Before the arrival of Europeans, the region was inhabited by both Carib and Arawak tribes, who named it Guiana, which means land of many waters. The Dutch settled in Guyana in the late 16th century, but their control ended when the British became the de facto rulers in 1796. In 1815, the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice were officially ceded to Great Britain at the Congress of Vienna and, in 1831, were consolidated as British Guiana. Following the abolition of slavery in 1834, thousands of indentured laborers were brought to Guyana to replace the slaves on the sugarcane plantations, primarily from India but also from Portugal and China. The British stopped the practice in 1917. Many of the Afro-Guyanese former slaves moved to the towns and became the majority urban population, whereas the Indo-Guyanese remained predominantly rural. A scheme in 1862 to bring black workers from the United States was unsuccessful. The small Amerindian population lives in the country's interior. The people drawn from these diverse origins have coexisted peacefully for the most part. Slave revolts, such as the one in 1763 led by Guyana's national hero, Cuffy, demonstrated the desire for basic rights but also a willingness to compromise. Politically inspired racial disturbances between Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese erupted in 1962-64. However, the basically conservative and cooperative nature of Guyanese society contributed to a cooling of racial tensions.
Guyanese politics, nevertheless, occasionally has been turbulent. The first modern political party in Guyana was the People's Progressive Party (PPP), established on January 1, 1950, with Forbes Burnham, a British-educated Afro-Guyanese, as chairman; Dr. Cheddi Jagan, a U.S.-educated Indo-Guyanese, as second vice chairman; and his American-born wife, Janet Jagan, as secretary general. The PPP won 18 out of 24 seats in the first popular elections permitted by the colonial government in 1953, and Dr. Jagan became leader of the house and minister of agriculture in the colonial government. Five months later, on October 9, 1953, the British suspended the constitution and landed troops because, they said, the Jagans and the PPP were planning to make Guyana a communist state. These events led to a split in the PPP, in which Burnham broke away and founded what eventually became the People's National Congress (PNC).
Elections were permitted again in 1957 and 1961, and Cheddi Jagan's PPP ticket won on both occasions, with 48% of the vote in 1957 and 43% in 1961. Cheddi Jagan became the first premier of British Guiana, a position he held for 7 years. At a constitutional conference in London in 1963, the U.K. Government agreed to grant independence to the colony but only after another election in which proportional representation would be introduced for the first time. It was widely believed that this system would reduce the number of seats won by the PPP and prevent it from obtaining a clear majority in Parliament. The December 1964 elections gave the PPP 46%, the PNC 41%, and the United Force (TUF), a conservative party, 12%. TUF threw its votes in the legislature to Forbes Burnham, who became prime minister.
Guyana achieved independence in May 1966, and became a republic on February 23, 1970--the anniversary of the Cuffy slave rebellion. From December 1964 until his death in August 1985, Forbes Burnham ruled Guyana in an increasingly autocratic manner, first as prime minister and later, after the adoption of a new constitution in 1980, as executive president. During that time- frame, elections were viewed in Guyana and abroad as fraudulent. Human rights and civil liberties were suppressed, and two major political assassinations occurred: the Jesuit Priest and journalist Bernard Darke in July 1979, and the distinguished historian and WPA Party leader Walter Rodney in June 1980. Agents of President Burnham are widely believed to have been responsible for both deaths.
Following Burnham's own death in 1985, Prime Minister Hugh Desmond Hoyte acceded to the presidency and was formally elected in the December 1985 national elections. Hoyte gradually reversed Burnham's policies, moving from state socialism and one-party control to a market economy and unrestricted freedom of the press and assembly. On October 5, 1992, a new National Assembly and regional councils were elected in the first Guyanese election since 1964 to be internationally recognized as free and fair. Cheddi Jagan was elected and sworn in as president on October 9, 1992.
When President Jagan died in March 1997, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds replaced him in accordance with constitutional provisions. President Jagan's widow, Janet Jagan, was elected president in December 1997. She resigned in August 1999 due to ill health and was succeeded by Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo, who had been named prime minister a day earlier. National elections were held on March 19, 2001. Incumbent President Jagdeo won reelection with a voter turnout of over 90%.
