Lawyers protest prolonged investigations in arrest of attorney Tameika Clarke
In what is seemingly a first, attorneys are protesting in their robes over the arrest of attorney-at-law Tameika Clarke on Friday last by ranks of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
Clarke was detained after she advised her client to remain silent.
Clarke told reporters that she is not satisfied with the slothfulness of the investigations into the incident.
“I am not satisfied because I would have expected by now that the Commissioner of Police would have issued a statement at least acknowledging certain basic principles, such that a counsel has the right to instruct the client to remain silent and I have not heard any word to date from the Commissioner of Police,” Clarke related.
She said that legal proceedings against SOCU will be filed sometime on Friday or Monday. Clarke has said that legal proceedings are important to prevent a recurrence.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, SC, Anil Nandlall in a video statement following the protest said the government does not condone the incident.
“Our government is committed to the rule of law, we are committed to obedience of the constitution, we are committed to ensure that the rights and freedom of our people are respected and the laws of this land are upheld.
“There is no policy of our government that would ever be subversive to the rule of law or the constitutional rights of Guyanese,” Nandlall said.
According to Nandlall $50 million is being demanded in compensation by Clarke.
On Friday, Clarke was supported by several attorneys who used their lunch break to stage the demonstration with placards that read: “Lawyers should represent without fear”, “Respect the rule of law” and The right to remain silent is not a crime”.
The investigation into the arrest launched one week ago was completed on Friday and forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack for legal advice. The investigation was conducted by the Police Office of Professional Responsibility.
Former Chief Magistrate and Senior Counsel K.A Juman-Yassin said the incident has left him in shock. In all of the 51 years he has been practicing in Guyana, he said never saw such disregard for the rule of law.
“It is unbelievable what happened. Over the years I have never encountered a constable threatening an attorney-at-law. It is disgraceful,” Juman-Yassin said.
He said this incident highlights the claims where perpetrators have long reported being threatened and beaten by police while being interrogated or in the lockups.
“You can imagine what may go on behind the closed doors in the evenings when no attorney at law or members of the public is there.
“When a confession statement is presented in court and a person says, ‘I was beaten or I was threatened’, sometimes judges and magistrates tend not to believe and tend to follow the police; but if something like this can happen imagine what else can happen,” the attorney stated.
President of the Bar Association, Pauline Chase, said while what happened is disgraceful, the legal fraternity hopes that the Police Force will use this opportunity to improve relations with attorneys.
“It’s been a week and we have not had any positive movement; we issued a statement on the same day calling for a number of actions to be taken and we have seen no movement there.
“This is not a lawyer issue. Yes you see lawyers out here but this is a wider issue, it is a rule of law issue, it is a fundamental right issue, the right to counsel. The right to remain silent is ingrained, these are none negotiable rights and it affects us all,” Chase said.
The Bar Association had specifically called on the Commissioner of Police to issue an apology to Clarke, compensate her for her unlawful imprisonment, launch a full investigation into the matter and institute disciplinary action, including termination of any officers involved in the matter.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall had intervened when he heard of Clarke’s arrest and directed that she be released.
Meanwhile, attorney-at-law Dexter Todd said the investigation into the incident does not require this prolonged time and is now a cause for concern.
“All you need to know is who are the persons who passed the order in relation to the arrest and who is the arresting rank and that is the end of it,” Todd said.