The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) is highly convinced that the alleged instruction of “no further action” to the Police, by the 16-year-old indigenous girl, who accused Local Government Minister, Nigel Dharamlall of rape, “is a culmination of improper investigation and systemic emotional abuse by the authorities.”
In a statement on Saturday, the APA said the new development in the case is deeply troubling, and raises serious questions about the treatment of the child, and the authorities’ interest in delivering justice.
“Over the course of the investigation, we have noted reports of the denial of counsel to the child and the Police treating her more like a suspect rather than a victim of a serious crime,” the APA said.
It also expressed concern about the role played by the Welfare Officers of the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) in the entire investigation. It said based on press reports, it is clear that the child’s interests were not adequately represented by those entrusted to protect her.
Given the circumstances of the matter, APA said it remains deeply concerned for the child’s well-being and that of her family.
“Allegations of this nature require an enormous amount of strength to be made and we are hopeful that the child is receiving the right mental health and trauma care. This will inevitably shape her future and we view the “instruction” as alleged by the Guyana Police Force to be nothing, but a culmination of the enormous pressures placed on this child and her family,” it said.
On Friday, Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum told the press that the alleged victim gave a ‘no further action statement’ to investigators in the presence of one of her parents and a representative from the Childcare Agency. The file has been returned to the DPP for legal advice. When the file was initially sent to the DPP, it requested that further investigation be done. It was during that second round of investigation that the alleged victim withdrew the case against the embattled minister.
But given the plethora of concerns arising out of the case and the suspected breaches in the system, the indigenous rights organization is demanding an investigation into the conditions under which the child was kept, as well as a probe into the police’s conduct of the investigation.
“We are utterly dismayed at this conclusion and await the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
In the interim, the APA is calling on the Childcare and Protection Agency to answer a number of questions on the standard operating procedures employed in addressing the allegations, the number of Welfare Officers assigned to the care of the child, and the reason for child being denied legal representation by independent attorneys.
APA also wants to know if any attorney was contracted by the Childcare and Protection Agency to provide legal assistance to the child and her family, and why was the child isolated from her family and support system. Other questions relate to the mental health care afforded to the child during her stay in the custody of the agency, and whether her welfare and rights were advocated for during the police interrogation.
APA is also demanding answers from the Guyana Police Force, on the SOPs employed in dealing with the allegations against Minister Dharamlall – a senior Cabinet member. It also wants to know whether there was a confrontation between the child and the accused, and how often and for what period were the child and her younger sibling interrogated by the police.
The organization is also calling on Guyanese to stand for the rights of the child.
“We call on all Guyanese to ensure that this matter is not swept under the carpet. We call, especially, on our indigenous brothers and sisters to demand that the child is protected, and this matter be independently investigated. The protection of our children should be of paramount importance and value to all,” APA said.
It is also calling on the State to uphold its constitutional obligations to protect its citizens – in particular women and children.
“The government need only refer to ratified documents such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly Article 34, that speaks to the role of the government in protecting children from sexual abuse. This must further be informed by General Recommendation No. 39 on the rights of indigenous women and girls from the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The recommendation provides guidance on the obligations of the State to appropriately respond to the sensitive contexts that make indigenous women susceptible to violence and discrimination at all levels. The government has the tools needed to respond to this case in a manner that respects the interests of the child and upholds justice,” APA reasoned.
The organization vows to continue to fight for the protection of basic human and other indigenous peoples’ rights. It said it will engage with United Nations and other regional mechanisms to ensure that justice is served.