Today, the Co-operative Republic of Guyana has a multiparty political system based on proportional representation. Citizens elect an executive president and a 65-member unicameral parliament. The President appoints a prime minister and a cabinet. In March 2001, citizens voted in a generally free and fair national election to reelect the People's Progressive Party (PPP) and its Civic (C) partner. Incumbent Bharrat Jagdeo received his own mandate for a 5-year term as President. Social unrest and occasional violence marred the postelection period, with the main opposition party alleging that election procedures violated the Constitution; international observers considered these charges to be unfounded. The judiciary, although constitutionally independent, is inefficient and often appears subject to government influence.
The country has a population of approximately 700,000. The economy, which for years was controlled under a system of central planning, is based on a mix of private and state enterprises. Rice, sugar, bauxite, gold, shrimp, and timber are the major exports. There are severe shortages of skilled labor, and the economy is constrained by an inadequate and poorly maintained infrastructure for transportation, power distribution, flood control, and communications. The economy has continued to decline, following negative real economic growth unofficially estimated at -0.58 percent in 2000. Per capita gross domestic product is estimated at $852, and a 1999 U.N. Development Program living conditions survey showed that 35 percent of the population live in poverty; 21 percent are extremely poor.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Guyana. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Guyana will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 17.9 per 100,000 population for Guyana, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 15.75 for Guyana, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 160.29 for Guyana, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 281.14 for Guyana, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 428.78 for Guyana, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rates of larceny and motor vehicle theft were not reported by Guyana for year 2000, so the rate for all index offenses combined could not be computed. However, rates for the above statistics are high even when compared to many industrialized countries, particularly for murder and robbery, which are rates higher than the United States.
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1996 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 16.07 to 17.9, an increase of 11.4%. The rate for rape increased from 15.3 to 15.75, an increase of 2.9%. The rate of robbery decreased from 190.83 to 160.29, a decrease of 16%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 357.36 to 281.14 per 100,000, a decrease of 21.3%. The rate for burglary increased from 311.58 to 428.78, an increase of 37.6%. Neither larceny nor motor vehicle theft data were reported for either year, so trends in the index could not be computed.
Vestiges of a Dutch legal system remain, particularly in the area of land tenure. However, the common law of Britain is the basis for the legal system of Guyana. The judiciary consists of a magistrate's court for each of the ten regions and a Supreme Court consisting of a High Court and a Court of Appeal. The 1980 constitution established the judiciary as an independent branch of the government with the right of judicial review of legislative and executive acts.
In 1891 a paramilitary police force was established in British Guiana. This force became the British Guiana Police Force in June 1939 and after independence the Guyana Police Force. Headed by a commissioner of police, the force had limited paramilitary capabilities. The 5,000-member force had three major elements: a Mounted Branch trained in riot control, a Rural Constabulary, and a Special Constabulary that served as the police reserve. Additionally, a number of constables have been employed by the government and private businesses to guard property.
During the 1970s and 1980s, a religious group known as the House of Israel became an informal part of the PNC's security apparatus and engaged in actions such as strikebreaking, progovernment demonstrations, political intimidation, and murder. The House of Israel was led by an ardent PNC supporter, David Hill, locally known as Rabbi Washington. Hill was an American fugitive wanted for blackmail, larceny, and tax evasion. Despite its name, the House of Israel was neither Israeli nor Jewish-oriented. It was, instead, a black supremacist cult claiming that Afro-Guyanese were the original Hebrews. Cult adherents further believed that modern-day Jews were, in fact, descendants of other non-Jewish biblical peoples and were in Israel illegally. Serving as a paramilitary force for the PNC, the House of Israel had 8,000 members, including a 300-member guard force known as the "royal cadets."
A 1979 incident illustrates the House of Israel's close relationship with the Burnham administration. A member of the cult, Bilal Ato, murdered a reporter working for an opposition newspaper on July 14, 1979. The reporter had been taking photographs of an antigovernment demonstration when he was stabbed to death. Although the entire incident was filmed by other journalists, the government took three years to bring the case to trial. A former state prosecutor defended Ato. The judge reduced Ato's charge to manslaughter and sentenced him to eight years in prison.
