BELIZE CITY–The Belize Police Department’s elite Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) which rolled onto the streets in late 2010 has frequently been accused of violating the constitutional and civil rights of residents of the south side of Belize City. They are once more being accused of the wanton brutalization of a citizen.
Some GSU officers were operating on King Street early yesterday, Wednesday morning. In the wake of their departure, a West Street resident, Kariq Tzul, 23, who is the grandnephew of the Mesopotamia area representative Hon. Michael Finnegan, had to seek medical treatment, after he allegedly was severely beaten by the GSU officers.
Deborah Myvett, Tzul’s mother, told Amandala this morning, Thursday, that she received a call asking her if she was aware that the GSU had beaten up her son.
Myvett said that she took a taxi from her Mercy Lane residence to her son’s house and took him to Belize Medical Associates to see a doctor, after she learned that he had been beaten in the body and around the neck area until he defecated in his trousers.
“I am thinking that if they beat him until he stool himself, then it must be really bad, the beating,” Myvett said.
Tzul also spoke with Amandala, telling us that he was at a house on King Street, texting on his phone and watching television, when three GSU officers stopped by and went into the house.
“They told me to get down, and so I got down [on the floor],” Tzul recalled.
“They asked me who else was in the house, and when I told them that there was no one else in the house, they began beating me,” Tzul explained to Amandala.
Asked if the officers had a warrant to search the house, Tzul said they did not engage him in any kind of conversation after he told them that he was in the house alone.
“They just began to beat me for nothing,” Tzul said.
Tzul explained that it was three officers, who were in the house beating him.
“When they realized that I was in the house alone, that made it better for them. They dragged me inside to the back of the house. One sleeper me [put his arm around my neck]; one started talk ‘bout bruk my ribs, and the other one gun-butt me,” Tzul said.
“They continued beating me until I knock out. They beat me until I unconscious and sh*t myself,” Tzul explained.
While the three GSU men were beating Tzul in the upstairs of the house, his cries were heard by Myrna Chi, 35, who resides in the lower flat of the two-storey house.
Chi told Amandala today, Thursday, that she was speaking to a neighbor when she saw the police pull up and went into the yard.
“I decided to go upstairs, but as I was going upstairs, one of the policemen who were outside on the street told another one to detain me. So they hold me outside, and took away my cell phone,” Chi said.
“While they had me outside, I could hear the cries coming from upstairs,” Chi continued.
“When they finally took me upstairs, they had stopped beating him, and they made me stand in a corner while they were tying him up [to] take him downstairs,” Chi recalled.
Tzul said, “when I came to, they tied me up and brought me downstairs.”
“When we got downstairs, they put me in the back of the pickup truck and they started driving me around. It look like they were looking for someone. They drove around with me and another young man for about half an hour,” Tzul revealed.
“After they finished driving around with me, they stopped at the corner of Amara Avenue and King Street and put me and the other young man out. Before they put me out of the silver pickup truck, one of the GUS officers said, ‘if you no dead by the end of the year, we (the GSU) might do it,’” Tzul said.
“They loosed the handcuffs and just put me out”, Tzul told Amandala, adding that one of the officers told him “get the f…k out of the vehicle. Unno go on like unno innocent.”
We tracked down the other young man who was in the pan of the pickup along with Tzul, Bernard Myers, 19, and he told Amandala that he was standing at the corner of King Street and Euphrates Avenue when the GSU police just came and beat him up for no reason. He said they then went upstairs and beat the young man (Kariq Tzul), whom he did not know.
“They beat me up first,” Myers said.
Myvett said that the doctor at Belize Medical Associates who attended to her son told her that he had been badly bruised and will require about two weeks before he is back to normal.
She said that he was given some expensive painkillers to help him cope with the pain in his body, and he has to wear a neck brace.
Myvett also confirmed to Amandala this morning that the Commander of the GSU, Inspector Mark Flowers, visited her and informed her that the allegation made by her son will be thoroughly investigated.
Amandala also spoke to the newly appointed GSU Commander, Flowers, who told us today, Thursday, that the allegations against his officers are being taken very seriously.
Flowers said that the matter is under investigation by the Internal Affairs Department, because he does not want this to be just another allegation against his unit without any action being taken.
When asked, however, if criminal charges would be levied against the officers involved in this incident, Flowers said that he would rather not comment on that, because “I don’t want to pre-empt the investigation.”
This latest unfortunate allegation against the GSU comes less than one week after the former two-term Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Said Musa, told People’s United Party supporters at the endorsement convention for Cordel Hyde as standard-bearer in Lake Independence on Saturday, August 30, that: “The GSU is out of control and if I have my way, if I have anything to do with it, that is one of the first things the PUP will do — out with the GSU; abolish the GSU because that is no way to be treating people.”
Flowers, however, later fired back at the PUP, making a public statement in sections of the media, saying: “I have heard the comments on the midday news today, and I was appalled. I was shocked and disappointed. I find it very frightening the comments made by the senior parliamentarian. That kind of comments are treacherous to say the very least, and certainly unnecessary.”
After Flowers made his remarks, Opposition Leader, Hon. Francis Fonseca, in a press release, called for his removal as the head of the GSU.
Fonseca declared: “We are demanding that Inspector Flowers be removed as the head of the Gang Suppression Unit. He does not enjoy the confidence of the Opposition; he does not enjoy the confidence of the many people that we represent, and so we are demanding that the Minister of National Security and the Prime Minister act immediately to remove him from that position.”
Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar, however, in a text message to Channel 7 News on Tuesday, said that he would continue to support Flowers’ position as GSU Commander.
Saldivar said: “The Minister of National Security, the Commissioner of Police, and the Police Department strongly condemn the insightful [sic] and irresponsible utterance of the Member for Fort George and stands shoulder to shoulder with the leader and members of the GSU, who are diligently and courageously serving the country and people of Belize by fighting the criminals who, on a daily basis, terrorize law abiding citizens.”
Inspector Flowers, who is the third officer to head the GSU since the unit was formed, on Tuesday, defended his short tenure as the unit’s leader and said that he was not responsible for the unit’s past actions.
“I will not superintend over any unit that practices any degrading, inhumane, illegal, out-of-order performance – I will not sit by and watch that happen. I am saying to you that by this same token, that I cannot be held accountable for those yesteryear incidents. I don’t know about them, I was not there and I will account for the period that I am here and I will assure you that this, the brand new GSU, the first three letters in the alphabet (sic), GSU will continue to deliver that high attained performance, and that it will be within the ambits of the what is legal, what is prescribed,” he stated.