“My dream has been snatched away from me by the system” – juvenile murder…

first_imgThe dreams of 19-year-old Ian Henry of Baramita, Region One (Barima-Waini) were snatched from him seven years ago when he was charged for murder and taken into custody without even being afforded the right to counsel, thus violating his fundamental rights as prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.Article 40 of the Convention states “Children who are accused of breaking the law have the right to legal help and fair treatment in a justice system that respects their rights”. Governments are required to set a minimum age below which children cannot be held criminally responsible and to provide minimum guarantees for the fairness and quick resolution of judicial or alternative proceedings.”Henry was 13 at the time when he was charged and then brought to the Sophia Juvenile Detention Centre where he spent the next seven years awaiting judgement.However, the Director of Public Prosecutions a few days ago dismissed the caseNineteen-year-old Ian Henryagainst Henry after the Rights of the Child Commission and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Legal Aid Clinic provided legal representation for the then minor.While detailing the steps that led to highlighting and later the dismissal of the charges against Henry, Chief Executive Officer of the Rights of the Child Commission, Amar Panday, said they would have become aware of Henry’s case after visiting the Sophia Juvenile Detention Centre and interacting with him sometime in 2015.He further related that Henry’s demeanour and level of intelligence made them relook at his case. Investigations would have shown that at the time, over 95 per cent of the inmates at the Sophia Juvenile Detention Centre were denied the right to counsel, thus violating a number of child rights declarations.Panday related that they then approached UNICEF, which then released funding that was disbursed to the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic to begin providing legal representation to the children and youths at the Sophia Juvenile Detention Centre, the New Opportunity Corps and both Timehri and New Amsterdam Prisons. It was then Henry’s case was taken up and followed through resulting in the dismissal, further explaining that had it not been for their intervention then the youth would still be waiting on justice to be served.The Commission’s CEO said more needs to be done to tackle the problem of unrepresented children behind bars, reiterating it violates a number of international conventions of which Guyana is signatory to. Panday welcomed the recently passed Juvenile Justice Bill, explaining that it will address a number of violations.According to Henry, his life is now in shambles since he was detained for over seven years for a crime the Police had no evidence against him. The youth is appealing to the Government to ensure that this does not happen to another child.“When I was incarcerated I encountered some horrible experiences, dark momentsRights of the Child Commission CEO, Amar Pandayin my life and this incarceration has clearly jeopardised my future, no one can give me it back…. I am not the only one that has been affected by this kind of system but there are other youths who are incarcerated I have spent time with them,” he related.“If I hadn’t met these people while incarcerated, I would have still been in prison and don’t know when the time will come for me to be released. Just imagine it from the age of 13 to the age of 19 during this process I was denied my right to education. How could I go back to a secondary school to start over back my whole educational process? It is impossible, the only option is go to a college and do a trade…my dream has been snatched away from me by the system… my whole future has been jeopardised by the system,” Henry added.The youth said he was held despite the authorities having no substantial evidence against him resulting in him suffering for over half a decade. Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan said he was unaware of Henry’s situation and when it was brought to his attention, he felt it was his duty to fast track the Juvenile Justice Bill to address the issues. However, he noted that it will be costly to enforce the recommendations of the Bill but said Government is committed to seeing the process through.The Rights of the Child Commission and its partners are also looking at several other cases similar to that of Henry.last_img read more