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TITLE:  GUYANA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                             GUYANA


The Co-operative Republic of Guyana, a member of the 
Commonwealth of Nations and the Caribbean Community (Caricom), 
is a small, multiracial developing nation with a unicameral 
Parliament chosen by direct election in a multiparty political 
system.  Dr. Cheddi Jagan, leader of the majority party in 
Parliament, is Executive President.  He appoints the Prime 
Minister and other ministers.  Local and international 
observers generally agreed that the 1992 general elections and 
the 1994 municipal elections were free and fair.

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force 
(GPF) comprise the security forces.  The GPF has primary 
responsibility for maintaining law and order throughout 
Guyana.  The police and security forces are subordinate to the 
Government.  Low pay and a high vacancy rate undermined the 
ability of the police force to carry out its functions, and the 
Guyana Human Rights Association charged GPF members with 
brutality and shootings.

Although the economy is largely agricultural, with sugar and 
rice important export earners, gold mining and timber 
production are fast-growing industries.  Despite 4 straight 
years of annual economic growth between 6.0 and 8.3 percent, 
the per capita gross domestic product was only about $640.  The 
economy suffers from high external debt, shortages of skilled 
labor, and a deteriorating infrastructure.

Human rights problems continued to include police abuse of 
detainees and prisoners, severe delays in the inefficient 
judicial system, societal violence against women and children, 
and discrimination against the indigenous Amerindians.  Police 
abuses were often committed with impunity, and the Police 
Complaints Authority is largely ineffective because it lacks 
independent power.  There are still some limitations on worker 
rights, but political control of union activity has diminished.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings.

There was one extrajudicial killing by a member of a community 
police group (private citizens patrolling their neighborhoods).
Rural Police Sergeant Lall (an Indo-Guyanese) shot and killed 
Kenny France (an Afro-Guyanese).  Police said that France was 
shot when he and others attempted to prevent Lall and three 
others from arresting France's stepson.  As a result, the 
Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) charged that the 
community policing concept was "out of control" and deplored 
the "untrained citizens" groups' increasing access to 
firearms.  According to the Minister of Home Affairs, the GPF 
provides some training and equipment to community police groups 
and often conducts joint patrols with them.

An alleged extrajudicial killing involved the death of 
Shivnarine Dalchand, who died while in police custody.  Police 
claim Dalchand drowned while attempting to escape but 
subsequently said he was rescued but died later.  GHRA said 
this version of his death was "challenged by family and 
eyewitnesses."  A post mortem showed cause of death to be 
pulmonary edema, and no additional evidence confirmed this to 
be an extrajudicial killing.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Although the Constitution prohibits torture, the GHRA and the 
press reported a rise in the number of reports of police 
brutality, including beatings and deliberate shootings during 
arrest and detention.  The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) 
sent 131 complaints to the Police Commissioner; however, this 
figure includes complaints of corruption as well as brutality.

For example, in August police arrested Sean Austin on a charge 
of armed robbery.  The police claimed they shot Austin after he 
attempted to attack a police officer with a knife.  Newspapers 
cited eyewitnesses as saying the police shot Austin in the 
thigh without provocation, and them shot him twice more in the 
shoulder and stomach.  Austin survived the shooting and is 
awaiting trial on a charge of armed robbery.  There apparently 
was no further investigation into the shooting.

In September principal magistrate Paul Fung-a-fat dismissed 
charges of stealing ammunition against GDF soldier Sean 
Goodluck, saying he had seen a letter which confirmed that 
Goodluck was beaten while in GDF custody.  Goodluck suffered a 
broken arm.  The authorities presented no evidence against 
Goodluck in court, except confessions made by three other 
defendants, all unrepresented by legal counsel.  Although the 
magistrate dismissed the charges, the GDF found Goodluck 
"unsuitable for continued military service" and discharged 
him.  They also discharged the GDF member who beat him.  This 
was the only allegation of human rights abuse against the 
Guyana Defence Force in recent years.

Also in September, four police officers were accused of raping 
a woman who went to the police mounted branch in Georgetown 
seeking police assistance.  The authorities subsequently 
charged and remanded for trial two of these officers.

The GHRA alleged that police severely beat Leroy Marshall 
during the 5 days he was in custody before being charged with 
stealing two gold chains.  The police deny that Marshall was 
beaten.

