The investigation into the suicide of Micha Miguel continues. The 23-year-old BDF private took her life in July. Following her death, reports emerged that Miguel had been sexually assaulted while in the force. Miguel was one of the many persons who came forward about two years ago alleging that they had been sexually assaulted. In her case, no evidence was found and the matter was dealt with administratively. She was placed on suicide watch but taken off prematurely and her family believes that decision contributed to her death. This time around, several entities including the Ministry of Human Development are actively involved in the investigation of not only Miguel’s death but the sexual assault claims. Acting Chief of Staff at the BDF Lieutenant Colonel Jermaine Burns gave us an update on that investigation.
Lt. Col. Jermaine Burns, Acting Chief of Staff, BDF: “We started off with a Court of Inquiry. This is an internal military investigation that is headed by one of our female doctors of ranking and while a Court of Inquiry is only for he BDF and to have findings and recommendations that goes up to our ministry, I had alluded to the Women’s Commission being a part of our investigation and soliciting the aid of the police. What we have gone to is just that with the absence of the police if anything is found from the Women’s Commission investigation that is incriminating our sexual assault policy states that we hand over to the police n order for them to arrest who they may need to arrest and take to court who hey need to. The crime of rape or any such heinous mater would have to be dealt with that way. That’s the way the policy states it. The policy is under revision right now but that is what we have to stick to right now. So in respect to an update, I spoke to the doctor just before, I think it was Friday and then just before this interview. So she is concluding with her Court of inquiry so she takes another week or so and she will have her conclusion. In respect to the Women’s Commission they had started off with about four of us two weeks ago and yesterday they did about eight. Today they did another series, tomorrow as well and on the 20th they’ll do some more.”
According to Burns, a list of interviewees is long and if criminal charges are recommended against any member of the force, then so be it.
Lt. Col. Jermaine Burns, Acting Chief of Staff, BDF: “The number of people that they want to interview is a significant number. You’d imagine that we have to be pulling from across the Force the names of persons of interest that they want to speak to. Some of these, like two of the females that actually work in the department that I supervise, have been deployed on the Jungle Warfare Instructor course which is all the way in the Pine Ridge for seven weeks. They will have to be interviewed and they get out near the end of October. So I’ve been told it’s not for another month and a half or two they are going to conclude. Right? Once they conclude, our Court of Inquiry concludes, we put everything together and if it is that charges needs to be levied against anybody, we hand over to the police and they do the necessary process there. That is no to say that internally, discipline cannot be taken against anyone that from the findings of the Court of Inquiry or that investigation from the Women’s Commission we can definitely use as evidence to say, or as a report to say charge internally within our system. Whether that be the approach of the Commander of BDF, I am not sure. I don’t want to speak ahead but that opportunity may exist there depending what the findings are.”