Later in 1979, as well as during the early and mid-1980s, the government used the House of Israel to break strikes and to disrupt public meetings of any group that the government felt might oppose its policies. Observers claimed that House of Israel members were accompanied by police and sometimes wore police uniforms during these incidents. In 1985 House of Israel members allegedly prevented delegates from entering the annual general meeting of the Guyana Council of Churches in Georgetown.
When President Hugh Desmond Hoyte took power in 1985, the House of Israel fell out of government favor. In July 1986, Rabbi Washington and other key House of Israel leaders were arrested and charged with murder. Washington pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a fifteen-year sentence.
From 1980 until mid-1985, organized gangs of Afro-Guyanese terrorized Indo-Guyanese communities. The groups' trademark method of entry earned them the sobriquet kick-down-the-door gangs. The gangs were fully armed and used military tactics and techniques. Gang crimes against the Indo-Guyanese included robbery and occasionally rape or murder.
Police response to the gangs caused a civic outcry. The police routinely arrived at victims' homes hours after a crime had occurred, even if notified when the crime was in progress. The half-hearted police response encouraged the growth of the gangs, which became so bold that they began to undertake daylight operations. Fear so paralyzed Indo-Guyanese communities that women in rural areas congregated most of the day by public roads, seeking safety in numbers.
Many analysts believed that the PNC sponsored, or at least tolerated, the kick-down-the-door gangs. Despite stringent gun control laws, gang members carried automatic weapons. One observer called the gangs "policemen by day and bandits by night." The gangs used tactics the PNC had employed against opposition parties, only on a larger scale and with even greater brutality. After Burnham's death in 1985, the gangs disappeared.
In 1973 a paramilitary organization, the Guyana National Service (GNS), was created. Generally used as a manpower source for public works and services, it also had a limited military potential. The government envisioned the GNS as an organization that would produce "cadres" sufficiently skilled to depart the populated coast and relocate to the underdeveloped interior. According to the GNS's enabling document, the Guyana National Service State Paper, this program would prepare Guyanese to use their time and energies profitably and productively; equip them with the knowledge and experience to open up, develop, and live on the rich lands available in the hinterland. It would mobilize and motivate support for the Guyanese people's effort to "feed, clothe, and house" themselves; inculcate the skills and attitudes necessary for nation-building and national development; and transform individuals accustomed to depending upon external aid into selfreliant and productive citizens. The GNS was to encourage the physical and mental discipline necessary for development and to ensure cohesion and unity among the various ethnic, religious, social, and economic groups in Guyana.
The 1,500-person GNS was divided into various corps for young people from ages eight to twenty-five, and was integrated into public education. Associated with the Afro-Guyanese dominated PNC, it was almost exclusively composed of young Afro-Guyanese. The program evolved from an earlier voluntary service group called the Guyana Youth Corps. This organization, whose mission had been to populate the hinterland, failed because of a lack of public support.
The government requirement that University of Guyana students and government scholarship students perform one year of service with the GNS in the republic's interior posed problems for young Indo-Guyanese women. It is customary in Guyana for single women of all ethnic groups to live at home with their parents. When away from home, single women live with relatives or board with families. The Indo-Guyanese were particularly concerned that the GNS program was a scheme to foster interracial relationships. Many women refused to enter the GNS and, as a result, did not graduate from the university. It became common practice among Indo-Guyanese to attend college overseas to avoid the GNS program.
GNS teaching was highly ideological. Although membership was optional at the elementary and secondary levels, students who did not participate were not provided the results of their high school placement examinations. Elementary school students who did participate were organized into "Young Brigades" and taught to march and chant party slogans. Later, as high school juniors, students were encouraged to join the Guyana National Service Cadet Corps. The corps was similar to Cuba's Young Pioneers, with the Guyanese cadets going to field camps for political indoctrination.
The People's Militia was created in 1976 during a period of heightened tension along the Guyana-Venezuela border. Proposed by opposition leader Cheddi Jagan, the militia was envisioned as a more ethnically diverse force than the GDF, which it would replace. Jagan saw the militia as a popular organization that would have branches on every city block and in every village. The government agreed to form the People's Militia, but only as a supplemental security force. Militia members were to engage in their normal occupation until war broke out, at which point they would defend their communities and assist the regular forces.
