UN Human Rights Committee “concerned” about 2002-2006 extrajudicial killings; calls for investigations, compensation to families

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2024, 11:30 by Denis Chabrol

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, flanked by support staff, responded to questions by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on Thursday said it was concerned by reports of extra-judicial killings in Guyana including by the police force and that virtually nothing has been done to probe such deaths during a five-year long violent crime spree.

“The Committee is concerned that the alleged extrajudicial killings that occurred between 2002 and 2006 have not been adequately investigated, and prosecuted, and the perpetrators were not duly sanctioned,” the UNHRC said in its concluding observations on the third periodic report of Guyana.

The spate of violent crime had begun in February 2002 when five prisoners escaped from the Georgetown Prison and took refuge in the East Coast Demerara village of Buxton from where they had staged murders, kidnaps and robberies. A number of gang members had been caught and convicted for the Lusignan and Bartica massacres that claimed 23 lives.

The UNHRC also observed that the virtually nothing has been done to hold a presidential commission of inquiry into extra-judicial killings that had been promised by then President David Granger whose coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change administration had been in power from 2015 to 2020.

“In this regard, the Committee is concerned that no substantive progress has been made to establish the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings during that period despite the government’s plan to do so in 2018,” the document states.

The UNHRC called on Guyana to, “as a priority”, establish the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate alleged extra-judicial killings during the period between 2002 and 2006.

The UNHRC added that Guyana should ensure that all allegations of extrajudicial killings are promptly, impartially, transparently, and thoroughly investigated; that perpetrators are prosecuted, and, if convicted, penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crimes are imposed on them; and that full reparation is provided to victim’s families.

Unsolved crimes during that period include the gunning down of then Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh, two of his siblings and a security guard in April 2006. Repeated calls by the Sawhs for justice have apparently fallen on deaf ears. Then United States Embassy Regional Security Officer, Steven Lesniak and a number of Trinidadian water utility workers had been kidnapped separately and later released. Several policemen and soldiers had also been gunned down in the line of duty.

During that period 30 AK-47 assault rifles and five handguns had been stolen from the armoury at  the Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) Camp Ayanganna headquarters.

The then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration of then President Bharrat Jagdeo had repeatedly accused the then opposition of backing the gunmen as “freedom fighters”.

According to the UNHRC, it regrets that it has not received sufficient information about the measures taken to combat and prevent extra-judicial killings.  “The State party should take all necessary measures to prevent such extrajudicial killings in the future,” the committee said.