FORMER Guyanese president, Bharrat Jagdeo, is named as a culpable party in the 1999 kidnapping and presumed murder of Franz Britton, aka ‘Collie Wills’.
A 2001 Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ [IACHR] Report #80/01, Petition #12.264 identifies Jagdeo along with Ronald Gajraj, former Minister of Home Affairs; Laurie Lewis, former Commissioner of the Guyana Police Force; and Leon Fraser, a former superintendent of the Guyana Police Force, as “responsible for Mr Britton’s disappearance whilst in police custody.”
According to the report, on January 25, 1999, Mr Britton, a father of three children, was “re-arrested by Leon Fraser, the Assistant Superintendent of Police of the Criminal Investigation Department, headquartered at Eve Leary, Georgetown, Guyana.”
The report continues: “Mr Britton was last seen in the company of Mr Leon Fraser, Superintendent of Police, head of the dreaded ‘Black Clothes’ police, and being bundled into a silver-grey car, licence plate number PGG 3412.” He hasn’t been seen since!
FULL DISCLOSURE: I testified at the IACHR hearing on behalf of Mr Britton, and at the behest of his mother, Ms Irma Wills, in March 2000. Dr Odeen Ismael, Guyana’s ambassador to the United States at the time, represented the Government of the People’s Progressive Party [PPP].
The Jagdeo Regime
Bharrat Jagdeo served as president of Guyana from 1999 to 2011. He now serves as leader of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party.
Starting in 1999, and, continuing until 2008, Guyanese citizens experienced an unprecedented reign of terror at the hands of his Government. During that period, hundreds of Guyanese were murdered, many under the colour of law, by members of the Guyana Police Force which was used by the PPP Government to enforce its criminal edacity.
Victims and the survivors of the PPP’s murderous criminality were offered no recourse from any of Guyana’s State agencies, including the courts.
The IACHR underscored that lack of recourse for Guyanese citizens in its 2001 Report about the Franz Britton kidnapping. According to the report, Ms Irma Wills, Mr Britton’s mother, and other relatives ‘visited both the Cove and John Police Station at East Coast Demerara, and the Brickdam police station where Mr Britton was last seen, and that they have been stymied in their efforts by the State authorities in Guyana to ascertain Mr Britton’s whereabouts after his arrest, detention, and transportation to Brickdam Police Station, Georgetown, by Mr Leon Fraser, Superintendent of Police.”
The IACHR concluded, subsequently, in a 2006 follow-up Report #1/06, Case #12.264 that “agents of the State security forces abducted and/or detained Franz Britton and that during the following six years his whereabouts have not been identified, and that, as a result, Guyana has violated the rights of Franz Britton to life, liberty, personal liberty, judicial protection, arbitrary arrest and due process of law.”
More significantly, the IACHR called on the “State [of Guyana] to provide reparations for the relatives of Franz Britton, including moral damages in compensation for the suffering occasioned by Mr Britton’s disappearance.”
A New Dispensation
After 23 years of PPP terrorism, the Guyanese people elected a new Government on May 11, 2015 with David Granger as President.
President David Granger made a solemn vow recently. Speaking at the 3rd annual Cuffy 250 State of the African -Guyanese Forum, the President promised to “ensure that all of those mothers’ children who were killed have their deaths investigated,” and those found culpable brought to justice.
The IACHR does not reach its conclusions frivolously. In the case of Franz Britton, the Commission conducted an exhaustive investigation into the merits of the case over a five-year period. During that time, it “received no information or observations from the State [of Guyana] with respect to the petitioner’s petition, despite repeated requests.” Consequently, according to the IACHR, “the Commission presumes the facts alleged in the petition to be true, and is satisfied that there is no other evidence that could lead to any other conclusion.”
The evidence against Mr Jagdeo and his cohorts is overwhelming, and damning in its specificity. And, in a remarkable case of irony, attorney Basil Williams, who represented Mr Britton and his family 15 years ago, is now Guyana’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.
Under Article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute, which governs the International Criminal Court, Bharrat Jagdeo and his cohorts named in the IACHR report can be charged, on the basis of their individual criminal responsibility and as indirect co-perpetrators, for crimes against humanity, namely, murder – Article 7(1)(a); forcible transfer – Article 7(1)(d); and/or, torture – Article 7(1)(f).
The ball is now in your court – no pun intended – Mr Attorney General!
(Ifa Kamau Cush, BA, MA is the international correspondent for New African Magazine. Mr. Cush was a Ph.D. candidate at New York University)
by Ifa Kamau Cush