The government intended the militia units to be autonomous and flexible enough to be self-supporting during emergencies. The militia's force level was set at 2,000. The government's stated goal was to make the militia a broad-based volunteer force. It was initially well-received, and both Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese volunteered. However, preferential treatment of Afro-Guyanese led to an exodus of Indo-Guyanese volunteers. Heavy recruitment in PNC strongholds and sustained political indoctrination ensured that the People's Militia would be loyal to the PNC.
Training in the People's Militia consisted of foot drills for two hours twice a week, plus two Sundays every month. The militia was organized into nine districts and training was carried out in each of the districts. Uniforms consisted of tan shirts, brown pants, boots, and berets. Members of the militia wore uniforms only during training or during combat. In times of emergency, the militia would be integrated into the GDF.
In 1980 the government created the National Guard Service (NGS) to protect government personnel and state property from theft and subversive activity. The NGS included both security personnel already employed at government facilities and retired police officers and others. The NGS maintained a strength of 2,000 members.
The Young Socialist Movement (YSM) was the youth arm of the PNC, with members throughout Guyana. The YSM maintained a military component with an estimated strength of 2,000. The GDF, GNS, and People's Militia provided its training. Members of the military component usually paraded in military uniforms but without weapons.
Today, the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) are under effective civilian control. The GDF is a professional military responsible for national defense, internal security, and emergency response. The GPF, which includes a Target Special Squad (TSS) that has some paramilitary training, has the authority to make arrests and is responsible for maintaining law and order throughout the country. Some members of the police force committed human rights abuses. The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens; however, serious problems remain in several areas. The police have continued to commit extrajudicial killings, and police abuse of suspects has continued to be a problem. The authorities took some steps to investigate abuses, but in general, the police have continued to commit abuses with impunity. The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) reported that the police killed 15 civilians through September 2001, compared with 13 in all of 2000. In most cases, the police shot the victims while attempting to arrest them or while a crime was being committed. Public investigations rarely are conducted into such killings; in general police abuses are committed with impunity. Many justice authorities and human rights activists say that due to rising crime and pressure from urban businesses, which are often the targets of criminals, the Government has taken a lax attitude toward investigation of alleged police abuses. The Constitution prohibits torture; however, police have continued to abuse suspects. From 1995 to 1997, the GHRA received an average of 20 complaints per year from victims who had been beaten by police while in custody. The GHRA still considers mistreatment of prisoners by prison officers a problem. Moreover, inmates, attorneys, and judicial authorities provided credible evidence that police and correctional officers frequently ignored the actions of other inmates who beat, robbed, or otherwise mistreated "problematic" prisoners. The Constitution provides for the right of privacy; however, the authorities often infringed on citizens' privacy. Law enforcement officials must obtain warrants before searching private homes or properties. Although the authorities generally respected these requirements, there have been numerous reports of police officers searching homes without warrants, particularly in neighborhoods where narcotics trafficking is a problem.
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, a mandate that the authorities generally respected in practice.
Arrest does not require a warrant issued by a court official. Police may arrest without a warrant when an officer witnesses a crime or at the officer's discretion in instances where there is good cause to suspect that a crime or a breach of the peace has been or will be committed. The law requires that a person arrested and held for more than 24 hours be brought before a court to be charged. Bail is generally available, except in capital offense cases. In narcotics cases, magistrates have limited discretion in granting bail before trial and must remand persons convicted of such crimes into custody, even if an appeal is pending.
Lengthy pretrial detention remains a problem. The GHRA has asserted that prisoners are detained for as many as 3 or 4 years while awaiting trial; however, the authorities have denied that delays are this long. During the year 2001, prisoners protested lengthy trial delays.
The constitution secures the tenure of judicial officers by prescribing their age of retirement (sixty-two or sixty-five), guaranteeing their terms and conditions of service, and preventing their removal from office except for reasons of inability or misconduct established by means of an elaborate judicial procedure. These constitutional arrangements are supplemented by statutory provisions that establish a hierarchy of courts through which the individual under scrutiny may secure enforcement of his civil and political rights.
