Death Penalty Database

Guyana

Information current as of: April 1, 2011

General

Official Country Name

Co-operative Republic of Guyana (Guyana). [1]

Geographical Region

Latin America (South America). [2]

Death Penalty Law Status

Abolitionist de facto. [3]

Methods of Execution

Hanging. [4]

References

[1] BBC, Country Profiles: Guyana, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19546909, Mar. 13, 2019.
[2] U.N. Statistics Division, Standard country or area codes for statistical use (M49), https://unstats.un.org/unsd/methodology/m49/, last accessed Feb. 4, 2019.
[3] Amnesty Intl., Guyana Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review Eighth session of the UPR Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council May 2010, p. 3, AMR 35/001/2009, Nov. 9, 2009.
[4] Capital Punishment in the Commonwealth, http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/common.html, last accessed Mar. 13, 2019.

Country Details

Language(s)

English. [1] Other major languages are indigenous languages, Creole, Hindi, and Urdu. [2]

Population

773000 (February 2019 est.). [3]

Number of Individuals Currently Under Sentence of Death

As of November 2018, there were 17 people on death row in Guyana. [4]

(This question was last updated on March 13, 2019.)

Annual Number of Reported Executions

Executions in 2019 to date (last updated on April 17, 2019)

0. [5]

Executions in 2018

0. [6]

Executions in 2017

0. [7]

Executions in 2016

0. [8]

Executions in 2015

0. [9]

Executions in 2014

0. [10]

Executions in 2013

0. [11]

Executions in 2012

0. [12]

Executions in 2011

0. [13]

Executions in 2010

0. [14]

Executions in 2009

0. [15]

Executions in 2008

0. [16]

Executions in 2007

0. [17]

Year of Last Known Execution

1997. [18]

References

[1] BBC, Country Profiles: Guyana, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19546909, Mar. 13, 2019.
[2] BBC, Country Profiles: Guyana, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19546909, Mar. 13, 2019.
[3] BBC, Country Profiles: Guyana, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19546909, Mar. 13, 2019.
[4] The Death Penalty Project, Moving Away From the Death Penalty in Guyana, https://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/2018/11/13/moving-away-from-the-death-penalty-in-guyana/, Nov. 13, 2018.
[5] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[6] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions 2018, p. 13, 50/9870/2019, Apr. 10, 2019.
[7] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2017, p. 12, ACT 50/7955/2018, Apr. 12, 2018.
[8] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2016, p. 11, ACT 50/5740/2017, Apr. 11, 2017.
[9] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2015, p. 18, ACT 50/3487/2016, Apr. 6, 2016.
[10] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, p. 16, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015.
[11] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, p. 13, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, p. 14, ACT 50/001/2013, Apr. 10, 2013.
[13] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, p. 12, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 5, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[15] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, pp. 17–18, ACT 50/003/2009, Mar. 24, 2009.
[17] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2007, p. 8, ACT 50/001/2008, Apr. 15, 2008.
[18] Amnesty Intl., Guyana Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review Eighth session of the UPR Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council May 2010, p. 3, AMR 35/001/2009, Nov. 9, 2009.

Crimes and Offenders Punishable By Death

Crimes Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder.
A person convicted of the murder of any person acting in the execution of his/her duties under the provision of any law—including members of security forces, prison officers, and legal officers—is liable to receive a death sentence. [1] The targeted killing of a witness, party, or juror in a pending judicial case might carry the death penalty. [2] Any intentional killing committed in the course of robbery, burglary, arson, or sexual offenses might also carry the death penalty. [3] A contracted killing for money or other value attracts capital punishment. [4] Any murder committed in the course of any act of violence, which is calculated to create a state of fear in the public might carry a death sentence. [5] Pursuant to the Hijacking and Piracy Act of 2008, a person who intentionally kills a person on board a vessel that is under attack while committing the offense of armed robbery, piracy, or hijacking is liable to suffer death. [6]

Other Offenses Resulting in Death.
Supplying, administering to, or causing a child or a young person [7] to take drugs, resulting in death, is punishable by death as felony murder. [8]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
A person convicted of a terrorist act that results in death will be punished by death. [9] A terrorist act is defined as an act that causes or is likely to cause loss of human life, serious bodily harm, damage of property, prejudice to national security, or disruption to public safety, and is intended to compel a government to do or refrain from doing any act or to intimidate the public with the purpose of advancing a cause. [10]

Drug Trafficking Resulting in Death.
Supplying, administering to, or causing a child or a young person [11] to take drugs, resulting in death, is punishable by death as felony murder. [12]

