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International human rights watchdog voices concern about Crum-Ewing’s killing

The global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, expressed concern that the gunning down of political activist, Courtney Crum-Ewing, one week ago while urging residents of Diamond, East Bank Demerara to go out and vote in upcoming elections would cause greater unease in the South American country.

The killing of a political activist in Guyana during the pre-electoral period fuels fear that further violence and limitations to freedom of expression may occur,” said the London-based organisation.

The statement came as preparations were underway for the funeral of Crum-Ewing, a former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) soldier.

He was shot multiple times on March 8, 2015 on Third Street, Diamond while on a loud hailer, urging people to cast their ballots.

He rose to prominence earlier this year when he opted to single-handedly take on Attorney General, Anil Nandlall for comments he had purportedly made in a private telephone conversation with Kaieteur News reporter, Leonard Gildharie. Those comments had, in part, referred to a potentially armed attack on the newspaper that had been repeatedly publishing articles critical of the government.

Following is Amnesty International’s statement:

The killing of a political activist in Guyana during the pre-electoral period fuels fear that further violence and limitations to freedom of expression may occur.

Political activist Courtney Crum-Ewing was killed on 10 March in the East Bank Demerara neighbourhood of the Guyanese capital shortly after he had called on local residents through a bullhorn to vote in the upcoming legislative elections, scheduled on 11 May, in order to oust the incumbent ruling party.

The autopsy showed that Courtney Crum-Ewing was shot five times, with three shots to the head and another at point blank range from behind his neck. Police initially said a car with four men drove up and discharged the shots at him before driving off. A few days later, the police arrested two men but on 16 March announced that they were most probably going to be cleared of the crime.

Courtney Crum-Ewing had staged a protest for several weeks outside the office of the Attorney General between November and December 2014 calling for his resignation following allegations of corruption and threats to journalists. In recent months, Courtney Crum-Ewing had reported receiving threats from members of the ruling party and filed two complaints with the police.

After his killing, his mother stated that those reports had not been adequately dealt with. Several members of both the opposition and the ruling party have condemned the killing of Courtney Crum-Ewing and urged the police to thoroughly investigate it.

However, given the sensitive electoral context and the police’s poor record in solving high-profile murder cases, there are fears that this killing might exacerbate political tensions, spark further violence and have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Please write immediately in English or your own language:

 Calling on the authorities to carry out a thorough, independent, impartial and timely investigation into the killing and bring those responsible to justice;

 Calling on them to guarantee a favourable context and peaceful atmosphere for the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, association and assembly and other civil and political rights;

 Urging the authorities to provide adequate protection to political activists, journalists and human rights defenders who might be at risk as a result of the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.