Commission to probe Guyana prison riots

Commission to probe Guyana prison riots
Guyana’s President David Granger.
Associated Press / Joedson Alves

The Guyana government has set up a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to probe the recent riot at the Camp Street, Georgetown Prisons that claimed the lives of 17 inmates.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon made this announcement recently.

The three-member Commission, which will conduct the inquiry, was recently sworn in at the Ministry of the Presidency, according to a government press release.

The Commission of Inquiry will enquire into the circumstances, causes and conditions that led to the riot on March 3, 2016 which resulted in the death of 17 prisoners and five others who were injured; nature of all injuries sustained by the prisoners and determine whether the conduct of the staff of the Guyana Prison Service who were on duty on March 3 conformed with the Standard Operation Procedures of the Prison Service.

“This Commission of Inquiry should be done in a very speedy fashion,” Harmon said, noting that even though it is not government’s intention to “put pressure” on the commissioner, the society at large is looking for answers very quickly.

Minister Harmon said the initial time frame of March 15 given to the commissioners may not have been adequate. He said the date has been moved to a month ensure that a full and proper investigation is conducted and the findings are documented.

The commissioners will take evidence from inmates from Georgetown and even from other prisons, prison officers, relatives and any other persons who can assist the commission.

The minister said the commission has been given wide scope and the instrument they received gives them much power as a High Court judge to summon witnesses and take evidence as you would in a High Court.

The police are also continuing investigations into the deadly incident.

In the meantime the government is exploring options for medium and long-term solutions facing the Guyana Prison Service (GPS).

A government statement said President David Granger; accompanied by Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan and Minister Harmon visited the Mazaruni Penal Settlement in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni region.

The statement said the visit was part of government’s assessment of all the GPS facilities “to determine current physical and human resource capacity so that informed decisions can be made on how best to improve the way the service functions.”

It said granger referred to the visit as an important fact-finding and problem-solving mission an assured the staff and officials present that the problems within in the GPS will be resolved within the country’s resources.

Referring the country’s worst prison riot in history, Granger said the prison service has had problems that are endemic and must be solved.

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