The lower courts, known as magistrates' courts, have jurisdiction in criminal cases and civil suits involving small claims. The High Court has general jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters. Criminal cases are always tried by a jury of twelve persons. Appeals of High Court rulings go to the Court of Appeal.
Any person in Guyana has the right to bring charges involving a breach of criminal law. In practice, the police as the official law enforcement body generally institute and undertake criminal prosecutions. Traditionally, the attorney general (a cabinet-level minister) exercises supervisory authority over all criminal prosecutions.
The executive president appoints all judges, with the exception of the chancellor of the High Court (the head of the judiciary), the chief justice of the Court of Appeal, and the chief magistrate. The Judicial Service Commission appoints these top three judges; however, the commission itself is selected by the president. Although selection of the members of the Judicial Service Commission is supposed to be made with opposition input, in fact the opposition has no say in judicial appointments. Observers have noted that trials are generally fair, but if a guilty verdict is reached, the executive president often drops strong hints concerning the magnitude of the sentence he expects for crimes that have received national publicity.
The Guyanese judicial system consists of the Supreme Court, which encompassed a Court of Appeal and a High Court, and ten magistrates' courts. The Court of Appeal, created in June 1966, consists of a presiding chancellor, the chief justice, and the number of justices of appeal determined by the National Assembly. The High Court consisted of the chief justice as president and several subordinate judges. Its jurisdiction is both original and appellate, and includes criminal cases brought before it on indictment. A person convicted by the High Court has the option of resorting to the Court of Appeal. The High Court has unlimited jurisdiction over civil matters and exclusive jurisdiction over probate and divorce. Magistrates has the authority to decide small claims in civil suits and had original jurisdiction in criminal cases.
As a demonstration of PNC dominance over state institutions, the party's flag was flown over the Court of Appeal. This gesture undermined public confidence in the impartiality of the Guyanese judiciary.
Under the constitution of 1980, anyone charged with a criminal offense has the right to a hearing by a court of law, and in the early 1990s this right apparently was being respected. Guyana had a bail system, and defendants are granted public trials. Arrest did not require a warrant issued by a court; the presumption of guilt by a police officer was sufficient. The National Security Act, which had been widely used to detain political dissidents, was repealed in 1991. Although capital punishment was still permitted, no execution had taken place since the 1970s.
Today, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, law enforcement officials and prominent lawyers questioned the independence of the judiciary and accused the Government of intervening in certain criminal and civil cases. In most human rights cases, the Government generally respects the independence of the judiciary.
The court system is composed of a high court (the Supreme Court of Judicature), an appeals court, and a system of magistrate courts. Magistrates are members of the civil service and are trained lawyers. The magistrate courts deal with both criminal and civil matters, and specially trained police officers serve as prosecutors in lower magistrate courts. The Ministry of Legal Affairs, headed by the Attorney General, is the principal legal advisor to the State. The Director of Public Prosecution is statutorily independent and can file legal charges against offenders. The Constitution provides that anyone charged with a criminal offense has the right to a hearing by a court of law. This right generally is respected in practice.
Delays in judicial proceedings are caused by shortages of trained court personnel and magistrates, inadequate resources, postponements at the request of the defense or prosecution, occasional alleged acts of bribery, poor tracking of cases, and the slowness of police in preparing cases for trial. There have been reports that police who serve as prosecutors in lower magistrate courts are reluctant to prosecute police accused of abuses. There have been allegations that police threatened a witness. The inefficiency of the judicial system undermines due process. Lengthy pretrial detention remains a problem. In March 2000, the U.N. Human Rights Committee called on the Government to recruit competent part-time and temporary judges in order to deal with the backlog of cases. In September 2000, four additional judges were sworn in.
On June 21, 2001, Members of Parliament voted to amend the Constitution, incorporating a number of recommendations from the Constitution Reform Commission. Intended to strengthen the judiciary, the changes remove from executive control the appointment of judges and members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) from executive control, as well as the ability to extend the tenure of judges beyond the age of retirement. In addition, the bill grants the JSC power to appoint the Director and Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, the Registrar and Deputy Registrar of the High Court, and the Registrar and Deputy Registrar of Deeds. The amendments also allow the President, on the advice of the JSC, to make temporary appointments of judges to sit in magistrate courts and the High Court. The number of appointments is to depend on the outcome of an audit of pending cases.
