Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Bharrat Jagdeo
Head of government: Samuel Hinds
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: signed

"Anti-terrorism" legislation opened the door to human rights violations. Death sentences continued to be imposed. There were reports of killings in circumstances suggesting extrajudicial execution. Torture, ill-treatment and severe overcrowding in detention were reported.


On 3 July, two people were fatally shot by police following an attack on the Presidential Palace after a demonstration organized by the opposition. Broadcast journalist Mark Benschop and political activist Phillip Bynoe were subsequently accused of leading the protest march and charged jointly with treason. Legal representatives for Mark Benschop alleged that he had been ill-treated in custody.

There was a reported increase in violent crime. At least 11 police officers were killed. Joint police and army operations, including curfews and stop-and-search cordons, were increased in response. Sections of the Indo-Guyanese community claimed an increase in race-hate crimes. The ruling People's Progressive Party (PPP) attributed the violence to escaped prisoners in February and in May the President accused members of the opposition People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) of instigating the violence. The PNC/R denied the allegations.

In July, the Guyana Bar Association, the Private Sector Commission and the Trades Union Congress attempted to get the parliamentary parties to sign a joint communiqué on crime. The agreement had not been finalized by the end of 2002.

New legislation

The Criminal Law (Offences) Amendment Act was passed in September. Provisions introducing the offence of a "terrorist act" were inconsistent with international standards governing the rights of freedom of expression and association, among others. The Act extended the scope of the mandatory death penalty.

The Prevention of Crime (Amendment) Act provided the executive with powers to subject certain individuals to measures including police supervision. There was concern that its provisions could facilitate indefinite detention of individuals without charge.

Death penalty

Death sentences for murder were imposed by the courts, and at the end of 2002 there were 23 people on death row, including two women. There were no executions. A new law expanded the scope of the death penalty.

Violations by law enforcement officials

There were a number of fatal shootings by the police. Some appeared to be extrajudicial executions or otherwise involved the unjustifiable use of lethal force. There were reports of torture and ill-treatment.

  • On 6 April, Shaka Blair was shot dead. Police alleged that he opened fire when presented with a warrant to search his house for arms. Witnesses claimed he was shot dead while posing no threat. In May relatives appealed against an order by the Director of Public Prosecutions that a private criminal prosecution be discontinued. An inquest convened in July had not concluded at the end of 2002.
Investigation of police and army abuses

No police officers were held criminally responsible for human rights violations, and the government rejected a call for a review of the Target Special Squad (TSS), a special police unit widely alleged to have committed extrajudicial executions. In September police officials stated that 44 police officers faced proceedings before criminal courts.
  • In January, an inquest into the killing in disputed circumstances of Shazad Bacchus, Azad Bacchus and Faddil Ally by members of the security forces in August 2001 was ordered after an appeal. No inquest had started by the end of 2002.
  • In February, relatives challenged the quashing of an inquest verdict into the death of Mohammed Shafeek, who died in detention in Brickdam Police Station, Georgetown, in September 2000. In November 2001 an inquest jury had returned a unanimous finding of criminal liability by the police, which was quashed later that month by the High Court. No decision on the challenge had been made by the end of 2002.
  • At the end of 2002 no investigation had been initiated into the death of Anthony Brumesh in Aurora police lock-up in May 2001. Witnesses alleged that he was tortured by police officers and denied medical attention.

Conditions in prisons remained harsh, and amounted in some cases to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Severe overcrowding was aggravated by a substantial remand population.

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