As in previous years, confessions were occasionally thrown out 
of court on the grounds that they were coerced.  The GHRA 
announced on September 1 that in the preceding week it had 
received 17 complaints of police brutality and shootings from 
various parts of the country, more than in any other single 
week in its 15-year history.  The body charged with looking 
into complaints of police brutality or abuse, the Police 
Complaints Authority (PCA), has no power to interview police 
officers or witnesses, and must rely on material submitted by 
the police.  The government Ombudsman lacks the authority to 
look into allegations of police misconduct.

In 1993 the Government reported that it charged and placed 
before the courts 18 members of the Police Force for criminal 
offenses including murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and 
corruption.  (No figures were yet available for 1994.)  When 
they bring charges against officers as a result of complaints 
to the PCA or through other means, the authorities routinely 
suspend them for a few days.  If convicted, the courts 
sometimes fine them and order dismissal from their jobs, but 
rarely impose jail sentences for their offenses.  In essence, 
the police force is responsible for investigating itself and 
failed to do so effectively, with the result that members of 
the police force commit abuses with impunity.  The PCA reported 
that in 1993 the Commissioner of Police did not respond to 69 
of the 131 complaints (which include corruption and other 
allegations apart from brutality) which it sent for 
investigation.

The prison in Georgetown is severely overcrowded and houses 
only men.  Poor diet, inadequate medical attention, and 
underpaid and poorly trained staff characterize the prison 
system.  After sentencing, all women prisoners are held in the 
sole women's prison in New Amsterdam.  The facility's isolated 
location and lack of adequate staff make it difficult for 
family members from other parts of the country to visit.  
Except for the prison at New Amsterdam, prison visiting 
committees, which check on conditions in prisons, were inactive 
in 1994.  Prison authorities continued to show receptivity to 
suggestions for improvement in the prisons and cooperated with 
the GHRA in projects to provide occupational training for some 
prisoners.  The GHRA participated in training courses for new 
prison officers, continuing education programs for veteran 
officers, and discussions on civic education topics with 
prisoners.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides that no person may be deprived of 
personal liberty except as authorized by law and requires 
judicial determination of the legality of detention.  The 
authorities generally respected this mandate in practice.

The law does not require that a court official issue an arrest 
warrant; a police officer may make an arrest based upon an 
assessment of guilt.  The law requires that a person arrested 
and held for more than 48 hours be brought before a court to be 
charged.  In practice, the authorities sometimes hold prisoners 
more than 48 hours without bringing charges.

Forced exile is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides that anyone charged with a criminal 
offense has the right to a hearing by a court of law, and the 
authorities respect this right in practice.  Guyana has a 
functioning bail system, except in murder cases.  Defendants 
are granted public trials, and appeal may be made to higher 
courts.

However, the inefficiency of the judicial system is so great as 
to undermine due process.  Shortages of trained court 
administrative personnel and magistrates, inadequate resources, 
low salary levels, and the slowness of police in getting cases 
ready for trial cause extensive delays in judicial 
proceedings.  As a result, the authorities often detained 
prisoners for 3 or 4 years while awaiting trial.

Although the law recognizes the right to legal counsel, in 
practice, with the exception of capital crimes, it has been 
limited to those who can afford to pay.  The court assigns an 
attorney to defendants in murder cases.  Otherwise, virtually 
no lawyers work pro bono in criminal cases.  A small group of 
lawyers set up a legal aid clinic in 1994, but it focuses 
mainly on civil cases.  The Guyana Association of Women Lawyers 
also provides free legal services for civil cases only.

There are no political prisoners or special courts for 
political security cases.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Government generally respects the right to privacy, 
although some opposition politicians have claimed instances of 
government surveillance of political meetings and rallies.  
(Uniformed police officers are routinely present at such 
rallies.)  Police generally respected the laws requiring 
judicially issued search warrants.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The authorities generally respected the constitutional 
provision for freedom of speech, and Guyanese freely criticize 
their government and its policies.

The Government's role in the media declined greatly due to the 
increased availability of nongovernment-owned newspapers and 
the rapid growth of independent television.  Independent and 
opposition newspapers frequently criticized the Government in 
editorials and satirized it in cartoons.

