Human Rights Body approaches UN for forensic experts to investigate WCB murders

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Murdered: Joel Henry, Isaiah Henry, Haresh Singh

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has approached the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Guyana with a view of having international forensic experts investigate the recent heinous murders of young men in West Coast Berbice (WCB).

The young men who have been brutally murdered are cousins 16-year-old Isaiah Henry and 19-year-old Joel Henry, as well as 17-year-old Haresh Singh.

According to the GHRA, the UN is currently reviewing the request.

See full statement:

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has approached the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Guyana with a view to having international forensic experts investigate the recent heinous murders of young men in West Coast Berbice. The UN is currently reviewing the request and the logistical implications of it.

The GHRA is concerned that Guyanese across the society understand the purpose of this initiative which can be viewed as both an event and a process along with the conditionalities required to bring it to fruition.

The chief purpose of the initiative is to provide the families and the society as a whole with a trustworthy version of the events surrounding the murders in order to counter the problem that every political incident in Guyana generates two narratives.

Without an impartial version of the truth, acceptable to all right-minded Guyanese, these events will inevitably join the catalogue of unresolved atrocities embedded in Guyanese ethnic folklore. Such events are never allowed to be conclusively buried. They survive in a mythical realm leaving the listener unsure whether the event had occurred in the 1960s, 1997, 2003 and so on.

Secondly, the forensic investigation aims to bring the society to recognize how close to the precipice we, as a society, have brought ourselves. While instinctive horror at the murders is widespread across ethnic divides, no one, particularly the political leaderships, can claim to be really shocked. All thinking Guyanese have spent the last five months fearful that reckless political rhetoric, inflamed by the pernicious use of social media, would ignite this tit-for-tat vigilante justice –our modern-day version of “lynching”.

Thirdly, an initiative of this nature would serve as a confidence-building measure to re-assure ourselves that we can bring crises of this nature to a peaceful resolution.

A fourth aim of this initiative is the great assistance it would provide to the Guyana Police Service (Force) to have the back-up of independent international expertise to ascertain the circumstances of the murders and to facilitate the implementation of the process of justice.

A fifth aim is preventative. The visit of this nature would inject an impartial international element into the situation deterring any momentum towards a greater national crisis.

A number of conditionalities have to be met for a visit of this nature to occur. Some are specific to United Nations involvement (since Guyana is a member State of the United Nations), other requirements would apply to experts from any source. These include:
• Authorization by the Government
• Access to medical records
• Authorization to conduct an independent autopsy which requires:
o access to a medical lab and all that goes with it
o permission from the family
• Security assessment for possible need to protect the expert
• Coordination with the Police and Judiciary
• Collaboration from local legal and medical actors
• Access to any independent local investigation
• Cooperation from relevant civil society actors
• Responsible support from mainstream press and social media.

The range of sectors and skills suggest the potential for reconciliation implicit for a successful forensic investigation exercise. The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) encourages all civic, professional, religious, trade union organizations and community groups to reflect on how a reconciling & caring dynamic can be nurtured to replace the adamant certainties proliferated by political or criminal agitators.

These clamouring voices contrast sharply with the courageous and dignified sentiments expressed by one of the bereaved Afro-Guyanese fathers, Gladstone Henry, who yet again spoke openly to the media yesterday of the warm and close relations his family has always enjoyed with Indo-Guyanese families, who also joined in the day-and-night backdam search for the two cousins. Beginning with the phrase “I am not a racist”, he went on to say “…if you want to protest is our right, let we do it peacefully…we the nation cannot be against one another, because this is going on too long…”.