The US Department of State has released its 2020 country report on Human Rights Practices and flayed Guyana for a number of human rights breaches.
In the 16-page Report posted on the U.S State Department’s Website, the arrest of Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones was described as an “Arbitrary arrest”.
The report stated that “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.”
Jones was released on bail the following day but is still to face any formal charges. A number of barbershop equipment were removed from his home. The equipment which were procured through a government grant for one of his community business projectS were being stored at his home.
The report also pointed out that although the law provides criminal detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and to family members, authorities occasionally did not fully respect that right.
“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.” Adding that the government generally accepted those requirements.
Additionally, the report pointed out that lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, noting that judicial inefficiency, staff shortages and cumbersome legal procedures are all contributing factors.
“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.”
It was also stated that there remains a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels, including the police and judiciary.
The report noted that the law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality, while noting that delays and inefficiencies have undermined the judicial due process.
The Human Rights report also referenced the Police gunning down of an unarmed civilian in a car. While the Police claimed that someone in the car opened fire on the Police, there was no gun found and no gunshot residue on any of the occupants of the car including the man who was shot dead.
Two police officers were charged with the killing
The report also highlighted Guyana’s 2020 elections, the delay in the results, the Court cases and the eventual swearing-in of a new government.