Treason.
Any person who aims to overthrow the government or the constitution by force and manifests such intention by an overt act, or aids enemies of the state, shall be guilty of treason and liable to a death sentence. [13]

Military Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
Abandoning one's post to assist the enemy, imperiling operations, serving the enemy if taken prisoner, furnishing the enemy with arms or ammunition, harboring the enemy, committing espionage or mutiny in relation to the enemy is punishable by death or any other sentence. Additional treasonable offenses may be punishable by death. [14]

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

Yes. In 2015, the Parliament of Guyana adopted the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist-Related Activities Act 2015 that prescribes the mandatory death penalty for terrorist acts resulting in death. [15] This act came into force on January 6, 2016. [16]

In October 2010, the Parliament of Guyana amended the Criminal Law (Offences) Act, abolishing the mandatory death penalty for murder. [17]

(This question was last updated on March 13, 2019.)

For Which Offenses, If Any, Is a Mandatory Death Sentence Imposed?

Treason.
Any person who aims to overthrow the government or the constitution by force and manifests such intention by an overt act, or aids enemies of the state, shall be guilty of treason and liable to a death sentence. [18]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
A person convicted of a terrorist act that results in death will be punished by death. [19] A terrorist act is defined as an act that causes or is likely to cause loss of human life, serious bodily harm, damage of property, prejudice to national security, or disruption to public safety, and is intended to compel a government to do or refrain from doing any act or to intimidate the public with the purpose of advancing a cause. [20]

Comments.
Pursuant to the Hijacking and Piracy Act of 2008, anyone who kills a person on board a vessel that is under attack while committing the offense of armed robbery, piracy, or hijacking is liable to suffer death. [21] The law does not provide alternative punishments for this offense so we conclude the death sentence is mandatory. [22]

Crimes For Which Individuals Have Been Executed Since January 2008:

Guyana has not carried out executions since 1997. [23]

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty:

Individuals Below Age 18 At Time of Crime. [24]
In addition to prohibiting execution of juveniles in domestic law, Guyana is a signatory and party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the ICCPR, both of which prohibit the execution of juveniles. [25]

Pregnant Women. [26]
In addition to prohibiting execution of pregnant women in domestic law, Guyana is a signatory and party to the ICCPR, which prohibits the execution of pregnant women. [27]

Mentally Ill. [28]
A person who was insane “so as not to be responsible, according to the law, for his actions at the time the act was done or the omission was made” is detained as a lunatic. A court may not issue a verdict on a person who is incompetent to stand trial.

References

[1] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, secs. 100(1)(a), 100(4), 100A(1)(a), Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010.
[2] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, secs. 100(1)(b), 100A(1)(a), Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010.
[3] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, secs. 100(1)(c), 100A(1)(a), Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010.
[4] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, secs. 100(1)(d), 100A(1)(a), Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010.
[5] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, secs. 100(1)(e), 100A(1)(a), Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010.
[6] Hijacking and Piracy Act of Guyana, sec. 7, ch. 10:08, Act No. 8 of 2008, as updated through to 2012.
[7] A young person someone who has attained the age of 14 but not the age of 18. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act of Guyana, sec. 6, Laws of Guyana ch. 35:11, Mar. 1998.
[8] Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act of Guyana, sec. 6, Laws of Guyana ch. 35:11, Mar. 1998.
[9] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, sec. 309A, Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010. Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist-Related Activities Act of Guyana, sec. 3(1)(a), Act No. 15 of 2015, Jan. 6, 2015.
[10] Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist-Related Activities Act of Guyana, sec. 2, Act No. 15 of 2015, Jan. 6, 2015.
[11] A young person someone who has attained the age of 14 but not the age of 18. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act of Guyana, sec. 6, Laws of Guyana ch. 35:11, Mar. 1998.
[12] Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act of Guyana, sec. 6, Laws of Guyana ch. 35:11, Mar. 1998.
[13] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, sec. 317, Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010.
[14] Defence Act of Guyana of 1966, arts. 33(1), 34(1), 41(1), 42(i), 76(3)(a), Laws of Guyana, Ch. 15:01, Rev. Ed.
[15] Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist-Related Activities Act of Guyana, sec. 3(1)(a), Act No. 15 of 2015, Jan. 6, 2015. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2015, p. 18, ACT 50/3487/2016, Apr. 6, 2016.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2015, p. 18, ACT 50/3487/2016, Apr. 6, 2016.
[17] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, secs. 100, 100(A), Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[18] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, sec. 317, Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010.
[19] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, sec. 309A, Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010. Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist-Related Activities Act of Guyana, sec. 3(1)(a), Act No. 15 of 2015, Jan. 6, 2015.
[20] Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist-Related Activities Act of Guyana, sec. 2, Act No. 15 of 2015, Jan. 6, 2015.
[21] Hijacking and Piracy Act of Guyana, sec. 7, ch. 10:08, Act No. 8 of 2008, as updated through to 2012.
[22] Hijacking and Piracy Act of Guyana, sec. 7, ch. 10:08, Act No. 8 of 2008, as updated through to 2012.
[23] The Death Penalty Project, Moving Away From the Death Penalty in Guyana, https://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/2018/11/13/moving-away-from-the-death-penalty-in-guyana/, Nov. 13, 2018.
[24] Criminal Law (Procedure) Act of Guyana, sec. 164, Laws of Guyana ch. 10:01, Mar. 1998.
[25] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3, Nov. 20, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11&chapter=4?=en, last accessed August 12, 2010; Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[26] Criminal Law (Procedure) Act of Guyana, sec. 167, Laws of Guyana ch. 10:01, Mar. 1998.
[27] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[28] Criminal Law (Procedure) Act of Guyana, secs. 178-180, Laws of Guyana ch. 10:01, Mar. 1998.

