Guyana and UK sign prisoner transfer pact By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
April 6, 2002

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Guyana and the United Kingdom yesterday signed a prisoner transfer agreement to allow persons sentenced in the two states to serve their sentences in their home country.

It is estimated that some 30 Guyanese are serving sentences in British jails, while only three British citizens are serving sentences in local prisons.

Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, signed the agreement on behalf of the Guyana government, while Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Baroness Valerie Amos, signed on behalf of the United Kingdom. The signing ceremony took place in the FCO office, which it had set up at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel.

While the agreement does not make provision for prisoners on death row, Amos said that the British Government was opposed to the death sentence and would do all within its power to seek clemency for British nationals given the death sentence in the Caribbean or other countries where capital punishment was in effect. The death sentence is still in effect in Guyana.

A statement outlining the purpose of the agreement also said that it was intended to encourage the social rehabilitation of prisoners by giving them the opportunity to complete their sentences in their own country.

According to the agreement, prisoners who wish to serve their sentences in their home country may express their interest to either one of the state parties under the agreement. It also said that "transfer may be required by either the transferring or the receiving state."

Certain criteria have to be met in order for a transfer to take place and these are:

* The prisoner must be a national of the receiving state;

* A final judgement must have been entered against the prisoner - no other legal proceedings must be pending in the transferring state;

* The prisoner must have at least six months remaining on his or her sentence at the time of the receipt of the request for transfer;

* The prisoner consents to the transfer in full knowledge of the consequences, or where one of the parties considers it necessary having regard to his/her age or physical/mental state, his/her legal representative does so on his/her behalf;

* The acts/omissions for which the prisoner has been sentenced are criminal offences under the law of the receiving state or would be a crime if committed in the receiving state;

* Both the receiving and the transferring state agree to the transfer.

For the agreement to become operational, too, information concerning the prisoner's offence, sentence, judgement, proof of nationality, the relevant law of the transferring state and if necessary, a medical or social report on the prisoner must be provided and requests for transfers and replies must be made through diplomatic channels.

Responsibility for the continued enforcement of the sentence becomes the responsibility of the receiving state when the prisoner is formally handed over on the territory of the receiving state.

The transferring state may also request a special report and will be notified when the sentence has been completed or if the prisoner has escaped from custody prior to the completion of the sentence. Either party may grant a pardon or amnesty or commute the prisoner's sentence. The receiving state will bear the costs incurred under the agreement except those incurred in the transferring state.

Guyana joins Barbados, Brazil and Suriname which have signed similar prisoner transfer agreements with the United Kingdom.

At an earlier press briefing, Amos had told reporters that the United Kingdom was in discussions with other countries in relation to prisoner transfer agreements. Noting that Jamaica alone accounted for 2,000 of the some 2,500 prisoners from the Caribbean in United Kingdom jails, Amos said that the prisoner exchange was not to be implemented on a one-to-one basis neither did it represent "a mass influx of prisoners" from one country to another. She said that the prisoner transfer agreement resulted from a demand by prisoners themselves who have asked over the years if they could serve their sentences in their home country, particularly because they want to be close to their family and can receive visits. Cultural ties, too, she said was another factor.

She added that "there is absolutely no way, that if we reached an agreement with a country, we can simply send people back to a country. It simply does not work like that."

The agreement was concluded on the sidelines of the third Caribbean/UK forum which ended at Le Meridien Pegasus yesterday.