by Ifa Kamau Cush
TWO weeks ago I reported that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [IACHR] named former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, as a culpable party in the disappearance and presumed murder of Franz Britton, aka Collie Wills. Mr Jagdeo is now the Leader of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party [PPP].
Mr Britton was arrested in 1999 by the notorious ‘Black Clothes’ leader, Superintendent Leon Fraser of the Guyana Police Force. His body has never been found!
In 2006 the IACHR, after an exhaustive investigation, concluded that agents of Guyana’s ‘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, all recognised, respectively, in Articles I, XVIII, XXV, XXV and XXVI of the American Declaration.’
A spokesperson for the IACHR, Maria Rivero, explained that the Commission’s Merit Report #1/06, Case #12.264, holds the Jagdeo regime both “intellectually and materially responsible” for the disappearance and presumed murder of Frantz Britton. According to Ms Rivero, the Commission’s report is still valid and will remain so in perpetuity until all complicit parties are held accountable.
Since my report two weeks ago, the PPP has, dissemblingly, diverted the Guyanese people’s attention from the serious allegations against Mr Jagdeo that have been ratified by the IACHR.
Mr Jagdeo and other PPP mouthpieces have bloviated about the recently tabled budget and Jagdeo’s pension and salary. PPP parliamentarians, led by Jagdeo, stormed out of Parliament recently to hold a ‘small meeting,’ according to press reports. The PPP even accused the APNU-AFC Government of attempting to “muzzle” Jagdeo in Parliament.
These tactics are diversionary. They are designed by Jagdeo and his cohorts to shift the Guyanese people’s attention from the fact that Mr Jagdeo stands accused of serious violations of international law that, if he is convicted, can land him in prison for a very long time.
Mr Jagdeo is in violation of Article 7 [i] of the Rome Statute which governs the International Criminal Court. Under Article 7 [i], state actors accused of enforced disappearance can be charged and prosecuted.
According to the Rome Statute, “Enforced disappearance of persons” means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organisation, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.’
If there is one case that screams for an arrest, this is it! The Jagdeo regime refused to cooperate with the IACHR leading the Commission to conclude that what happened to Mr Britton corresponded in all respects to the concept of ‘forced disappearance,’ and the fact that his whereabouts are still unknown ‘are reasonable grounds for assuming that he was killed!’
Mr Britton’s body was never found. There is no closure for his mother, Irma Wills. She has been denied the common decency, the dignity, of burying her son.
Mr Jagdeo spare us your parliamentary dissimulations. You are no elder statesman. You stand accused of a crime against humanity. The Guyanese people do not want to hear rants about your pension and salary. The people want to know where Mr Britton’s body is buried!
(Ifa Kamau Cush, BA, MA, is a media consultant and the international correspondent for New African magazine. He is affiliated with the United Nations Correspondents Association. He was a Ph.D. candidate at New York University)