Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killing. In July police shot and killed Cecil Sampat, an unarmed civilian. According to police, Sampat was one of three passengers in a car who opened fire on the police. No gun was found in Sampat’s vehicle, however, nor was there gunshot residue on Sampat or the other passengers. In August the government charged the police officers who allegedly shot and killed Sampat.
The Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigates whether security force killings were justifiable and recommends prosecutions where appropriate.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
The law prohibits such practices. There were allegations, nonetheless, that prison officials mistreated inmates.
Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces. The Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigates whether security force killings were justifiable and recommends prosecutions. The government conducted human rights training for the security forces.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and jail conditions, particularly in police holding cells, were reportedly harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions.
Physical Conditions: In October the Guyana Prison Service reported there were 1,761 prisoners in seven facilities with a combined design capacity of 1,505. Overcrowding was in large part due to a backlog of pretrial detainees, who constituted approximately 30 percent of the total prison population.
In 2018 the government released the findings of a 2017 independent study funded by the Inter-American Development Bank that found prison officers physically abused prisoners. In 2018 the government reported the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent found that prison conditions at Lusignan Prison were appalling and cells were unfit for human habitation. Prisoners reported unsanitary conditions and a lack of potable water, and they also complained of lengthy confinement in their cells with limited opportunities for sunlight.
The adult prison population contained individuals 16 years of age and older. In most cases, however, offenders younger than 16 were held in a juvenile correctional center that offered primary education, vocational training, and basic medical care.
Administration: Authorities stated they investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions monthly, and committees prepared reports after each visit. Prisoners often circumvented procedures for submitting complaints of inhuman conditions or mistreatment by passing letters addressed to government officials through family members.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted outside groups to monitor prison conditions independently.
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
An arrest requires a warrant issued by a court official unless an officer who witnesses a crime believes there is good cause to suspect a crime or a breach of the peace has been or will be committed. The law stipulates that a person arrested cannot be held for more than 72 hours unless brought before a court to be charged. Authorities generally observed this requirement. Bail was generally available except in cases of capital offenses and narcotics trafficking.
Although the law provides criminal detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and to family members, authorities occasionally did not fully respect this right.
The state provides legal counsel for indigent persons only when such persons are charged with a capital offense. The Legal Aid Clinic, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), provides legal counsel at a reduced fee in certain circumstances, as determined by the clinic. Police routinely required permission from the senior investigating officer, who was seldom on the premises, before permitting counsel access to a client.
Arbitrary Arrest: In August police arrested Christopher Jones, a senior member of the opposition, and searched his home, although Jones had a court-issued injunction preventing the search.
Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, due primarily to judicial inefficiency, staff shortages, and cumbersome legal procedures. The average length of pretrial detention was three years for those awaiting trial at a magistrates’ court or in the High Court. This often exceeded the maximum possible sentence for the crime for which they were charged.
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
Delays and inefficiencies undermined judicial due process. Shortages of trained court personnel, postponements at the request of the defense or prosecution, occasional allegations of bribery, poor tracking of cases, and police slowness in preparing cases for trial caused delays.
The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Cases in magistrates’ courts are tried without jury, while cases involving more serious crimes are tried by jury in the High Court. The constitution provides that a person shall be informed in detail of the nature of the offense charged as soon as reasonably practicable. Defendants have the right to a timely trial and free assistance of an interpreter. The constitution also provides for persons charged with a criminal offense to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of a defense. Authorities routinely granted trial postponements to both the defense and prosecution. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and confront adverse witnesses, and they may present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal.
While the law recognizes the right to legal counsel, it was limited to those who could afford to pay, except in cases involving capital crimes. Although there is no formal public defender system, a defendant in a murder case that reaches the High Court may receive a court-appointed attorney. The Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic, with government and private support, provided advice to persons who could not afford a lawyer, particularly victims of domestic violence and violence against women.
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
The law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, and the government generally respected this provision. Individuals can access the court system to initiate lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. The magistrates’ courts deal with both criminal and civil matters. Delays, inefficiencies, and alleged corruption in the magistrates’ court system affected citizens’ ability to seek timely remedies in civil matters, and there was a large backlog of civil cases. Citizens have the right to appeal adverse domestic decisions to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
The law generally prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year, and administration officials investigated these reports. There remained a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels, including the police and judiciary.
Corruption: Corruption by police officers was frequent. There were reports the government prosecuted members of the police force during the year. In July the government prosecuted police officer Richard Persaud for extortion. Persaud resigned from the police force in August, and the prosecution against him was underway as of October.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials to declare their assets to an integrity commission and sets out both criminal and administrative sanctions for nondisclosure. If a person fails to file a declaration, the daily newspapers and the official gazette can publish that fact. Failure to comply with the law can lead to a summary conviction, fines, and imprisonment for six to 12 months. If property is not disclosed as required, the magistrate convicting the defendant must order the defendant to make a full disclosure within a set time. Although the integrity commission was reconstituted in 2018, after a 12-year hiatus, it did not appear to be fully functional. No publications or convictions occurred during the first nine months of the year.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The law provides stringent penalties for rape, with life imprisonment as the maximum penalty. There were reports of successful prosecution of cases of rape. Successful prosecution of domestic violence cases was infrequent.