The government-owned Guyana Television and the two radio 
stations controlled by the government-owned Guyana Broadcasting 
Corporation offer relatively evenhanded reporting of local 
events.  Guyana has no private radio stations, but there are 
seven private television stations in Georgetown, and several 
more in outlying towns.  Two of the private television stations 
produce independent newscasts, and a third station offers 
frequent public affairs programming which is often critical of 
the Government.

There were no restrictions on academic freedom in 1994.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Public Order Act requires police permits for mass political 
meetings.  The Police Commissioner has the authority to refuse 
permission for a public meeting at his discretion and without 
explanation.  There was no evidence that he used this authority 
for political purposes.  Political parties and other groups 
held public meetings and rallies throughout the country without 
hindrance in the course of hard-fought municipal and local 
elections.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and members 
of all faiths worship freely.  There are no restrictions on 
foreign religious groups proselytizing in Guyana and foreign 
missionaries work in the country without hindrance.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement within 
Guyana.  Travel to Amerindian areas requires government 
permission, the result of a law dating from colonial times 
designed to protect indigenous people from exploitation.  In 
practice, however, most people travel throughout these areas 
without a permit.  Guyanese are free to travel abroad, to 
emigrate, and to return.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Voters choose members of the unicameral Parliament by direct 
election in a multiparty political system based on proportional 
representation.  The leader of the party which obtains a 
plurality of seats in Parliament during national elections is 
sworn in as Executive President.  The President appoints a 
Cabinet, headed by a Prime Minister, which together with the 
President exercises executive power.

Guyanese are free to join or support political parties of their 
choice.  Any citizen 18 years or older may register to vote.  
Local and foreign observers generally considered the 1992 
national elections, as well as the 1994 municipal and local 
elections in most parts of the country, to be free, fair, and 
open.

There are no legal impediments to women or minorities 
participating in the political process, but in practice the 
indigenous Amerindian minority has little influence on 
decisions affecting its interests (see Section 5).  The Cabinet 
includes two women, two persons of Portuguese descent, one of 
Chinese origin, eight of East Indian extraction, four 
Afro-Guyanese, and one Amerindian.  The 65-member Parliament 
includes 12 women and 3 Amerindians, representing both major 
parties.  Following the 1994 municipal elections, a woman 
became deputy mayor of the capital city of Georgetown.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Guyana Human Rights Association, the most active local 
human rights group, functioned without government interference 
in 1994.  The GHRA is a nongovernmental organization formed in 
1979 with the participation of trade unions, professional 
organizations, various ethnic groups, and churches.  It issues 
periodic press releases and publishes an annual report on human 
rights in Guyana.  The Government made no official statements 
on either GHRA or foreign human rights reports.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides fundamental rights for all persons in 
Guyana regardless of race, sex, religion, or national origin.

     Women

In principle, the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the 
basis of sex and commits the Government to ensure equal pay for 
equal work.  However, a 1988 government-sponsored 
constitutional amendment rendered the equal pay provision 
unenforceable except in cases in which equal pay for equal work 
is provided for by specific statute.  No such statutes have 
been enacted.  Increased activity by women's groups led to 
heightened awareness of sexual harassment.  A mining company 
dismissed four men accused of sexually harassing a teenage 
girl, and in November a businessman was charged with indecent 
assault for alleged sexual harassment of a female employee.  
Dismissal because of pregnancy is both legal and common.

Legislation protects women's property rights under common-law 
marriage, entitling a woman who separates or divorces to 
one-half the couple's property if she had been working and 
one-third the property if she had been a housewife.  However, 
divorce by consent remains illegal, and there are unequal 
provisions regarding adultery as grounds for divorce.  The 
legislation also gave authority to the courts to overturn a 
man's will in the event it did not provide for his wife.

Violence against women and children, including domestic 
violence, is a significant problem.  Wife beating, rape, and 
incest are common, but victims rarely report such crimes to the 
authorities.  Victims of such abuse who do seek redress from 
the police and the courts often suffer social retribution and 
additional harassment from the authorities charged with 
pursuing their claims.  Because of their economic circumstances 
and the lack of any family shelters or other place of solace, 
victims of domestic violence are often trapped in their homes 
with their abusers.  In one case in Georgetown in March, a man 
stabbed his common-law wife and threw her into a ditch.  He was 
charged with attempted murder, but was discharged by a court 
after his wife pleaded for his release, saying that she could 
not support their seven children without him.

