December 23, 2004
Guyanese kids released from custody

After being housed in unsuitable conditions at the Central Police Station for over three months, two Guyanese children were last Sunday sent back to their homeland.

The plight of the two, Olofi Jarvis, 11, and his sister Tutanna Jarvis, 14, were first highlighted in the November 26 issue of this publication. {{more}}Tutanna was the only female housed at the station. She had not committed a crime but found herself locked up as her mother, who is a Guyanese national, is on the run from immigration authorities for overstaying her time here.

Their matter came to the forefront after reports highlighted that the local justice system was in breach of at least two articles of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the administration of juvenile justice.

The Jarvis’, who were awaiting deportation, were initially supposed to be released in the care of their aunt, but according to reports that did not work out.

The children’s aunt said to be a Guyanese with Vincentian connections bought the juveniles’ tickets. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA) also assisted in obtaining the tickets.

Inez Cuffy, co-ordinator of the SVG Human Rights Association, said the police were very helpful in getting the children back to Guyana where they were supposed to be collected by another of their aunts. Cuffy expressed gratitude to the police on behalf of the Human Rights Association.

However, a number of children still remain housed at the Central Police Station.

President of the Human Rights Association Nicole Sylvester thanked the media for highlighting the problem. She said that the media responding to the situation played an important role in having the issue addressed by the authorities. Speaking in relation to the children being sent home, Sylvester said the efforts of the SVGHRA have brought results. She, however, said that a number of youth offenders are still being housed at the Central Police Station in conditions she described as a “horrible sight”. Sylvester added that the authorities have not yet found a suitable place to house the young offenders.

It was initially noted that housing the youngsters in these conditions were against “The Beijing Rules”.

The international rules on juvenile detention are known as “The Beijing Rules” as they were adopted in 1985 at a conference in Beijing, China.

Article 13, paragraph 2 of “The Beijing Rules” states: “Whenever possible, detention of juveniles pending trial shall be replaced by alternative measures such as close supervision, intensive care or placement with a family or in an education setting or home.”

The same article, in its fourth paragraph states: “While in custody, juveniles shall receive care, protection and all necessary individual assistance social, educational, vocational, psychological, medical and physical – that they may require in view of their age, sex and personality.”

The group of youngsters at the station includes a 14-year-old who has been arrested in connection with the murder of police constable Elson Richardson whose body was found at Belle Vue on Sunday, November 14th.

The kids are not given any form of education or physical activity. They only leave the area when they have to use the bathroom.