Guyana - Human Rights Committee - Death Penalty - February 2024
Issues: Death Penalty
Mechanism: UN Human Rights Committee
Report Type: Shadow/Parallel Report
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Guyana has not abolished the death penalty or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The death penalty could be abolished by Guyana's Parliament, but politically Guyana does not appear inclined to do so.
An informal, non-binding moratorium on executions exists because no one has been executed since 1997. Death sentences, however, continue to be issued.
Guyana's general criminal law statute was amended to limit cases in which a death sentence can be imposed and removed the penalty of mandatory death sentences in almost all cases under that law.
In 2023, members of the Guyana Defence Force sought to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty. In a landmark judgement, however, the Caribbean Court of Justice denied special leave to challenge its constitutionality, as the Court found that it would be a merely academic appeal or request for an advisory opinion, and as such deemed it inappropriate in the proceedings. The Court strongly hinted, however, that the death penalty was not a "saved law" as the Court of Appeal had found.
Guyana's Constitution prohibits torture, but Guyana retains laws that permit whipping, flogging, and apparent mandatory death sentences as punishment for certain crimes.
Over the reporting period there have been several alleged cases of pre-trial police abuse. The Police Complaints Authority, to whom complaints of such abuse are to be reported, appears less than effective to address these complaints due to non-compliance by other agencies with governing procedures.
The Government apparently provides police and security officers with inadequate human rights training, including as it relates to the prevention and prohibition of torture, ill- treatment, and excessive use of force.
The U.S. State Department has reported that as recently as 2022, prison and jail conditions, particularly in police holding cells, were reportedly harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, violence by other individuals in detention, physical abuse, unsanitary conditions, and a lack of potable water.
Historically, prisons have been severely overcrowded. One reason for overcrowding is the large number of people in pretrial detention who are not separated from people who have been convicted. This detention is caused in part by lengthy pretrial waiting periods related to mandatory Preliminary Inquiry proceedings prior to actual trial. Judicial inefficiency and staff shortages are contributing factors.
With the recent and pending construction of new and reconstructed prisons facilities, prison conditions may improve. Overcrowding might be lessened, and the significant case backlog reduced if an integrated case management system recently implemented for one magistrate's court on a pilot basis is expanded to other courts to expedite trials. Additionally, the case backlog could be reduced if the Preliminary Inquiry process is eliminated as has been suggested by Guyana's Attorney General.
Police tend to arrest individuals without a reasonable basis or just cause.
A significant portion of detained children have experienced police brutality. Prison officials do not separate youth 16 years of age and older from adults in detention. Employment and educational opportunities for youth who have been in the criminal justice system are limited, and current reforms have not reduced their high-rates of recidivism.
While a non-governmental legal aid clinic offers free legal aid and is largely funded by the Guyanese government, the clinic does not adequately offer its services in rural areas of the country and it needs further funding if it is to expand its offices into those areas.