Phantom probe should be tested – GHRA
Posted By Stabroek staff On October 24, 2009 @ 5:37 am In Local News | 24 Comments
– police say no response yet
The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) yesterday said it is important to test the bona fides of the announced investigation by the police into the alleged murders by drug convict Roger Khan by collaborating with their call for public cooperation.
Seelall Persaud 
The GHRA, in a press release yesterday entitled `Phantom enquiry must not be a charade’, suggested a number of initial steps which it said would establish both the parameters of the task at hand and provide the force with an opportunity to demonstrate the authenticity of the initiative.
The first step, according to the GHRA, should be the compilation of a list of all the unresolved cases of deaths which occurred between February 2002 — the year and month five dangerous prisoners escaped triggering one of the worst crime sprees in recent history — and the arrest of Khan in 2006. The list should be published for public scrutiny and for additions and subtractions by any interested party.
The second step, the human rights body said, should see the police providing updates of the status of as many cases on the list for which they have information.
The third step should then see an agreement involving all parliamentary parties as to how to deal with the rest of the list. If normal criminal procedures are not possible for a variety of reasons then the relevant parties may jointly need to agree to a process, which while not strictly judicial, “will bring a measure of closure, justice and healing to the families most affected by the deaths as well as to the society in general.”
Meanwhile, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud, who is heading the investigative team, told Stabroek News yesterday that since the force’s announcement on Tuesday there had been no response from members of the public.
Asked if the force would be contacting some of Khan’s close associates, including a number of former policemen one of whom is in jail on a murder charge, the Assistant Commissioner of police said that the police had an investigative team “out there” and “wherever the investigation leads them they would investigate and question people.”
Three former policemen, Ricardo Rodrigues, Shawn Belfield — for whom the police have issued an arrest warrant in connection with a double murder — and Mark Roberts, now in jail on a double murder charges, were held with Khan in Suriname in 2006 before the drug convict was taken to the US.
Following the police’s announcement the PNCR said that it was not “impressed” by what it described as the “latest manoeuvre” by the government “to deceive the world that it is taking some action against the atrocities committed in Guyana.”
The opposition party at its weekly press conference on Thursday said the force’s belated call for individuals and groups to provide evidence is “another attempt to fool the public that the police are not in possession of any evidence.” It said it was a serious indictment on the force after more than 200 gangland-style executions were committed in this jurisdiction.
The major opposition party said it rejected the announcement as it was clearly another attempt to deceive the people of Guyana and to shift the focus of the demand by the opposition for an international inquiry which would not hone in on Khan alone, but on criminal activities in Guyana where the force and the government were involved.
Three days after Khan was sentenced in a Brooklyn Federal Court to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking, witness tampering and a 16-year-old gun-running charge, the police announced their intention to set up a special unit to investigate the charges that he had been directly or indirectly involved in killing locals.
Khan had operated a drug trafficking enterprise here for more than eight years, US prosecutors said, and he headed the violent ‘Phantom Squad’ that was responsible for many deaths. Khan had publicly said that he worked with the security forces to stem the crime wave following the 2002 prison break.
According to the police press release, the special unit will be based at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters, Eve Leary. The force called “on all individuals, organisations or groups who may have information or vital evidence concerning these alleged murders involving the Fineman gang, Roger Khan’s gang or any other gang or individuals who may be involved to come forward and provide whatever information or vital evidence may be available.”
Persons can also dial telephone numbers 225-2227, 226-6978 or 225-8196.
Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan questioned the “genuineness” of the move.
He added that he hoped it was an authentic move to do a “thorough and professional” investigation as the police‘s behaviour prior to the announcement gave the impression that they did not want to conduct an investigation into Khan’s activities.
Meanwhile, the GHRA said as a first step it will shortly submit two preliminary lists to Seelall with the first one comprising deaths at the hands of police/disciplined services between March 2002 and June 2003. It was the same list the rights body submitted to the Disciplined Services Commission of Enquiry in 2003. A second list would have some 30 deaths mainly during the months of October and November 2003, including that of Police Inspector Leyland October, and a range of deaths typical of many more during the 2003-2005 period, which may have been drug or politically inspired or simply criminally motivated.
Whether the human right body submits more lists in the future will depend on the manner in which the enquiry is conducted with respect to political independence, transparency and acceptance of constructive cooperation with all interested parties.
According to the GHRA the new initiative by the force faces major credibility challenges. It posited that the dispelling of the skepticism will be key to public acceptance of the new undertaking.
Some of the challenges faced by the initiative include persuasive evidence of strong links between government officials, drug lords and senior elements of the force; the undermining of efforts of former police commissioner Winston Felix to confront drug barons by government officials; and the generalized failure to investigate, prosecute and protect witnesses in a large number of murders, possibly 200 or more which occurred under circumstances that suggest either political or drug-related factors at work.
Many calls have been made – more recently by the opposition parties – for an investigation to be conducted into Khan’s activities in Guyana. The calls had been made even as he was awaiting sentencing in the US, having pleaded guilty to exporting large quantities of cocaine into that country from these shores.
The opposition parties had specifically asked that an International Commission of Enquiry be conducted into the many dimensions of Khan’s activities, particularly his alleged links to the government.
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