Defendants are granted public trials, and appeals may be made to higher courts. Defendants are presumed innocent until found guilty. Cases in magistrate's courts are tried without jury; more serious cases are tried by jury in the High Court. Appeals of some murder cases may go on for several years. Trial postponements are granted routinely to both the defense and the prosecution. Programs designed to improve legal structures, reform judicial procedures, upgrade technical capabilities, and improve efficiency of the courts have had only a limited effect, and judicial staff still need further training in all areas. Although the law recognizes the right to legal counsel, in practice, with the exception of cases involving capital crimes, it has been limited to those who can afford to pay. There is no public defender system.
The Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic, with public and private support, provides advice to persons who cannot afford a lawyer, with a special interest in cases of violence against women and criminal cases related to civil cases in such matters (for example, assault as part of a divorce case). Defendants in murder cases who need a lawyer are assigned an attorney by the court. The Guyana Association of Women Lawyers provides free legal services for civil cases only.
A report by the Guyana Human Rights Association indicated that in 1991, the country's three main prisons--at Georgetown, Mazaruni, near New Amsterdam, and at New Amsterdam--were overcrowded and in deteriorating condition. Mandatory sentences for narcotics offenses had resulted in a large increase in the inmate population without a corresponding expansion of facilities. The Guyana Human Rights Association claimed that malnutrition and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) were widespread in the nation's prisons.
Prison and jail conditions are poor, especially in police holding cells. Georgetown's Camp Street Prison, the country's largest, is extremely overcrowded. In July 2001, a prison officer reported that there were 815 inmates in facility, a decrease from between 900 and 1,100 prisoners in 2000. According to prison officials, the facility is intended to hold 500 inmates; however, the GHRA states that the Camp Street Prison initially was designed to hold 350 inmates. Conditions in the country's four smaller prisons generally are adequate. The GHRA continues to advocate improved health care in the prison system. In addition to overcrowding and a lack of medical personnel, poor staff morale is a serious problem within the prison system. Prison staffers are poorly paid, and their salaries and benefits are insufficient to compensate for the on-the-job risks; however, they have made efforts to improve conditions for prisoners. Prison officials have lobbied the Government for increased funding to improve prison conditions; they also have encouraged efforts by local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) to improve physical and sanitary conditions.
On July 6, 2001, members of a United Kingdom Prison Reform Team recommended that a high level Commission on Criminal Justice be established to address the problems within the prison system. The team spent 18 months reviewing the Prison Service and found the major problems to be overcrowding, poor conditions for prisoners and staff, perceived infringement of basic human rights, minimal rehabilitation, and high cost to taxpayers. The most immediate concern of the team was overcrowding, which was attributed in large part to the lack of alternatives to imprisonment. The team found that more than 80 percent of prisoners were serving time for minor offenses with sentences of only 1 to 3 months.
In October 2000, the GHRA criticized prison authorities for the death of Michael Ramcharran at the hands of another inmate, which the GHRA said was the direct result of overcrowding at the Camp Street Prison. To reduce overcrowding, the GHRA called on the judiciary to consider alternate sentencing for minor offenses, rejuvenation of the Parole Board, and the release of ill prisoners who have completed almost all of their sentences. However, the Government did not adopt any of these recommendations. Since then the Parole Board has become more active, but has continued to be reluctant to release prisoners due to insufficient post-release resources, including a lack of probationary staff.
The GHRA noted that protest actions on the roof of the central prison decreased from the previous year; although in July 2001, 16 inmates were on the roof to protest poor prison conditions, police brutality, and lengthy delays in trials.
