U.N. Body Investigating Guyana’s Ex-President For Crimes Against Humanity
By Ifa Kamau Cush
Seventeen years ago, an African Guyanese citizen, Frantz Britton, aka, Collie Wills, was kidnapped and presumed murdered by Guyana’s Black Clothes police death squad. The government of the recently elected president, Bharrat Jagdeo, covered up that crime. Now, the chickens have come home to roost. The Geneva-based United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has opened an investigation of that crime, inserting an investigative lens into the decade-long reign of terror unleashed on Guyana’s African community by Bharrat Jagdeo’s People’s Progressive Party [PPP] government....................................................
The Jagdeo regime’s crimes didn’t go unnoticed. A 2001 Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ [IACHR] Report #80/01, Petition #12.264 named Jagdeo along with Ronald Gajraj, former Minister of Home Affairs, Laurie Lewis, the former Commissioner of the Guyana Police Force and Leon Fraser, a former superintendent of the Guyana Police Force and head of the dreaded Black Clothes death squad, as ‘responsible for Mr. Britton’s disappearance whilst in police custody.’
A spokesperson for the IACHR, Maria Rivero, explained that the Commission’s Merit Report #1/06, Case #12.264, holds the Jagdeo regime both “intellectually and materially responsible” for the disappearance and presumed murder of Frantz Britton. According to Ms. Rivero, the Commission’s report is still valid and will remain so in perpetuity until all complicit parties are held accountable…………………………………..
Starting in 1999, and, continuing until 2008, Guyanese citizens experienced an unprecedented reign of terror at the hands of his government. During that period, hundreds of African Guyanese were murdered, many under the color of law, by members of the Guyana Police Force which was used by the PPP government to enforce its criminal edacity.
Victims and the survivors of the PPP’s murderous criminality were offered no recourse from any of Guyana’s state agencies, including the courts………………
The IACHR concluded, subsequently, in its 2006 Merit Report #1/06, Case #12.264 that ‘agents of the State security forces abducted and/or detained Franz Britton and that during the following six years his whereabouts have not been identified, and that, as a result, Guyana has violated the rights of Franz Britton to life, liberty, personal liberty, judicial protection, arbitrary arrest and due process of law.’………………………….
The IACHR does not reach its conclusions frivolously. In the case of Franz Britton, the Commission conducted an exhaustive investigation into the merits of the case over a five- year period. During that time, it ‘received no information or observations from the State [of Guyana] with respect to the petitioner’s petition, despite repeated requests.’ Consequently, according to the IACHR, ‘the Commission presumes the facts alleged in the petition to be true, and is satisfied that there is no other evidence that could lead to any other conclusion.’
The evidence against Mr. Jagdeo and his cohorts is overwhelming, and damning in its specificity. Under Article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute, which governs the International Criminal Court, Bharrat Jagdeo and Ronald Gajraj, Guyana’s ex-president and ex-minister of home affairs, respectively, can be charged, on the basis of their individual criminal responsibility, and as indirect co-perpetrators, for crimes against humanity, namely, murder – Article 7(1)(a); forcible transfer – Article 7(1)(d); and, torture – Article 7(1)(f).
Irma Wills lamented that for over 17 years “all my efforts here in Guyana to obtain information have been futile. Neither the police nor anyone in an official position would assist me.” At age 74, she hopes that the new Guyana government will cooperate with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances so that she can finally get closure and be afforded the dignity and human decency of burying her son.