International Commitments

ICCPR

Party?

Yes. [1]

Date of Accession

February 15, 1977. [2]

Signed?

Yes. [3]

Date of Signature

August 22, 1968. [4]

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

Party?

Yes. [5]

Date of Accession

January 5, 1999. [6] Guyana initially acceded to the Optional Protocol on May 10, 1993. However, on January 5, 1999, Guyana denounced and re-acceded to the Optional Protocol with the reservation that the Human Rights Committee would not have competency under Article 6 to consider communications from death-sentenced individuals. Multiple nations protested this action as improper and undermining the purpose of the Optional Protocol. [7]

Signed?

No. [8]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

Party?

No. [9]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [10]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

American Convention on Human Rights

Party?

No. [11]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [12]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

Party?

No. [13]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [14]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [15]

Vote

Against. [16]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [17]

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [18]

Vote

Against. [19]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [20]

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [21]

Vote

Against. [22]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [23]

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [24]

Vote

Against. [25]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [26]

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [27]

Vote

Against. [28]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [29]

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [30]

Vote

Against. [31]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes. [32]

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[2] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[3] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[4] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[5] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[6] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[7] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[8] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[9] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[10] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[11] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[12] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[13] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, A-53: Prot. to the Amer. Conv. on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, Jun. 8, 1990, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic8.death%20penalty%20ratif.htm, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[14] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, A-53: Prot. to the Amer. Conv. on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, Jun. 8, 1990, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic8.death%20penalty%20ratif.htm, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[15] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[16] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[17] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Note Verbale dated 7 September 2017, U.N. Doc. A/71/1047, Sep. 13, 2017.
[18] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 141, 144, U.N. Doc. A/69/488/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2014.
[19] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, 73rd Plenary Meeting, pp. 17-18, U.N. Doc. A/69/PV.73, Dec. 18, 2014.
[20] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Note Verbale dated 28 July 2015, U.N. Doc. A/69/993, Jul. 29, 2015.
[21] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 95-96, U.N. Doc. A/67/457/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2012.
[22] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[23] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[24] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, p. 5, U.N. Doc. A/65/456/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2010.
[25] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010.
[26] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Note Verbale dated 11 March 2011, U.N. Doc. A/65/779, Mar. 11, 2011.
[27] U.N.G.A., 63rd session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/63/430/Add.2, Dec. 4, 2008.
[28] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008.
[29] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Note Verbale dated 10 February 2009, U.N. Doc. A/63/716, Feb. 12, 2009.
[30] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/62/439/Add.2, Dec. 5, 2007.
[31] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007.
[32] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Note Verbale dated 11 January 2008, U.N. Doc. A/62/658, Feb. 2, 2008.

Death Penalty In Law

Does the country’s constitution make reference to capital punishment?

Yes. The Constitution states that “no person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of an offense under the law of Guyana of which he has been convicted.” Articles 188-190 describe the clemency process for death-sentenced prisoners, and other articles restrict the political rights of those sentenced to death. [1]

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

No. [2]

Have there been any significant changes in the application of the death penalty over the last several years?

In October 2010, the Parliament of Guyana amended the Criminal Law (Offences) Act abolishing the mandatory death penalty for murder. [3] Nevertheless, in 2015, the Parliament of Guyana adopted the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist-Related Activities Act 2015 that prescribes the mandatory death penalty for terrorist acts resulting in death. [4] This act came into force on January 6, 2016. [5] In 2008, Guyana passed the Hijacking and Piracy Bill, extending the application of the death penalty to murder in the course of piracy, hijacking, or armed robbery. [6]

(This question was last updated on March 13, 2019.)

