GEORTGETOWN, Guyana, November 2, 2022 - Demerara Waves - The Organization of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA) has condemned the arrest of a Guyanese lawyer while she was advising her client in the presence of agents of the Guyana Police F0rce’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).
Describing the Guyana Bar Association’s (GBA) report of the arrest of Attorney-at-Law Tamieka Clarke on October 28 while advising her client to remain silent during questioning by police who were seeking to obtain a statement “very disturbing”, the regional grouping of Bar Associations in the Anglophone Caribbean said that amounted to a grave violation of the constitution.
“OCCBA strongly condemns the malicious and arbitrary arrest of Ms Clarke and calls for immediate and appropriate action be taken against those who take the law into their own hands to deny a citizen of his right to remain silent, to punish an attorney for discharging her professional obligations, and to make a mockery of a widely recognized, well preserved and constitutionally protected right,” the organisation said.
Ms Clarke was released only after Attorney General Anil Nandlall called the Head of SOCU and intervened as the State’s legal adviser. In that regard, the OCCBA praised Attorney General Anil Nandlall for his swift intervention, “thus avoiding further escalation of a totally unsatisfactory situation and ensuring the release of Ms Clarke without further delay.”
The OCCBA said that unfortunate development holds valuable lessons, not only for Guyana, but the entire region. The Regional body called for the police to be educated. “It reminds us of the continuing need to sensitize our society, at all levels (including the police), on the Constitution and the rights and obligations falling thereunder. Most importantly, the authorities need to ensure that our police officers continue to be exposed, educated and sensitized on the laws impacting their professional duties and the rights of citizens when in conflict with or arrested by the police, thus avoiding embarrassment and perhaps saving the State from payouts of significant sums in damages,” the association added.
While OCCBA said it fully recognizes the challenges of crime-fighting, police officers ought to understand that they themselves must comply with the law. Their powers are constrained by the Constitution, to whom all are subject, and other relevant laws of the land.
The OCCBA commended the “timely and decisive response of the GBA who, like a true watchdog of the legal profession and guardian for the administration of justice, rose to the occasion, collectively seeking the interest of an unlawfully arrested colleague, and staunchly defending her right to dutifully practice her profession in accordance with the law and the constitution.
The Guyana Women Lawyers Association also condemned the police arrest of the lawyer.
The attorneys who promptly answered the call of Ms Clarke, visited her at the station, and secured her release from custody were also commended by the OCCBA.
“OCCBA further commends Ms Clarke for vigorously defending her client’s rights and courageously standing up to the pressure and scare tactics of the police aimed at forcing her to abandon her professional obligations;
OCCBA urged the GBA and other Bar Associations in the region to continue to jealously protect the constitution, safeguard the rule of law, and speak out on issues impacting human rights and the administration of justice.