Although sanitary and medical conditions in police station temporary holding facilities vary, in almost all cases these conditions are worse than those in the prisons. Some such jails are bare, overcrowded, and damp. Few have beds, washbasins, furniture, or utensils. Meals are normally unavailable; friends and relatives must bring detainees food and water. Cells rarely have sanitary facilities, and inmates sometimes are escorted by staff members outside the cells to use holes in the floor for toilets. Inmates generally sleep on a thin pallet on the concrete floor. The Brickdam lockup in Georgetown has poor sanitation and dangerous conditions. One cell without plumbing or other facilities typically holds up to 30 detainees and often is the site of violence between inmates. Although precinct jails are intended to serve only as pretrial holding areas, some suspects have been detained there as long as 4 years, waiting for the overburdened judicial system to act on their cases.
Conditions are generally adequate in the only women's prison, which is at New Amsterdam, in a facility that holds men and women in separate dormitory-type buildings. There are a number of vocational and educational courses, and a program of regular visits by a psychiatrist who provides counseling for female inmates has begun. The GHRA has urged that female inmates' responsibility for children should be recognized in terms of length of sentence and facilities for family contact. The East La Penitence police jail, where female prisoners are held until sentencing, was upgraded in 2000; sanitation improved, and piped water is provided for the inmates.
Following widespread criticism caused by the detention in 1999 of two boys (ages 8 and 11) with adult prisoners who mistreated them, police have been careful to place juvenile offenders in a fairly adequate separate facility. The Ruimveldt police station was the only facility holding juveniles between ages 14 and 17 years.
Prison officials are receptive to local and international NGO requests to enter and inspect prison facilities. The GHRA participates as a member of the prisons' visiting committee, which investigates prisoner complaints, inspects diets, reviews primary medical care services, and provides recommendations to prison authorities.
Violence against women, including domestic violence, is widespread, and NGO's report that domestic violence crosses racial and socioeconomic lines. Despite efforts by NGO's and the DPP to sensitize police officers to domestic violence, the police often are hesitant to interfere in cases of domestic disputes. According to press reports, domestic violence resulted in the deaths of six women, four children, and one man between January and September, 2001, and the final number for the year is likely to be higher.
The Domestic Violence Act defines domestic violence, establishes it as a crime, and gives women the right to seek prompt protection. Magistrates may issue interim protection orders when a victim of abuse, a police officer, or a social worker fills out an application for protection. A magistrate then evaluates the case and decides whether to replace interim orders with permanent orders. The act allows victims to seek protection, occupation, or tenancy orders. Protection orders prohibit abusers from being anywhere that the applicant lives, works, visits, or attends school. If protective orders are violated, the abuser may be fined up to $54 (G$10,000) and imprisoned for up to 12 months. However, this legislation frequently was not enforced. Occupation orders allow the victim and any children to remain in a home previously shared with an abuser, while the abuser must leave. Similarly, tenancy orders require an abuser to leave a rented dwelling and to continue to pay some or all of the rent. The GHRA has criticized the structure of the Domestic Violence Act, stating that the law cannot be implemented until appointments have been made to the Women's Affairs Bureau. In addition, the GHRA reports that the forms needed to request court orders are printed infrequently and rarely available to the public.
In March 2000, the U.N. Human Rights Committee criticized the lack of information about the effect of the Domestic Violence Act in reducing the level of violence against women. The Committee called for training police and other law enforcement personnel in the importance of ensuring that women who are victims of violence are accorded equal protection and that preventive and punitive measures are enforced. The Government held 2-week training seminars for police officers to sensitive them to the issues and advise them about procedures. The officers who received training are to conduct outreach for their fellow officers.
Help and Shelter (H&S), the first local NGO dedicated to fighting domestic violence, focuses on societal reeducation in order to sensitize the public to domestic violence. By February 2001, H&S had counseled 3,872 persons since it began offering counseling services in November 1995. H&S reported that 74.5 percent of its cases involved spousal abuse.
Rape, particularly of girls and young women, is a serious problem but infrequently reported or prosecuted. Health professionals and NGO's also reported a high incidence of incest. Lawyers say that while more victims are reporting these crimes to the authorities, there still is a social stigma applied to the victim for doing so. An estimated 5 percent of cases reported to H&S are rape cases; the vast majority of these--80 percent--are reported by victims age 17 and under.
Prostitution is illegal; however, it does occur, and it received increased public attention due to the high incidence of HIV/AIDS among prostitutes.
