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Police killings must be thoroughly investigated; Lusignan Prison should be shut down immediately-UN Working Group on African descendants

The United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent (WGPAD) Friday recommended that extra-judicial killings by police be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators brought to justice, but no mention was made of the gunning down of several persons by death squads.

“The government should take the necessary measures to guarantee that prompt and impartial inquiries are conducted into all extra-judicial killings by the police, including those targeting people of African descent, perpetrators are prosecuted and effective remedies are provided to victims,” states the WGPAD.

Chairman of the United Nations Work Group on People of African Descent (WPAG), Sabelo Gumedze ; Ahmed Reid (left) and and Michal Balcerzak (Poland)

The Working Group made up several other recommendations at the the end of their visit from October 2 to 6, 2017.

Despite repeated concerns by the then opposition that has been in power since 2015 that the then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led government had either masterminded or tolerated death squads between 2002 and 2009 to combat heavily armed gangs, the Working Group did not refer to those deaths. The then opposition and allied interest groups had estimated that 400 mainly Afro-Guyanese persons had been gunned down by death squads.

While no mention was made of death squads, the WPAG recommended that Guyana ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture, the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and remove reservations to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

After visiting Linden, Buxton, Georgetown and the Lusignan Prison, the WPAG also recommended that urgent steps be taken to end the political logjam in the appointment of an Ethnic Relations Commission and the Human Rights Commission which are provided for in the 2003 amendment of Guyana’s Constitution.

On the condition of the Lusignan Prison, the team said they found that penal institution violated the United Nations Minimum Standards for the treatment of prisoners and so that jail should be shut down almost immediately. “Prisons, which are not fit for human habitation, such as Lusignan Prison, must be closed down without any delay and be replaced with facilities that meet international standards,” the group said.

At the Lusignan Prison, the group said the majority of the inmates were Afro-Guyanese who have to endure inhumane conditions. “The facility is located close to a landfill with foul odour coming from the stagnant dirty water. The unhygienic conditions of the prison and associated health risks are of serious concern.”

The WPAG called on Guyana to ensure that all prisons are operated in keeping with international human rights obligations including the minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners. Overcrowding of prisons and detention centres, the group said, must be addressed urgently and the infrastructure and hygienic conditions are improved in keeping with international standards.

With regard to juvenile detention centres, the Working Group on People of African Descent cited the need for juvenile centres to adhere to international human rights standards and implement programmes for the rehabilitation of children. “There should be independent monitoring and inspection of of all facilities in which children and youth are placed to ensure that standards of treatment and care are maintained,” they said.

The UN Working Group on People of African Descent is expected to report to the UN Human Rights Committee by next year September. By that time, the Human Rights Universal Periodic Review would hear presentations on steps by countries like Guyana about its human rights record.

  • Lancelot Brassington

    Who burnt down the blasted prison? When you make up your bed you have to lie in it.

    • rudeo

      Armchair advisors are dime a dozen….talking down to third world countries are their forte….what next? How to make love to your woman?

      • Gtloyal

        So, you do approve of how things are here, right? One up for our government, then. We Guyanese always know, never wanting to listen to any advice. That’s why we are where we are.

        • rudeo

          Some years ago I did voluntary service there educational….recommended 4 potential CSEC candidates….fees never paid for exams…mthen Dir of Prisons remarked on my inquiries…”These are criminals and will spend the rest of their lives living that out”….shame…never set foot there again

          • Gtloyal

            That mentality of the then Director is what have us looking like an uncivilized people. And it’s everywhere. They abound, too many to count. That’s why others will always look at us and try to advise us, thinking that they are doing a good … but we will never listen, because we are Guyanese and we like how we are!

    • Gtloyal

      Why were the convicts in such a “flammable” prison in the first place? Lot 12 was never up to international standards.
      If we want to reduce crime in our society, we must bear in mind that the journey to a convict’s successful re-entry into society begins the day he enters a correctional facility. Upon completion of their sentences, few will have been improved by their experiences inside if we continue with the idea that our prisons are there only for punishing “bad people”.
      Were you to find yourself in an improperly made “bed”, would you just “lie in it” or would you appreciate some assistance in making it better?

      • Lancelot Brassington

        i agree broadly with everything you’ve said, but they had to know that if they burnt down the Georgetown prison they would not be accommodated at the Mariott or Pegasus. Half a loaf is better than no bread at all until better is done. Besides, I wonder what it will take to facilitate the Bartica slaughterer’s successful re-entry into society. Or has he already achieved that, until they corner him and rub him out, as I am sure they will.

        • Gtloyal

          It is the states responsibility to have proper prisons built. It is our accepting always your “half a loaf” that conveys the message to our governments that they can hand us anything and we will accept. No wonder we are where we are!

  • Col123

    I agree with their investigative work . We need to figure out further who financed, trained and directed ALL who were responsible for the mayhem and murder in the last decades. Other reports of their findings on racism and discrimination is just a burden of overused excuses for those willing to have the government provide for their welfare… Maybe.. Guyana should have a section 8 program to provide welfare and food stamps for those who complain….Good going … get with the program of feeding, housing the nation… uhm… forget about the clothing.. not necessary for wine down time!