     Children

An estimated 65 to 86 percent of the population lives in 
poverty, and children are more severely affected than any other 
group.  The severe deterioration of the public education and 
health care systems has stunted children's futures and often 
cut short their lives.  Children's lives are also adversely 
affected by migration.  Over 3 percent of Guyana's population 
emigrates every year in search of a brighter economic future.  
As parents migrate, particularly when planning to enter other 
countries illegally, they often leave their children behind to 
be raised by other family members, friends, or by other 
children.  The administration of justice for children is 
characterized by a punitive legal system which does not take 
into account the needs of children suffering sexual, physical, 
or emotional abuse.

     Indigenous People

The small Amerindian population is composed of nine tribal 
groups, most living in reservations and villages in remote 
parts of the interior.  Their standard of living is much lower 
than that of most Guyanese, and their ability to participate in 
decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and the 
allocation of natural resources is limited.

The Amerindian Act regulates Amerindian life, and is legislation
dating from colonial times designed to protect indigenous 
people from exploitation.  The Act gives the Government the 
power to determine who is an Amerindian and what is an 
Amerindian community, to appoint Amerindian leaders, and to 
cancel or annul decisions made by Amerindian councils.  It also 
prohibits the sale of alcohol to Amerindians and requires 
government permission before any Amerindian can accept formal 
employment, although these provisions generally are not 
enforced.  Both individuals and Amerindian groups remain free 
to criticize the Government.  In April representatives from all 
Amerindian communities and tribes met with government 
officials, including President Jagan, to discuss Amerindian 
problems.

In December 1993 Parliament appointed a select committee to 
recommend revisions to the Amerindian Act to make it more 
democratic and enhance Amerindian self-determination.  Through 
September, the committee had met only twice.  The Minister of 
Amerindian Affairs, himself an Amerindian, lacks a staff and 
separate budget.

During its first 2 years in office, the Jagan administration 
did not distribute any land titles to Amerindians, arguing that 
the land must first be surveyed.  The Government still holds 
title to 90 percent of the lands claimed by Amerindians, and 
through the Amerindian Act may repossess land titles already 
distributed if it determines that it is in the Amerindians' 
interest.  The Government is negotiating with foreign mining 
and timber companies for additional concessions on 
Amerindian-occupied land.  Amerindians displaced by timber and 
mining operations in such cases have no legal recourse.  The 
Barama company, owned by South Korean and Malaysian investors, 
continued to develop its 4.2-million-acre timber concession in 
an area where 1,200 Amerindians live, only 550 of them in 
government-recognized villages.  The remainder, scattered along 
rivers in the concession, have no legal protection for their 
homesteads.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Longstanding ethnic tensions, primarily between Guyanese of 
African and East Indian descent, continued to influence 
Guyanese society and political life.  The civil service and 
defense and police forces are overwhelmingly staffed by 
Afro-Guyanese.  Recruitment efforts targeted at Indo-Guyanese 
candidates for the uniformed services generally have met with 
an unenthusiastic response, with most qualified Indo-Guyanese 
candidates opting for a business or professional career over 
military, police, or public service.  The Chief of Staff of the 
Guyana Defence Force and the Deputy Commissioner of Police, 
however, are Indo-Guyanese, and there are other Indo-Guyanese 
officers in both services.

     People with Disabilities

Guyana has several special schools and training centers for the 
disabled, but like the rest of the educational system these are 
understaffed and in severe disrepair.  The lack of appropriate 
infrastructure to provide accessibility to both public and 
private facilities makes it very difficult to employ the 
disabled outside their homes.  There is no law mandating 
provision of access for people with disabilities.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of association and 
specifically enumerates a worker's right to "form or belong to 
trade unions."  The law does not require employers to recognize 
a union in the workplace, even if a large majority of workers 
have indicated their desire to be represented by a union.  The 
Minister of Labour sent a new trade union recognition bill to 
the Attorney General for comment in 1993, and the Government 
presented the bill to Parliament in December 1994.

Most union members work in the public sector and in state-owned 
enterprises.  Organized labor freely associates in one major 
national federation, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (TUC), 
composed of 22 unions.  There is a tradition of close ties 
between the trade union movement and political parties.  
Historically, the two major political parties wielded 
significant influence over the leadership of a number of 
unions, and trade union officials often served in dual roles as 
party officials.

