GHRA trashes sympathetic protest for abused baby



Organiser of the vigil, Sara Balgobin. [iNews' Photo]
Organiser of the vigil, Sara Balgobin. [iNews’ Photo]
[] – The Guyana Human Rights Association says it remains somewhat mystified by the second picket exercise outside its closed office after dark by a group of ‘public spirited citizens’ over the case of the Amerindian child-minder being sentenced to prison for five years for slapping/assaulting a baby in her care.

Several persons on Wednesday night (February 26) held a vigil outside the Guyana Human Rights Centre on Hadfield Street, Georgetown in compassion with the one – year – old baby. Those protesting said they were in total disagreement with the stance taken by the Human Rights Association on the matter.

The Association however seems unmoved by these vigils although noting that it is quite disposed to discuss with the group their disagreement. The Association maintains that its concern is that the legal proceedings appear to have been unduly influenced by the parents’ role in the administration of justice, the mother being a magistrate and the father a lawyer.

“Our concerns are grounded in the following facts:

i.                    The charge of ‘maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm’, an indictable offence, was excessive.

ii.                 The decision to try the matter summarily was taken without the defendant aving the benefit of legal advice.

iii.               The speed of the proceedings – arrest, trial and imprisonment – completed within three days.

iv.               The severity of the sentence – the maximum a magistrate is allowed to impose.

v.                 Clearing the court so that only persons associated with the prosecution were present; including the father of the child while the sister of the accused was excluded.

vi.               Allegations of assault against the defendant need also to be investigated.”

The GHRA concluded that while emotional reactions are understandable in those close to abuse cases, it is the role of the legal process to deter people from taking things into their own hands

“It is precisely because there is a fine line between ‘harsh’ and ‘cruel’, that justice must be blind to distracting influences,” the body reminded.

A statement by the GHRA further noted “the GHRA recently had cause to protest against the unpredictable sentencing taking place for some time in the Magistrates’ court, particularly with respect to drug cases… other cases of young women being advised to plead guilty by the police and bundled through the courts in a matter of days added to this concern.”

The GHRA says it was pleased to note that the only evidence of the group’s presence was two posters taped to the gate and fence. “During their vigil they may have taken note of the number of broken windows on the building, a harsher legacy of earlier visits of people in ‘complete disagreement’ with the GHRA.”



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