Lax attitude towards inquiry into alleged police abuses
Human Rights report

Stabroek News
March 11, 2001

Justice authorities and human rights activists in Guyana have said that the government had taken a lax attitude towards the investigation of alleged police abuses.

The US State Department Human Rights Report 2000 on Guyana said this was because of rising crime and pressure from urban businesses, which were often the targets of criminals. The report noted that in general police abuses were committed with impunity.

The report said that the UN Human Rights Committee made 22 recommendations to the government, including a call for prompt investigation by an impartial body of extra-judicial killings and excessive use of force by the police.

It called for measures to be taken to ensure the prosecution of offenders and to provide effective remedies to victims. The committee recommended that all law enforcement officials receive thorough training in international human rights standards.

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA), established in 1989, comprises five members who investigate complaints against police officers. However, most members are also members of the criminal justice system, and the PCA is not truly independent.

The PCA received 69 complaints during the year (compared with 45 in 1999), completed investigation of 27 of them, and sent them to the Police Commissioner for action. There is no information publicly available on the status of these investigations. The PCA has not submitted an annual report since 1995.

Even when police officers do face charges, lower magistrate courts, where other specially trained police officers serve as the prosecutors, hear most of the cases. Human rights activists have questioned officers' commitment to prosecuting their colleagues.

In response to the growing number of complaints against the police, the police established the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) in 1997. During the year, the OPR received 150 cases; it completed action on 97 of them and was awaiting instructions from the DPP on 27 cases. Since its inception, at least 99 cases have resulted in some type of disciplinary action being taken against police officers.

On the question of disappearance, the document said there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.