COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE HEARS RESPONSE OF GUYANA

Committee against Torture
AFTERNOON 14 November 2006


The Committee against Torture this afternoon heard the response of Guyana to questions raised by Committee Experts on the initial report of that country on how it is implementing the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Responding to a series of questions raised by the Committee members on Monday, 13 November, the head of the delegation, Gail Teixeira, Presidential Adviser on Governance and Member of Parliament in Guyana, noted that the Convention, as well as other international instruments the State had ratified, was enshrined in the Constitution. On the issue of penalties under torture, under the criminal law offences act, depending on the severity of the charges, a suspect could receive anywhere between seven years in prison up to a death sentence. Concerning the admissibility of a statement received under torture, she said the evidence obtained under such circumstances was not admitted in court. The magistrate was obligated to investigate these incidents and if the charge of torture was upheld the case could be dismissed.

As to a case raised on extrajudicial killings, the delegation recalled that a Presidential commission was established in early 2004 which presented its findings in April 2005. The Minister in question was vindicated of being responsible for allegations of extrajudicial killings. The report laid out recommendations concerning firearms and the licensing of such and called for revised procedures to be implemented and for legislation to be amended to address the ways in which firearms were administered.

The Committee will submit its conclusions and recommendations on the report of Guyana towards the end of the session on Friday, 24 November 2006.

As one of the 142 States parties to the Convention against Torture, Guyana is obliged to provide the Committee with periodic reports on the measures it has undertaken to fight torture.

When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 November, it is scheduled to begin consideration of the fourth periodic report of Hungary (CAT/C/55/Add.10).

Response of Guyana

Responding to a series of questions raised by Committee Experts on Monday, 13 November, Gail Teixeira, Presidential Adviser on Governance and Member of Parliament in Guyana, noted that, with regard to violent crimes, today the number of armed robberies of a violent nature was still high, but increased measures were being taken to root out the perpetrators of these crimes. There were more than 150 murders recorded last year, most of which were the result of domestic violence incidents.

Regarding the rank of the Convention in the laws of Guyana, the delegation noted that the Convention, as well as other international instruments the State had ratified, was enshrined in the Constitution. The State was also exploring the possibility of signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

As to the definition of torture, the delegation said the Constitution allowed for a complainant to seek redress in the courts and request the judiciary to take into consideration the definition under the United Nations Convention against Torture and other agreements whose definitions were stronger than the United Nations.

Responding to a question raised, the delegate stated that the Guyana Government did not support the practice of rendition of its citizens to other territories or rendition in principle.

On the issue of penalties to punish torture, under the criminal law offences act, depending on the severity of the charges, a suspect could receive anywhere between seven years in prison up to a death sentence.

As to the issue of compensation for persons who had been subjected to torture, the State could be called on to compensate a victim where the offender was a Government official or was aware of the event and did nothing to prevent the crime.

Concerning the admissibility of a statement received under torture, the delegation said the evidence obtained under such circumstances was not admitted in court. The magistrate was obligated to investigate these incidents and if the charge of torture was upheld the case could be dismissed.

While capital punishment was still in effect in Guyana, there had been no death sentences carried out in the last ten years in Guyana, the delegation noted in response to a question.

With regard to statutory rape and sexual violence, the delegate said women were still discriminated against in Guyanese society. It was noted that more cases concerning domestic violence were being heard now and perpetrators were being charged and convicted. While the police were undergoing more training on domestic violence, there were no provisions in the law at present allowing for the police to bring charges even if a victim wanted to proceed with the case. A proposal had been made for a new unit of the Guyanese police force to deal specifically with domestic violence and sexual violence.

As to the independence of the judiciary, the delegation noted that the President of the Republic could not invoke or revoke a judge unless directed by the judiciary. The Government did not control the judiciary.

Responding to questions raised about the Disciplinary Forces Commission, the delegation said the Commission had issued a report yielding 164 recommendations focussed on improving the efficiency of the police and army, however most of these recommendations did not deal with human rights. Increased human rights training had helped to sensitize the police of their duties.

As to a case raised on extrajudicial killings, the delegation recalled that a Presidential commission was established in early 2004 which presented its findings in April 2005. The Minister in question was vindicated of being responsible for allegations of extrajudicial killings. The report laid out recommendations concerning firearms and the licensing of such and called for revised procedures to be implemented and for legislation to be amended to address ways in which firearms were administered.

In response to a question, the delegation said that through the creation of a crime observatory started in March 2006 and enhanced information technology capacity, a central database now made it easier to retrieve information and thus led to improved court management and case investigations.

On questions pertaining to security forces, the delegation noted that members of the police and army could be charged under civil law for offences. Medical examinations and training were compulsive for all members of the police force, as well as training on sexual and domestic violence.

Females who had been charged or were waiting to be charged were detained in separate facilities for women, the delegation stated. In that same vein, juvenile offenders were also kept in specific detention centres for youth. Juvenile offenders were subject to the Juvenile Offenders Act.

Regarding the ethnic composition of the police force, the delegation noted that there had been cases of discrimination against Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese members in the police force. Some 25 per cent of those recruited into the police force last year had been of indigenous origin. The Government and the police force had created a community-based residential unit within the Guyanese police force – neighbourhood police – to allow the police to have better eyes and ears in intelligence gathering. Some 200 of these neighbourhood police officers had already been trained; the majority of these officers were Indo-Guyanese.

As to the age of criminal responsibility, the delegation said the age had been raised to 16 for girls and ten for boys as per the Juvenile Offenders Act.

Responding to a question, the delegation of Guyana said the laws governing the coroners’ inquest made it clear that these matters should be handled expeditiously and effectively.

Questions by Committee Experts

ANDREAS MAVROMATIS, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Guyana, noted as positive the number of reforms the Government of Guyana had taken in the spirit of the Convention and, in particular, welcomed the creation of the neighbourhood police force. He asked for further clarification on the issue of preliminary investigations and confessions received from torture.

FERNANDO MARINO MENENDEZ, the Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of Guyana, asked for an additional explanation about the standing of the Convention against Torture within domestic Guyanese law and on the definition of torture. Specifically, he asked what the competence of the Caribbean Court of Justice was in Guyana in relation to hearing appeals in the context of the Convention. As did the Rapporteur, the Co-Rapporteur asked the head of the delegation to clarify the Government’s position on evidence obtained through methods amounting to torture.

Other Committee members asked questions pertaining to juvenile justice and cases of kidnappings or disappearances.

Response by Delegation

Responding to additional questions raised, the delegation of Guyana said there was no doubt that there was a connection between socio-economic issues and violence. While a number of measures had been taken to improve this situation and to build safe neighbourhoods, there were still persisting cases of violence in Guyana.

Concerning the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the delegation said Guyana had supported the Court and had submitted a number of cases to that regional body. The courts of Guyana operated on the basis with which the CCJ worked.

On a question related to juvenile offenders, the delegation clarified that children brought before the courts as juvenile offenders were not treated as criminals in a prison and did not serve prison sentences. There was an institution for juvenile offenders in Guyana where these young people were rehabilitated.

With regard to cases of disappearances, the delegation said the authorities of Guyana were concerned about such cases. One of the biggest challenges for the police force was the lack of evidence and information about drug traffickers and criminal gangs.


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