Is there currently an official moratorium on executions within the country?

Although Guyana has not carried out executions since 1997, there is no official moratorium. [7]

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

National court decisions are not readily available online.

Where can one locate or access judicial decisions regarding the death penalty?

National court decisions are not readily available online. Guyana’s final court of appeal is the Caribbean Court of Justice, which publishes judgments at http://www.eccourts.org/judgments.html.

What is the clemency process?

Prior to the execution of any sentence of death, a President-appointed Minister obtains a written report from the trial judge and other information and submits them to the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy. The Advisory Council advises the Minister, who makes his own determination and offers his opinion to the President. After consulting with the Minister, the President determines whether to pardon the offender or reduce or stay the sentence. A similar process, using a different Minister, applies for sentences of death issued by courts martial. [8]

Are jury trials provided for defendants charged with capital offenses?

Yes. Jury trials for capital cases are provided, with juries having to return a unanimous verdict to sentence the defendant to death. [9] In the case of Lloyd Mc Leod, the judge was reported to usurp the role of the jury by removing the issue of provocation (the possibility of a manslaughter conviction) from the jury. [10]

Brief Description of Appellate Process

Individuals sentenced to death in the Guyana High Court may appeal to the Guyana Court of Appeal, then to the Caribbean Court of Justice. Execution is stayed during time afforded to file an appeal. [11]

References

[1] The Constitution of Guyana, arts. 40, 138, 155-156, 188-190, Act No. 2 of 1980, Feb. 20, 1980.
[2] The Constitution of Guyana, Act. No. 2 of 1980, Feb. 20, 1980.
[3] Criminal Law (Offences) Act of Guyana, secs. 100, 100(A), Laws of Guyana ch. 8:01, Mar. 1998, as updated through to 2010. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 15, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[4] Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist-Related Activities Act of Guyana, sec. 3(1)(a), Act No. 15 of 2015, Jan. 6, 2015. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2015, p. 18, ACT 50/3487/2016, Apr. 6, 2016.
[5] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2015, p. 18, ACT 50/3487/2016, Apr. 6, 2016.
[6] Associated Press, St. Kitts hangs man in rare execution, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28318631/, Dec. 20, 2008; Stabroek News, Parliament approves stiff penalties for piracy, http://www.stabroeknews.com/2008/stories/07/04/parliament-approves-stiff-penalties-for-piracy/, Jul. 4, 2008.
[7] The Death Penalty Project, Moving Away From the Death Penalty in Guyana, https://www.deathpenaltyproject.org/2018/11/13/moving-away-from-the-death-penalty-in-guyana/, Nov. 13, 2018. Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2017, p. 15, ACT 50/7955/2018, Apr. 12, 2018.
[8] The Constitution of Guyana, arts. 188-190, Act No. 2 of 1980, Feb. 20, 1980.
[9] Criminal Law (Procedure) Act of Guyana, sec. 159(a), Laws of Guyana ch. 10:01, Mar. 1998.
[10] George Barclay, Death Row McLeod to Know Fate on May 12, Guyana Chronicle, http://www.guyanachronicleonline.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9506:death-row-mc-leod-to-know-fate-on-may-12&catid=15:courts&Itemid=14, Feb. 12, 2010.
[11] Amnesty Intl., 2006 Annual Report for Guyana, http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=ar&yr=2006&c=GUY, last accessed Feb. 21, 2010; Court of Appeal Act of Guyana, sec. 12, Laws of Guyana ch. 3:01, Mar. 1998; U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Guyana, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136115.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.

Death Penalty In Practice

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

Death-sentenced prisoners are incarcerated at Camp Street prison, located in Georgetown. [1]

Description of Prison Conditions

Prisons are overcrowded, unsanitary, and in deteriorated condition. [2] By law, death-sentenced prisoners are to be held in special cells in isolation and under continuous supervision. Death-sentenced inmates are allowed visits from family and friends only with written permission from the Director of Prisons. [3]

The U.S. State Department reports that prison officials frequently abuse prisoners, and in 2009, three prisoners died of neglect or prison official abuse. [4] Prison food and medical care is inadequate. [5] In 1996, death-sentenced inmate Ayube Khan applied “for argument of a constitutional motion to the effect that” he had been incarcerated in conditions constituting cruel and inhumane treatment. [6]

Are there any known foreign nationals currently under sentence of death?

