Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
The police continued to commit extrajudicial killings. The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) reported that the police killed 15 civilians through September, compared with 13 in all of 2000. In most cases, the police shot the victims while attempting to arrest them or while a crime was being committed. Public investigations rarely are conducted into such killings; in general police abuses are committed with impunity.
On April 9, Donna McKinnon was killed when shots were fired into a crowd gathered on the streets of Georgetown to watch a fire burn in a shopping district. The likely arson-initiated fire occurred during an opposition political protest march. McKinnon's body was found near Freedom House, the headquarters of the PPP, where witnesses claimed the shots originated. TSS officers also fired shots to disperse the crowd. On June 21, a judge ordered an inquiry into McKinnon's death. At year's end, the GPF stated that its investigation had not generated any leads, and that the family was unwilling to have the body exhumed.
On May 10, police shot and killed Junior "Drakes" Stanton in a guesthouse in Georgetown while attempting to arrest him on armed robbery charges. Witnesses said that an unarmed and groggy Stanton unlocked the door and had his hands raised above his head. Police reportedly fired two shots, fatally wounding Stanton in the chest and side.
On May 12, police shot and killed Devon "Buckman" Gonsalves while attempting to arrest him for two murders and a series of robberies. TSS officers followed Gonsalves to the yard where he was hiding and confronted him. Gonsalves was said to have sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and stomach. The GHRA received information that Gonsalves was unarmed.
On June 4, police shot and killed Shamshudeen "Spoon" Mohammed during a demonstration at the Albion Police Station in Berbice in which several thousand residents protested police inaction. During the demonstration, Shamshudeen and three others were wounded when police fired gunshots into the crowd of protesters, who reportedly were stoning and attempting to set the police station on fire with Molotov cocktails. Shamshudeen and the others were taken to a New Amsterdam hospital, where Shamshudeen later died.
On June 8, Rocky Anthony Brunoanish died in the Aurora Police Station lockup. An autopsy revealed that he died of a fractured skull and hemorrhaging from a severe beating. Prior to his death, Brunoanish reportedly asked for medical attention to no avail.
On June 9, Colin "Sadist" Cummerbatch was shot and killed in his home when police attempted to arrest him for a series of armed robberies.
On July 26, members of the TSS shot and killed three men – John Bruce, Steve Grant, and Adisena Houston – on Mandela Avenue. Accounts of the event conflicted; the police reported that the three men exited a car and fired at the officers, who then returned fire. However, eyewitnesses stated that the police forced the men out of the car at gunpoint and shot them execution-style after officers found a pistol while body-searching one of the suspects.
On August 14, Azad Bacchus, his son Shaazad Bacchus, and nephew Fadil Ally were killed in the early morning during a confrontation with members of the Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad (BASS) following events that included a civilian raid on the Skeldon hospital. Postmortem examinations conducted on the bodies by a government pathologist revealed that bullet wounds were the cause of death. It originally was thought that neither of the two youths had sustained gunshot wounds but had been beaten to death. The family of the deceased received permission for an overseas pathologist to do a second post-mortem examination, which was conducted in August and reportedly confirmed that the three men died of gunshot wounds. At year's end, an inquest was pending.
The BASS confrontation with Azad Bacchus, Shaazad Bacchus, and Fadil Ally triggered 3 days of protests, and on August 16, BASS personnel, confined to their office, started to shoot when demonstrators attacked the BASS office in the Corentyne. Two men, Stephen Angel and Sais Ghani, were shot and killed. In November Angel's family requested that the High Court order a police investigation and an inquest; at year's end, no further information was available.
An inquest was conducted in the case of Mohammed Shafeek, who died in the Brickdam police lockup in September 2000. Although initial police reports had indicated that Shafeek might have been beaten by other prisoners, an investigation revealed that Shafeek was beaten by the Venezuelan crew of a ship that had since left the country, and that the police had arrested him for disorderly conduct. The Police Commissioner stated that Shafeek should have been hospitalized instead of being placed in a prison cell, that procedures would be instituted in the future to ensure that injured prisoners were hospitalized, and that disciplinary action would be taken against police officers involved. In February a witness testified that "two policemen held him (Shafeek) by his hands and feet and threw him against a concrete wall in the lockup." The witness was rearrested 2 weeks after being released, and he said that during this incarceration, TSS officers held a gun to his head and threatened to kill him if he spoke about Shafeek's death. In March the inquest was postponed due to problems in jury member attendance. On November 27, the inquest jury unanimously ruled that the GPF should be held criminally responsible for Shafeek's death; at year's end, the police had filed a challenge against the inquest ruling.
In most of the extrajudicial killings by police in previous years, including the police shootings of Fazal Narine and Colin McGregor in 1999, there were no new developments.
At a June 12 press conference, People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) leader Desmond Hoyte called for public inquiry into the operations of the GPF. He accused the TSS of killing more than 100 men in the last 8 years and called for the dismissal of Police Commissioner Laurie Lewis. Lewis retired in September. Hoyte claimed that nearly all of the extrajudicial killings during the past 8 years remain uninvestigated, and accused the TSS of operating under political protection.
On June 14, the PNC/R submitted a motion to the Speaker of the National Assembly calling on President Jagdeo to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the GPF. The motion criticizes police for involvement in extrajudicial killings and brutality, as well as the impunity with which these alleged offenses are committed. By year's end, the motion had not been placed on Parliament's agenda.
On June 12, the GHRA issued a press statement strongly criticizing the increase in extrajudicial killings and calling for a National Oversight Committee to implement a national security policy. It stated that the GPF is overwhelmed by criminal and politically induced lawlessness. According to the GHRA, eight extrajudicial killings took place during the 2 months after the national elections, and the GHRA recommended investigations into the coincidence of periods of high levels of political lawlessness and such killings.
In June Parliament passed a constitutional amendment that provides that a Disciplined Forces Commission may be established, which could serve to address the allegations of extrajudicial killings and brutality by police.
In March 2000, the U.N. Human Rights Committee made 22 recommendations to the Government, including a call for prompt investigation by an impartial body of extrajudicial killings and excessive use of force. It also called for measures to ensure the prosecution of offenders and to provide effective remedies to victims. The Committee recommended that all law enforcement officials receive thorough training in international human rights standards. The GPF invited the GHRA to participate in a training session for new recruits to address human rights issues on one occasion during the year.
Many justice authorities and human rights activists say that due to rising crime and pressure from urban businesses, which are often the targets of criminals, the Government has taken a lax attitude toward investigation of alleged police abuses.