Gross Human Rights Abuse

Just when everyone thought that the 2009 case involving several police officers who had burned the genitals of a 13-year-old murder suspect was the worst ever incident of alleged police brutality or torture, the country is once again dealing with allegations that a young but apparently unstable officer used a police baton to sodomize a young detainee during interrogation into an alleged burglary in November.

In the latest case that only came to light in the past week thanks to the investigative work of prominent attorney and human rights activist Nigel Hughes, the allegation is that the officer not only beat Colwyn Harding, 23, unconscious while probing a burglary case but also had shoved a baton covered with a condom up his rectum, severely damaging him.

Health Minister Bheri Ramsarran told parliament last week that while authorities are refuting the specific allegations made by Harding, his girlfriend, several others close to Harding and prisoners in the Airport Police detention cell, the victim has lost a significant portion of his intestines and will carry the scars from the injury possibly for life.

A clearly embarrassed and now embattled outgoing Police Chief Leroy Brummel surrounded himself with a battery of senior officers as he asked the public for more time to conduct a proper investigation, but critics were quick to point out that it is again a case of the police investigating itself rather than a panel of independent persons.

In the 2009 case, several officers probing the murder of a retired governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) official, pulled in the teen for questioning and, once he denied any involvement in the case, they simply poured a flammable substance on his genitals and set them alight, taking investigative techniques to a new level.

Minor criminal charges followed as well as minimal punishment were instituted against the officers in a case that many said had been the very worst of police atrocities in living memory. Wrong.

Now, both Chief Brummel and National Security Minister Clement Rohee have vowed to follow the case to the bitter end, ensure that the officer is dealt with “condignly” and move to improve apparently lax supervision of junior cops at police stations. Brummel was to make his finding available to the public by mid-week but so far this has not been the case.

If that is not enough, a woman from the Timehri area near the main international airport has also come forward to allege that Constable Singh also caused her to lose her baby by kicking her in the stomach, while relatives of a 13-year-old said he had spent nearly a week in detention linked to the same investigation and same officer.

While investigators work to assure the public that the list of rogue police officers has not grown exponentially in recent months, most including Attorney Hughes, opposition legislators, rights activists and Harding’s relatives and friends say they have little faith in a probe at which the police is investigating itself.

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