Friday, January 19, 2018

Protect our witnesses

 While the country was reeling from the scores in the Germany-Brazil match, a more important event occurred—one which has a direct impact on every citizen and significant consequences for the parody that is our judicial system in this country.

According to newspaper reports, on July 8, 26-year-old Keston Redhead was assassinated in Arima. Redhead was a witness in a robbery four years ago, in which his grandfather was killed. He was due to testify in a court case involving the perpetrators. The case was scheduled to commence on July 18 and he was killed ten days prior to this. This man was a witness once and a victim twice.

Now he is dead, and it is possible the accused will walk free with a “get out of jail” card handed to him by the justice system.

Dana Seetahal had written an excellent article explaining that killing of witnesses on instructions from the accused provides little benefit and has no bearing on the fairness of the trial. I do not know how many accused people or their associates on the outside read or understood her article.

It is therefore incumbent upon defence attorneys, the Minister of National Security and the Minister of Justice to make public statements when witnesses are killed to show their disgust and intolerance of these events and to ensure those responsible for these deaths remain in jail and are not allowed to walk free.

It is not enough for the Ministry of National Security to claim those under State protection are not killed—more must be done to ensure all witnesses are protected in order to maintain and uphold the law. With the abysmal detection rate of the police, witnesses are our only recourse. Will they even try to find who committed the murder on the outside, knowing it could have only been ordered from inside the prison walls?

The Honourable President comes from an international tribunal background and possesses knowledge of the procedural protections necessary to ensure witness safety. These include anonymous testimony, video conferencing, pre-trial confidential statements, etc.

The time has now come for those in authority to take this issue seriously and to implement measures designed to protect witnesses and encourage others to testify. As it now stands, the prevailing atmosphere of lawlessness and fear works only to the advantage of the criminals and not to the victims or witnesses. 

The criminals appear to have their systems in place. Shouldn’t we?

Verum Absit

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