Last Updated: Monday, 05 December 2016, 14:52 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2005 - Guyana

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 25 May 2005
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2005 - Guyana , 25 May 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/429b27e31a.html [accessed 5 December 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January - December 2004

Death sentences continued to be imposed. There were reports that a "death squad" had abducted, tortured and killed dozens of people, and reports of killings by police in circumstances suggesting that they were extrajudicial executions. Torture, ill-treatment and severe overcrowding in detention were reported. Violence against women, including trafficking, was a significant problem.

Background

There were continued reports of high levels of violent crime, although no official statistics were published. At least four police officers were killed on duty.

Death penalty

Death sentences for murder were imposed by the courts. At the end of 2004, there were at least 25 people on death row, including two women. There were no executions.

In December jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the trial of Mark Benschop for treason, a capital offence. A new trial was ordered.

'Death squad'

There were reports that a "death squad", whose members allegedly included serving and former police officers, had abducted, tortured and killed dozens of people since 2002. In May, the President announced a commission of inquiry into the alleged involvement in the "death squad" of the Minister of Home Affairs. Although the inquiry had not been completed by the end of 2004, AI raised concerns about its limited scope and about the lack of safeguards for witnesses. In November the commission of inquiry announced the establishment of a witness protection programme.

Three people were charged with the murder of Shafeek Bacchus on 5 January, of whom two were former police officers. His brother, George Bacchus, a self-confessed "informant", alleged that the "death squad" had killed Shafeek by mistake. One of those charged, Mark Thomas, died in February in police custody in disputed circumstances. In June, George Bacchus was killed two days before he was to give evidence. The magistrate presiding over the case resigned, citing reports that she was on a "death squad" hit list.

Law enforcement officials

In May the final report of the Disciplined Forces Commission, established in 2003 to investigate the operations of the security forces, was presented to parliament. It contained 164 proposals for reform of the police and army.

A number of police officers were charged in connection with fatal shootings, but none was convicted. There were at least 29 fatal shootings by the police, some of which were alleged extrajudicial executions. There were at least two deaths in police custody. Some criminal suspects were allegedly tortured or ill-treated immediately after arrest.

  • On 8 September, Kelvin Nero was shot dead by police. Police stated that he was shot during an armed confrontation and died on the way to hospital. Eyewitnesses alleged that he was shot while unarmed, with his back to police, then driven away and shot again. Police appealed for witnesses to come forward, but a national newspaper claimed that police failed to interview witnesses or to preserve forensic evidence.
  • Criminal proceedings against a police corporal charged with manslaughter in connection with the 1996 fatal shooting of Jermaine Wilkinson remained pending. In March, depositions from the 1996 preliminary inquiry were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions after a seven-year delay. The officer remained free on bail.
  • In February, two police constables were committed to stand trial for murder, in connection with the fatal shooting of Yohance Douglas in March 2003.
  • Emron Hossein died on 10 April, reportedly as a result of beatings by police during his arrest. The Director of Public Prosecutions ordered three police officers to be charged with murder.

Conditions in detention

Conditions in detention remained harsh and amounted in some cases to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The final report of the Disciplined Forces Commission made recommendations to address a range of issues, including rape and ill-treatment in detention.

Violence against women

In October, the Guyana Human Rights Association expressed concern about the prevalence of violence against women. It denounced the legal system's treatment of victims of sexual violence as systematically and intentionally humiliating. It called for a major campaign, involving government, religious and civic institutions, to hold perpetrators accountable.

Trafficking in human beings

A number of measures to address trafficking were announced. These included draft anti-trafficking legislation, with provisions for penalties, restitution and witness protection, and awareness campaigns. Human rights groups welcomed these but stressed that resources were needed for implementation. The Guyana Human Rights Association reported that Amerindian girls from mining communities were being trafficked for forced prostitution.

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