According to Article 138 of the 1980 Constitution of Guyana, "No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally..." A violation of this provision does not, though, occur when a person
dies as the result of the use of force to such extent as is reasonably justifiable in the circumstances of the case ––
(a) for the defense of any person from violence or for the defense of property;
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny; or
(d) in order to prevent the commission by that person of a criminal offense, or if he dies as the result of a lawful act of war.
The use of lethal force purely to protect property is not permissible under international law.
Under Article 141(1), "No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment."
Article 147(1) guarantees the right to assemble freely but limitations may be imposed by law where it is
- reasonably required in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or
- reasonably required for the purpose or protecting the rights or freedoms of other persons....Art. 147, 1980 Constitution of Guyana.
The Constitution does not specifically regulate the use of force by the Guyana Police.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
|1948 Charter of the Organization of American States||State Party|
|1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights||Not party|
|Competence of Inter-American Court on Human Rights||N/A|
Police Use of Force
The Guyana Police Force is the primary law enforcement agency in Guyana. The Guyana Police Standing Order No. 18 is said to provide guidelines on the use of force and firearms but is not publicly available. The 1957 Police Act (as amended) does not directly regulate the use of force.
There is a police oversight body in Guyana, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA). The PCA has established its own Investigative Unit in order to conduct investigations independent of the Guyana Police Force. In addition, complaints about excessive police use of force can be made to the Police Service Commission and the national Ombudsman.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Guyana has not come before the Human Rights Committee or the Committee against Torture in recent years. In 2020, the Human Rights Committee published its list of issues for Guyana's next report under the ICCPR. It called on Guyana to address in its periodic report information on specific measures taken by the authorities "to prevent and combat extrajudicial killings, especially by the Guyana Police Force". It further stated:
Please comment on reports that: (a) the authorities failed to investigate past incidents of extrajudicial killings, including during the period between 2002 and 2006, and to bring perpetrators to justice, thereby creating a climate of impunity; and (b) a presidential commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings has not been established, despite the Government’s announcement of such a plan in 2018.
Please provide information on the legislative framework to prevent and combat torture and excessive use of force, including on the definition of torture and excessive use of force and penalties stipulated in criminal legislation. Please respond to reports of widespread torture or ill-treatment of persons deprived of liberty, including of rape of detainees by the police.
In 2012, the UN special rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions sent a joint communication regarding allegations of widespread acts of violence against peaceful protesters in the context of the protests carried out since 18 July 2012 in Linden, Georgetown. They noted information received according to which on 18 July 2012 a group of residents from the mining town of Linden had participated in a protest to denounce a disproportionate rise in electricity prices. It was reported that during the first day of the protests, organizers had called on residents to “march fearlessly against injustice”. According to the reports, police officers violently dispersed protesters, firing live rounds and killing at least three persons and injuring about 20 others.
In its national report under the Universal Periodic Review of Guyana in 2015, the state reported that following an examination of international best practice and existing Standing Operating Procedures, the Police Manual on the use of force and firearms was revised.
Guyana is not a state party to the 1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.
In May 2016, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the deaths of inmates at the Camp Street prison located in Georgetown. According to the press, the inmates gave testimony before the Commission of Inquiry saying the fires began after a raid by police guards in the inmates’ cells. They also declared that when the fire began, the door to their prison block was locked. According to their testimonies, inmates called for the door to be opened, tried to break down a wall leading to another division in the prison, and attempted to douse the fire themselves, but there was no water coming to the facility. Inmates claimed than rather than being assisted, canisters of tear gas were thrown into the burning prison block, forcing them to the ground and impeding them from escaping.
In September 2016, the Commission conducted a working visit to Guyana, the first time the IACHR had visited Guyana. The aim of the mission was to examine issues concerning poverty, as well as the respect and guarantee of the economic, social, and cultural rights in the country.
As a result of major disturbances in Administrative Region #10 in July 2012, which resulted in 3 protestors being shot, a Commission of Inquiry was appointed by the President, which included three Caribbean jurists and two Guyanese jurists. The COI was held over a six-month period, and although the COI could not conclude that it was the police who shot the protestors, it recommended that compensation be provided for those who were shot as well as those who suffered losses to themselves or their properties in the violence that followed and the GPF review and amend police protocols with regard to public order and safety.
In 2014, Amnesty International stated that the Guyana Police Force reported 255 people had been fatally shot by the police between 1 January 1997 and 18 October 2012, with 10 officers charged for murder and 3 for manslaughter on these crimes, and that no figure was provided for convictions.