Workers have a generally recognized right to strike, but the 
law nominally forbids public employees providing essential 
services from striking (a procedure exists for the review of 
their grievances by a tribunal appointed by the Minister of 
Labour).  However, this rule is not enforced, and employees in 
essential services went on strike three times during the first 
9 months of 1994.

Most strikes in 1994 were illegal, i.e., the union leadership 
did not approve them or they did not meet the requirements 
specified in collective bargaining agreements.  The newly 
emergent private sector fired workers on three occasions for 
engaging in illegal industrial actions, but they were usually 
reinstated after the strike was settled.

Unions and their federations freely maintain relations with 
recognized Caribbean and international trade union and 
professional groups.  All three of the major international 
trade union federations have affiliates in Guyana.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Public and private sector employees possess and utilize the 
generally accepted right to organize and to bargain 
collectively.  The Ministry of Labour certifies all collective 
bargaining agreements and has never refused to do so.  This 
right is not codified, however, and employers are not legally 
required to recognize unions or bargain with them.

Individual unions directly negotiate collective bargaining 
status, pursuant to the 1993 repeal of a regulation which 
required that all collective bargaining be negotiated through 
the TUC.  Unions remain unhappy with the provision granting the 
Ministry of Finance veto power over wage contracts negotiated 
by other ministries.  In one case, the Ministry of Finance 
forced the Ministry of Public Service to renege on a contract 
the latter signed with the four principal public service unions 
by announcing that the Government did not have the funds to pay 
promised wage increases.

The Chief Labour Officer and the staff of the Ministry of 
Labour provide consultation, enforcement, and conciliation 
services.  The Ministry of Labour certified 50 collective 
bargaining agreements in the first 9 months of 1994, up from 47 
for all of 1993.  The Ministry has a backlog of cases, and 
insufficient manpower and transportation severely limit the 
Ministry's ability to carry out its function.

The Ministry of Labour investigated possible antiunion 
discrimination at Continental Industries.  Continental was 
accused of denying would-be union organizers access to workers 
and of firing workers engaged in union organization.

Union leaders make credible charges that workers attempting to 
unionize workplaces are frequently harassed and intimidated and 
that the Ministry does not expeditiously investigate complaints 
that employers dismiss workers when confronted with union 
organizing efforts.  There is no legal mechanism to require 
employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination to rehire 
employees fired for union activities.

Guyana has no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and 
there is no indication that it occurs.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Factories Act and the Employment of Young Persons and 
Children Act set out minimum age requirements.  Legally, no 
person under 14 years of age may be employed in any industrial 
undertaking, and no person under 16 may be employed at night, 
except under regulated circumstances.  The law permits children 
under age 14 to be employed only in enterprises in which 
members of the same family are employed.  Poverty-stricken 
young children work, however, and it is common throughout the 
country to see very young children engaged in street trading.  
While cognizant of the situation, the Ministry of Labour does 
not employ sufficient inspectors to enforce existing laws 
effectively.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government establishes a public sector minimum wage which 
was the equivalent of $4.00 per day as of July 1.  The Labour 
Act and the Wages Councils Act allow the Labour Ministry to set 
minimum wages for various categories of private employers.  The 
Government raised official minimum wages by over 400 percent in 
November 1993; it set the minimum wage for unskilled workers at 
the equivalent of $0.17 per hour.  Both the legal minimum wage 
for the private sector and the public sector minimum wage are 
insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a 
family.  There is no enforcement mechanism, and unorganized 
workers, particularly women and children, are frequently paid 
less than what is legally required.

The Shops Act and the Factories Act set hours of employment, 
which vary by industry and sector.  In general, work in excess 
of an 8-hour day or a 44-hour week requires payment of an 
overtime rate; however, if the initial contract stipulates a 
48-hour workweek, then the overtime rate only applies to hours 
worked in excess of 48 hours.  The law does not provide for at 
least one 24-hour rest period.

The Factories Act also sets forth workplace safety and health 
standards.  The Occupation Health and Safety Division of the 
Ministry of Labour is charged with conducting factory 
inspections and investigating complaints of substandard 
workplace conditions.  As with its other responsibilities, 
inadequate resources prevented the Ministry from effectively 
carrying out this function.  Workers cannot remove themselves 
from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued 
employment.


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