The ethnic composition of the police special forces unit called "men in black," whether the officers of this unit are known to target any particular ethnic group (April 2004) [GUY42583.E]

References to a police special forces unit called "men in black" could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, as mentioned in Section 5 of the Research Directorate's July 2003 Issue Paper Guyana: Criminal Violence and Police Response, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) does field a special anti-crime unit popularly known as "black-clothes" or the Target Special Squad (TSS) (Stabroek News 12 Dec. 2003; ibid. 14 Oct. 2003).

News sources have also reported on the alleged government's use of a death squad commonly known as the Phantoms to carry out more than 40 extra-judicial killings of suspected or known criminals (Latin American Caribbean & Central America Report 17 Feb. 2004; Latinamerica Press 25 Feb. 2004). Moreover, reports noted that some members of the police and Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj were reportedly involved with the Phantoms death squad (Stabroek News 23 Nov. 2003; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 1a; AI 6 Feb. 2004; Latin American Caribbean & Central America Report 17 Feb. 2004; Latinamerica Press 25 Feb. 2004).

The Research Directorate could not find information about the ethnic composition of the TSS; however, news and human rights reports noted that the GPF as a whole is mainly staffed by Afro-Guyanese officers (Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5; Stabroek News 20 Aug. 2003; Guyana Chronicle 16 Nov. 2003). In November 2003, based on police statistics submitted to the Disciplined Forces Commission, a public inquiry into police, army, prison and fire services, Afro-Guyanese officers outnumbered Indo-Guyanese officers by a margin of five to one (Guyana Chronicle 16 Nov. 2003).

While information about whether the TSS target specific ethnic groups could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate, news reports have linked this police unit to a number of extra-judicial killings of suspected criminals (Stabroek News 23 Sept. 2003; ibid.14 Oct. 2003; ibid. 12 Dec. 2003).

With regard to the Phantoms death squad, in a 23 November 2003 Stabroek News article, a Guyanese NGO, the African Cultural and Development Association (ACDA), asserted that the Phantom "killers" were linked to the deaths of more than 30 Afro-Guyanese citizens. Moreover, the ACDA claimed that some citizens have identified police officers as being members of the Phantoms squad (Stabroek News 23 Nov. 2003). Police Crime Chief Leon Trim disassociated the GPF from any extra-judicial activity stating that some of the murders could be the result of criminal gangs settling scores (ibid.). In addition, Chief Trim stated that despite ongoing investigations, the police have not detained the perpetrators of these homicides and asked citizens to step forward if they have seen police officers involved in these shootings (ibid.). In a February 2004 press release, Amnesty International urged President Jagdeo "to open an immediate inquiry into allegations that a 'death squad' has tortured, 'disappeared' and killed dozens of individuals since 2002" (6 Feb. 2004).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 6 February 2004. "Guyana: Need for Immediate Inquiry into Death Squad Killings." [Accessed 15 Apr. 2004]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. "Guyana." U.S. Department of State, Washington DC. [Accessed 5 Apr. 2004]

Guyana Chronicle [Georgetown]. 16 November 2003. Nivedta Kowlessar. "Gajraj Willing to Facilitate Forensic Audit on Force's Ethnic Composition." [Accessed 15 Apr. 2004]

____. 11 November 2003. Nivedta Kowlessar. "Assist. Commissioner Rejects 'Racial Discrimination in Recruitment' Charge." (Dialog)

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 25 February 2004. Mike James. "Death Squads Come to Guyana."

Latin American Caribbean & Central American Report [London]. 17 February 2004. "Indian Rights Push Overshadowed by Death Squad Allegations."

Stabroek News [Georgetown]. 12 December 2003. "Special Police Squads Must Have Clear Operating Procedures - Disciplined Forces Commission report." [Accessed 15 Apr. 2004]

____. 23 November 2003. Kim Lucas. "2003 Murder Rate Tips at 180." (Dialog)

____. 14 October 2003. "Diciplined Forces Commission Army Misused in 'Occupation' of Buxton - Retired Colonel." (Dialog)

____. 23 September 2003. Andre Haynes. "Police Literally Getting Away With Murder - ACDA." (Dialog)

____. 20 August 2003. Andre Haynes. "Enquiry Panel Grapples With Ethnic Balancing of Police Force." (Dialog)

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites: Freedom House, Guyana Government Information Agency (GINA), Human Rights Watch, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2003, World News Connection (WNC).

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