PRESS RELEASE PNCR WELCOMES THE UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE OF MARK BENSCHOP Monday, August 27, 2007



The PNCR welcomes the release of political prisoner Mark Benschop, after more than five years incarceration, without bail at the Georgetown Prison.

The PNCR commends President Jagdeo for finally taking his constitutional responsibility seriously on this issue. The Party cannot avoid the observation, however, that the long delay in taking such action has not helped to improve the public perception of the Human Rights record of the PPP/C Administration, nor has it removed the perception that the Administration has no regard for the Guyana Constitution.

The PNCR would not comment on the methodology employed by the President in agreeing to and orchestrating the unconditional release of Mark Benschop, though we would have preferred the approach, whereby the DPP would enter a nolle prosequi, as provided for in the Law. It is regrettable, however, that President Jagdeo in exercising his assumed right to pardon Benschop could at the same time pronounce on his innocence or guilt when he is fully aware that the very judicial system had not only failed to make such a finding at the first trial but denied Benschop an opportunity to prove his case in court.

In early July 2002, Benschop was charged with the offence of treason, contrary to section 317(a) of the Criminal Law Act Chapter 8:01. This arose out of an incident, at the Office of the President, during which two Guyanese were fatally shot, in questionable circumstances, by Presidential guards.

Mark Benschop was incarcerated in the Georgetown prison, without bail, for more than five years, and denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Article 144, of the Constitution, entitles anyone charged to a fair hearing of the criminal charge, within a reasonable time, before an independent and impartial Court. It is evident that Benschop’s fundamental rights, as guaranteed under the Constitution, have been continuously violated.

The Privy Council and the Commonwealth Courts have regarded the imprisonment of a person, without the execution of a Court Order, for five years, as constitutionally excessive and as cruel and inhuman treatment, even for persons convicted of murder: see Pratt V Morgan.

President Jagdeo is, therefore, doing Mark Benschop no favour, but ensuring that his rights, guaranteed by the constitution, are finally respected.

The PPP/C Administration has resisted holding a public inquiry into the events at the Office of the President, on 3 July 2002, and opted for the persecution of Mark Benschop with whom they had a vendetta, for having changed direction from being their supporter to being a harsh critic of their administration. No Inquest, as required by law, has, to date, been held by the Chief Magistrate on the death of the two persons at the Office of the President.

The PNCR wishes to thank all those who, locally and overseas, rallied around the cause of Mark Benschop over the years, particularly those Women of Conviction who throughout this period were willing to put their lives on the line for the cause.

The Party also wishes to express its gratitude to the many lawyers who, over the years, gave pro bono services on Mark’s behalf. These include the efforts of Mr. Basil Williams, Mr. Mortimer Codette, Ms. Emily Dodson, Mr. Linden Amsterdam, who devoted their time to the first trial. The Party also recognises and appreciates the continuous advice of the legal team which included, Rex Mc Kay, Miles Fitzpatrick, Peter Britton, Benjamin Gibson, Llewellyn John, et al. It is equally important to recognise the benefit of the persistence of several other legal initiatives to have a speedy trial, by Llewellyn John, et al

The Party also recognizes the special role, played by the Leader (and Leader of the Opposition) who, along with others, both locally and overseas, steadfastly continued their efforts, since Mark Benschop was charged with the offence of treason, in July 2002, to have him speedily exonerated and released.

Now that this unjust situation has been brought to an end, the PNCR urges President Jagdeo to turn his sights to correcting those other infringements of the Constitution, such as the attempt to control the Judiciary and the constitution of various Service Commissions, which can help to create some hope that this PPP/C Administration respects and will work to restore the rule of Law in Guyana.

The PNCR attaches a brief background of Mark Benschop’s ordeal for public information.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Monday, August 27, 2007


ATTACHMENT

PRESS STATEMENT

PNCR Welcomes the Unconditional Release of Mark Benschop

A Brief Background

In early July 2002, Mark Benschop was charged with the offence of treason, contrary to section 317 (a) of the Criminal Law Act Chapter 8:01. This arose out of an incident at the Office of the President during which two Guyanese were fatally shot, in questionable circumstances, by Presidential guards.

On the 3 October 2002 Mark Benschop was committed to stand trial at the Demerara Criminal Sessions of the January Assizes of 2003. On the 27 September 2003, it was published in the Official Gazette that Justice Moore would have presided at his trial at the October Criminal Sessions of 2003.

The records of Preliminary Enquiry were ready to commence the hearing and a formidable defence team had been mobilized to conduct his defence. Mr. Basil Williams was then named as the lead Defence Attorney. However, on the 26 September, 2003, Justice Jainarayan Singh, at the instance of Seetal Sookdeo, et al, represented by Attorneys-at-Law Priya Manichand, et al, granted an order nisi of certiorari, mandamus and prohibition which, in effect, prevented his trial from proceeding until the cases of certain named persons, including Sookdeo, had been heard and determined. What became public knowledge is that the PPP organized a group of lawyers to go to the Georgetown prison to solicit the Litigants in the action so as to delay the trial of Mark Benschop.

On the 27 December 2003, Mark Benschop’s case was again listed for trial before Justice Ramlall, to be heard at the January 2004 Criminal Sessions but, again, the case was not heard because of the Order of Justice Jainarayan Singh. This order was eventually reversed by the Court of Appeal. Despite other legal proceedings initiated by Mark Benschop, with the help of local lawyers, to ensure his speedy trial, as guaranteed by Article 144 of the Constitution, he was only eventually afforded a trial, which commenced before Justice Moore and a jury on the 10 November 2004.

At that trial, Mark Benschop pleaded not guilty. On the 9 December 2004, after due deliberations, eleven of the twelve Jurors voted for a not guilty verdict and in favour of his acquittal, but the lone dissenting Juror ensured a hung jury. The Director of Public Prosecutions, instead of entering a nolle prosequi, opted for another trial. After waiting for two years and five months for his first trial, (July 2002 - 9 December 2004), Mark Benschop suffered further breaches of his constitutional rights, since more than two years and eight months elapsed without another trial.

Mark Benschop’s case was listed for trial at the January 2005 Criminal Session, and each session thereafter, for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007, (a total of eleven times) after the hung jury trial before Justice Moore. However, his case was never presented for trial by the DPP, despite several legal proceedings pursued his lawyers.

During this period that Mark Benschop languished in the Georgetown prison, without being found guilty of any crime and with no trial date in sight, his family, career, and children have all suffered unjust hardships.


People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Monday, August 27, 2007