(This report covers the period January-December 1997)

Two people were executed and about 24 people remained under sentence of death. There were reports of ill-treatment by police and of fatal shootings by police in disputed circumstances.

Following the death in March of President Cheddi Jagan, his widow Janet Jagan was appointed Prime Minister, replacing Samuel Hinds, who was sworn in as interim President. Following elections in mid-December, Janet Jagan was sworn in as President; claims of irregularities resulted in a legal challenge, public protests, demands for scrutiny of the results and calls for new elections.

Michael Archer and Peter Adams were hanged in August. The executions were carried out with no advance public notification. The two men, arrested in 1987 and sentenced to death for murder in January 1991, alleged that incriminating statements used at their trial were obtained as a result of ill-treatment by police.

About 24 people were under sentence of death, including at least one person who was sentenced to death during the year. They included Abdool Saleem Yasseen and Noel Thomas (see Amnesty International Report 1997), whose petitions to the UN Human Rights Committee were pending. Dates were set for the execution of Raymond Persaud and "Paulo" Rampersaud, but both men received stays of execution pending the outcome of a constitutional appeal.

Reports of ill-treatment by police continued. In January Shawn Samuels was injured when he was reportedly forced into a truck by police and then beaten.

There were further reports of shootings of criminal suspects by police in disputed circumstances. Adam Hescott was shot dead by police in August after escaping from a prison where he was held awaiting trial. Eye-witnesses alleged that he was shot and wounded by police who apprehended him, then shot dead at point-blank range by another officer while being escorted to a police vehicle. An inquest was pending at the end of the year.

The trial of a police corporal charged with manslaughter in connection with the fatal shooting in 1996 of Jermaine Wilkinson (see Amnesty International Report 1997) remained pending. The officer was released on bail in January after a committal for murder in the same case was quashed by a court.

Conditions of detention and imprisonment remained overcrowded and complaints about poor sanitation and lack of adequate medical treatment were received. Following disturbances and escapes, in August the government appointed a Ministerial Committee to investigate prisons.

Amnesty International wrote to the government expressing deep regret at the executions of Michael Archer and Peter Adams. It urged the government to commute all death sentences and to take steps to abolish the death penalty.

Amnesty International expressed concern about fatal shootings by police in disputed circumstances, including the case of Adam Hescott. In view of increased reports of the use of lethal force by police, Amnesty International urged the government to review the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials and to examine the existing regulations and training. Amnesty International repeated its request for information on cases of deaths in custody in previous years.

In November Amnesty International wrote to the government expressing concern about allegations of ill-treatment, including the cases of Shawn Samuels, Bonitus Mark Winter and Tulsie Persaud and others it had previously raised with the authorities. Amnesty International also expressed concern about human rights violations described in a report issued in September by the Amerindian People's Association, the Guyana Council of Churches and the Guyana Human Rights Association. Amnesty International urged the government to initiate investigations into all allegations of ill-treatment and fatal shootings by law enforcement officials, to bring to justice those responsible and to pay compensation to the victims or their families. Amnesty International asked to be informed of the results of the government's investigation into prisons and urged the government to submit its overdue reports to the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture.

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