The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) joins other civic organisations and concerned citizens across the country and diaspora in condemning the alleged brutality meted out to Colwyn Harding and others at the hands of the Guyana police. We are also outraged at the poor treatment he received as a patient of the Georgetown Public Hospital.
The allegations made by Mr. Harding of rape, assault, wrongful arrest and denial of basic rights while in police custody amount to a growing body of incidents which suggest that Guyanese police officers are an authority of their own who face no real consequences for abusing state power. Compounding the alleged police excesses, credible reports have been published that Mr. Harding did not receive adequate medical care while at the Georgetown Public Hospital. Public-spirited persons at home and abroad donated colostomy bags and other medical supplies needed to treat him while he was a patient there. The Hospital’s CEO, Michael Khan, subsequently claimed, as widely reported in the media, that these supplies were available, but offered no explanation as to why they were not provided to Colwyn Harding. It is either Mr. Khan was grossly misinformed, or Mr. Harding was deliberately denied the necessary medical care he needed. Eye witnesses and prominent human rights group, Red Thread, also reported that Mr. Harding was further harassed and assaulted by ranks of the Guyana Prison Services who kept an already-immobile Harding chained to his hospital bed whilst receiving medical care..
SASOD is calling for an immediate, independent, and impartial inquiryinto the allegations made by Mr. Harding,especially since reports are circulating that there are even more victims in this case. Tiffany Edwards and Teneisha Evans who came forward as witnesses to Colwyn Harding’s alleged abuse by the policealso spoke of the abuse theytoo allegedly experienced. The allegations against the police officers implicated in this matter reveal a continuous pattern of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and bare-faced brutality by police in Guyana, against anyone with whom they interact, includingwomen and children. The witnesses have alleged that a 12-year old boy was assaulted by the police. Still etched in the memory of every Guyanese is thetorture case ofTwyon Thomas, the 14-year old boy whose genitals police set afire.These and numerous incidents of extra-judicial killings allegedly involving police have led to a total lack of trust and confidence in the police by the citizenry. SASOD believes that while there are many good officers in the Force, rogue elements have completely tarnished the reputation of the nation’s chief agency charged with protecting citizens’ security. Giventhis context, we believe it is necessary that an immediate, independent and impartial inquiry – free from police and political interference – isconducted into the allegations made by Colwyn Harding and other witnesses.
As a human-rights organization, SASOD is compelled to remind the state and its agents, particularly the Guyana Police Force, that every citizen has a right to be free from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment under the Guyana constitution and international human rights law, and that this fundamental right is an absolute one – there are no exceptions. We also remind the government that every citizen has the right to the highest attainable standard of health. In a country that boasts of economic growth amidst a global economic slowdown, it is unimaginable that critical medical supplies, like colostomy bags, would not be available at the only public hospital in the nation’s capital city.We also remind health-care providers of their professional duty and ethical responsibility to provide the best possible care to every person needing medical attention, without anyform of bias whatsoever.
SASODcalls on our elected officials in the National Assembly to comprehensively address the issue and take cogent policy and other measures to eliminate police excesses as a matter of extreme urgency and top priority. We also call on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and United Nations bodies to condemn this most recent allegation of police brutality.
Every Guyanese has a role to play in this collective struggle to make our society a just and equal place. Whether at home or abroad, we need to join demonstrations, write letters to the press, speak up and speak out; use all non-violent means at our disposal to end police brutality, abuses of state power and the impunity with which these excesses are allowed to fester.
Alana Da Silva