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APNU accuses govt of creating environment for torture by security forces

The burnt genitals of Twyon Thomas

Indecisiveness on the part of government lends to the proliferation of acts of torture by police officers, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) says.

Last month two police officers, Narine Lall and Mohanram Dulai, who, in 2008, critics say tortured a Leonora teen, Twyon Thomas, by pouring mentholated spirits on and around his genitals and setting it alight during a murder probe, had their promotions approved by the Police Service Commission (PSC).

APNU acknowledges that it has nominated a number of the PSC commissioners, but says it is wary of inquiring into the actions of those constitutional office-holders and so is unaware of what would have influenced their decision and voting on the promotion. APNU Chairman, David Granger did not concede that the opposition-nominated PSC Commissioners were complicit in promoting Lall and Dulai.

Instead of a charge of torture though, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) recommended that both men be charged with intent to maim, disfigure and cause grievous bodily harm. These charges were eventually dropped after the victim failed to present himself in court to testify against the accused. However, the lad was awarded millions of dollars by the High Court  in a civil suit after it was found that the cops had violated international conventions against torture.

In addition to the charges being dropped there is no evidence that either of the men was ever disciplined by the force, and last month Lall was promoted to Inspector while Dulai was promoted to Corporal.

Several groups, including the Rights of the Child Commission, have since condemned the promotions and have and called for them to be reversed, even as other sections of society, including Police Commissioner Selall Persaud and the PSC itself, have defended the promotions.

During an APNU press brief on Friday, coalition Shadow Home Affairs Minister and former Police Commissioner Winston Felix accused the Executive of being complicit with torture. He based his assertion on the premise that, in his view, government has failed to call the force out when its ranks took part in acts which qualify as torture. This failure, he continued, has tacitly encouraged other alleged acts of torture which took place before and since 2008.

He noted allegations in 2007 where several Buxtonians were allegedly badly beaten while in police custody, as well as the case of Colwyn Harding, who, last year, was allegedly sodomized by police with a baton while in their custody. Felix also recalled the case of Alex Griffith, in whose mouth a police Cadet Officer placed a gun and shot him through a cheek. This incident also took place last year. “The complicity of this government in torture has led to several other acts of a similar nature being committed, and I would say almost with impunity,” Felix said.

Senior police officials have said that there was nothing stopping the men from being promoted as the charges against them have been dropped. Felix though, says this argument has “no standing.” At the very least, he said, the Commissioner of Police at the time should have recommended that the cases be sent to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) who would have likely advised on apt internal charges which could have been taken in keeping with the Police Disciplinary Act.

Such charges, he said, could range from “a slap on the wrist,” dismissal from the force,” or a “reduction in rank” in the case of Lall.  “They should have been charged departmentally for some act of misconduct because there are several glaring acts of misconduct,” Felix said.

Felix further said that such actions would have served to deter incidences which occurred in subsequent years. Meanwhile, Granger says that if elected into office the coalition will “be in a position to correct this error.” While not divulging specific details on how he intends to make the alluded to correction he did suggest that legal proceedings could be involved.