving any offence which touch or concern firearms and ammunition and or explosives.”

He added that personnel in the Guyana Forensic Laboratory who would be engaged in any form or fashion in the analysis or examination of aspects related to firearms and ammunition and or explosives would also be involved in any training relevant to them in the discharge of their functions and responsibilities.

Minister Rohee last June had noted that while this move by Government was not necessarily a part of the security reform process, “it is part of bringing better management to our armories, whether they are in the Guyana Defence Force, Police Force, Municipalities or Prisons, wherever there may be a stockpile of firearms. The idea is to bring a better system of management, utilisation, and disposal of those that have become technically obsolete,” he further stated.

Ms. Solomon at the time had explained that the UNLIREC team’s visit was in the context of a Caribbean assistance package. “This is a regional assistance package and we have done it across the board, Guyana is one of the latest countries. We are looking to assess what areas of assistance we can provide,’ she had said.

The UNILIREC body provides support in several areas in terms of securing weapons’ stockpiles and managing them. Guidance is also provided in the broader context of legislation.

The UN Mission consists of Solomon, UNLIREC Senior Programme Officer (Caribbean), Stockpile Management and Destruction; and Peter Snow, Manufacturer’s Trainer (Hydraulic Shears).