Children are affected more severely by the country's poverty than any other group. One-third of the population is under 18 years of age and, although the Government provides free education through secondary school (it is compulsory until age 14), the severe deterioration of the public education and health care systems has limited children's future prospects. The public health system is inadequate, and private health care is unaffordable for many children. Children often do not attend school because their families need them to contribute to the household by working or providing child care for siblings or younger relatives.
Concern continues to rise over the effects of domestic violence on children. It is unclear how many deaths from child abuse take place, since law enforcement officials believe that the vast majority of criminal child abuse cases are unreported. In June 2001, the Welfare Section of the Georgetown Education Department stated that reports of physical and sexual abuse of children are on the rise, with an average of two to three cases per month in the capital city alone. The NGO H&S reported that 6.5 percent of its cases between November 1995 and February involved child abuse. There are no law enforcement investigative procedures in place to determine if abuse or parental incapacity had been the true causes of death in some cases of the 400 children under the age of 5 who die each year, deaths that usually are ascribed to malnutrition or disease. Media reports of rape and incest further indicated that violence against children is a significant problem. The Domestic Violence Act allows police officers or social workers to file an application on behalf of an abused child. However, there is a lack of social services or trained experts to assist children fleeing sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Many children suffer from neglect or abandonment, particularly when from 1 to 2 percent of the adult population emigrates each year, often leaving children behind.
UNICEF has criticized the practice in which girls trade sexual favors for money, gifts, or help in employment or higher education, a practice sometimes condoned by their parents yet obscured by cultural norms. In a related practice, parents demand monetary compensation following the rape of a teenage daughter.
In June 2001, one student suffered a broken collar bone and another a broken elbow as a result of flogging by their teachers, a form of corporal punishment in public schools. Both teachers involved in the incidents returned to work pending investigations. The Ministry of Education responded to these incidents with a 30-point program intended to phase out corporal punishment in schools.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
There are no laws that specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, and there have been occasional reports of trafficking in persons of Chinese and South Asian origin, who would immigrate illegally to the United States under conditions amounting to debt bondage. Persons providing fraudulent documents for the purpose of facilitating illegal immigration can be charged with obtaining money under false pretenses, which carries a small fine and a 6-month prison sentence. Some fraud cases were prosecuted during the year 2001.
A major cocaine seizure in October 1998, along with a continuing pattern of smaller seizures and arrests, confirm that Guyana is being used increasingly for transshipment of South American cocaine on its way to the U.S. and Europe. However, we do not yet have evidence to establish that drugs are coming to the U.S. from Guyana in quantities sufficient to have a significant effect on the U.S. Cocaine enters Guyana by sea, river, land or airdrop. Traffickers then take advantage of dense jungles, low population and weak law enforcement and judicial infrastructure to avoid more efficiently policed routes. Guyana is not a major producer of illicit narcotics. Although the Government of Guyana (GOG) badly lacks resources, it had increasing success in interdicting drug flow in 1998. The GOG has asked for more intensive coordination with the U.S., and both the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) cooperated when DEA resumed regular coverage here early in the year. Guyana is a party to the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Despite the fact that draft anti-money laundering legislation has been ready since June 1998, the GOG failed to pass this long-awaited legislation in 1998. The GOG also needs to pass a wide range of additional legislation and implement it before it will be in compliance with the Convention's goals and objectives.
As neighboring countries strengthen their interdiction efforts, a major cocaine seizure in October 1998, along with a continuing pattern of smaller seizures and arrests, confirm that traffickers are turning to Guyana as a safer transshipment route for South American cocaine. Guyana's borders are porous and largely unpatrolled, allowing narcotics to enter the country by road or by river. Airdrops also occur, and there are several remote and unmonitored airstrips. Traffickers then take advantage of the country's weak law enforcement capabilities to smuggle narcotics over unpatrolled roads and waterways to Georgetown. From there, the drugs are illegally exported by commercial ship or air via intermediate stops in the Caribbean or, increasingly, directly to the U.S. and Europe. Guyana does not produce cocaine, but small amounts of marijuana are grown locally.
Internet research assisted by Alba Topete and Tristan Turk