Domestic violence and violence against women, including spousal abuse, was widespread. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows victims to seek prompt protection, occupation, or tenancy orders from a magistrate. Penalties for violation of protection orders include fines and 12 months’ imprisonment. There were reports of police accepting bribes from perpetrators and of magistrates applying inadequate sentences after conviction.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides for monetary penalties and award of damages to victims. The law does not cover harassment in schools. Acts of sexual harassment involving physical assault are prosecuted under relevant criminal statutes. While reports of sexual harassment were common, no cases had been filed as of September.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to manage their reproductive health. They had access to information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. No legal, social, or cultural barriers or government policies adversely affected access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth.
The World Health Organization reported the country had a maternal mortality rate of 169 deaths per 100,000 live births. Primary causes for maternal death included poor obstetric performance, malaria, poor nutrition, and infrequent access to prenatal care among some women in remote areas due to inadequate transportation. The United Nations Population Fund reported that 34 percent of women used a modern method of contraception.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Discrimination: Although women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, gender-related discrimination was widespread and deeply ingrained. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but there was no meaningful enforcement against such discrimination in the workplace. Job vacancy notices routinely specified that the employer sought only male or only female applicants, and women earned approximately 58 percent less than men for equal work.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or by birth to a Guyanese citizen abroad. The law requires that births be registered within 14 days but also provides for registration of births after the 14-day period. Births at hospitals and health facilities were registered within a day of delivery.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits abuse of children, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation. There were frequent, widespread reports of physical and sexual abuse of children. As with cases of domestic abuse, NGOs alleged some police officers could be bribed to make cases of child abuse “go away.”
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18, but boys and girls may marry at age 16 with parental consent or judicial authority. UNICEF reported that 30 percent of women were married before age 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of sexual consent is 16. By law a person who has sexual relations with a child younger than 16 may be found guilty of a felony and imprisoned for life. There were continued reports of children being exploited in prostitution. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children age 18 and younger and stipulates penalties commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Laws related to pornography and pornographic performances do not prohibit the use, procuring, and offering of a child for each of these purposes. The law also regulates selling, publishing, or exhibiting obscene material, defined as anything that could deprave or corrupt those open to immoral influences. The country is not a destination for child sex tourism.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
Excluding expatriates, the Jewish community had fewer than five members. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution mandates that the state “take legislative and other measures” to protect disadvantaged persons and persons with disabilities. The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but civil society groups stated the law was not regularly enforced. The law provides for a National Commission on Disabilities to advise the government, coordinate actions on problems affecting persons with disabilities, and implement and monitor the law. The commission focused its attention on sensitizing the public about the law and on compliance, as well as performing sensitization workshops with the Ministries of Human Services and Social Security, Education, and Health.
There were segregated schools for the blind and for persons with other disabilities in the most populous regions of the country. As a result, children with disabilities rarely attended mainstream schools, since these lacked the necessary accommodating curriculum and infrastructure. Lack of appropriate transportation and infrastructure to provide access to both public and private facilities made it difficult for persons with disabilities to be employed outside their homes.
Various laws protect the rights of the indigenous community, and members have some ability to participate in decisions affecting them, their land, and resources. Rules enacted by village councils require approval from the minister of Amerindian affairs before entering into force. Indigenous lands were not effectively demarcated.
According to the 2012 census, the indigenous population constituted 10 percent of the total population. There were nine recognized tribal groups. An estimated 90 percent of indigenous communities were in the remote interior. The standard of living in indigenous communities was lower than that of most citizens, and they had limited access to education and health care. A UN study found that pregnant women in indigenous communities were not receiving mandatory HIV tests. In March political protesters made denigrating remarks against indigenous persons.
Consensual same-sex sexual activity among men is illegal under the law and is punishable by up to two years in prison. Anal intercourse is punishable with a maximum sentence of life in prison, regardless of whether the intercourse is between persons of the same sex. These laws were not enforced during the year; activists reported it was more common for police to use the law to intimidate men who were gay or perceived to be gay than to make arrests. A law criminalizing cross-dressing remains despite a 2018 decision by the Caribbean Court of Justice that the law is unconstitutional.
No antidiscrimination legislation exists to protect persons from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. NGOs reported widespread discrimination of persons in this regard. Reports noted official and societal discrimination in employment, access to education and medical care, and in public space. According to a 2014 survey, approximately 12 percent of men who had sex with men experienced stigma daily, while approximately 30 percent of transgender youth and adults encountered stigma every day or regularly. A leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) NGO reported frequent acts of violence against members of the LGBTI community.
A 2014 UNICEF survey reported only 23 percent of persons ages 15 to 49 expressed accepting attitudes towards individuals with HIV.