As of May 29, 2010, no foreign nationals are known to be under the sentence of death. [7]

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

As of May 29, 2010, no foreign nationals are known to be under the sentence of death. [8]

Are there any known women currently under sentence of death?

Yes; Amnesty reported that two women were under the sentence of death at the end of 2005, [9] and there have been no reported executions since then. As of August 12, 2010, we have found no information indicating that additional women have been sentenced to death since 2005.

Are there any reports of individuals currently under sentence of death who may have been under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed?

Persons under 18 are not eligible for the death penalty under Guyanese law. [10]

Comments regarding the racial/ethnic composition on death row

We did not find information directly about the racial/ethnic composition of death row. There are reports of tensions between Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese groups regarding law enforcement, protection of the law and discriminatory policy. [11]

Are there lawyers available for indigent defendants facing capital trials?

Yes. However, defendants often do not have “prompt access” to counsel. [12] Guyana’s Justice Sector Reform Strategy lists increasing the speed with which indigent defendants have access to a lawyer as one of the government’s priorities. [13]

Are there lawyers available for indigent prisoners on appeal?

Yes. [14]

Comments on Quality of Legal Representation

In multiple decisions on individual communications filed with the Human Rights Committee, the HRC found violations of Article 14(3) (b), (c), (d) and (e) and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because the accused was deprived of his right to counsel when his lawyer was not present at all stages of the criminal proceedings (including preliminary hearings and appeals), thus depriving defendant of a fair trial and amounting to an arbitrary deprivation of life. For example, in the case of Abdool Saleem Yasseen v. the Republic of Guyana, Mr. Yasseen’s lawyer was not present at the first four days of his re-trial. [15] The reason for the lawyer’s absence is unclear.

Many defendants are not granted prompt access to counsel, [16] which may limit the quality of legal representation for defendants.

Other Comments on Criminal Justice System

Prosecutors were recently given the ability to appeal decisions to the Appellate Court, including jury acquittals where the defendant faces the mandatory death penalty; this law has the potential to extend prison stays of acquitted defendants for years. [17]

The Guyana Police Force reportedly use excessive force, even setting one 15-year-old boy on fire. [18] A report by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada indicates that in recent years police forces have made a practice of shooting to kill in operations to apprehend wanted persons, with killings by police outstripping the murder rate. [19]

References

[1] Government Information Agency, Government remains unshaken on its death penalty position, http://www.gina.gov.gy/archive/daily/b080110.html, Jan. 10, 2008; Guyana Observer News, Riot brewing at Camp Street jail following beating of prisoners, http://www.guyanaobservernews.org/content/view/179/1/, Mar. 9, 2009.
[2] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Guyana, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136115.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[3] Prison Act of Guyana, secs. 45, 46, Laws of Guyana ch. 11:01, Mar. 1998.
[4] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Guyana, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136115.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[5] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Guyana, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136115.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[6] Earl Bousquet, A Convict in Death Row has Won a Further Stay of Execution as his Lawyers try to Convince the Court Why he should not Hang for the Murder of a Young Man in 1989, Indo Caribbean World, http://www.guyana.org/GuyNews/icw2.htm, Feb. 1996; Kaieteur News, Woman Files Constitutional Motion on Behalf of Death Row Lover, http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2010/05/26/woman-files-constitutional-motion-on-behalf-of-death-row-lover/, May 26, 2010.
[7] Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, May 7, 2010.
[8] Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, May 7, 2010.
[9] Amnesty Intl., 2006 Annual Report for Guyana, http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=ar&yr=2006&c=GUY, last accessed Feb. 21, 2010.
[10] Criminal Law (Procedure) Act of Guyana, sec. 164, Laws of Guyana ch. 10:01, Mar. 1998.
[11] Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Guyana: Criminal violence and state response; state protection for witnesses of crime (2007- September 2009), http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4b20f041c.html, Oct. 8, 2010.
[12] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Guyana, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/ 136115.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[13] Government Information Agency, Guyana Justice Sector Reform Strategy 2006-2010, p. 5, available at http://gina.gov.gy/justicreform/Guyana%20JSRS%20revised%20June%202006c.pdf, 2006.
[14] Court of Appeal Act of Guyana, sec. 22, Laws of Guyana ch. 3:01, Mar. 1998.
[15] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 676/1996, para. 2.9, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/62/D/676/1996, Mar. 31, 1998.
[16] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Guyana, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136115.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[17] Associated Press, Guyana Prosecutors Now Allowed to Appeal Verdicts, http://caribbeancourtofjustice.blogspot.com/search/label/Guyana, Mar. 20, 2010.
[18] Amnesty Intl., Guyana Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review Eighth session of the UPR Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council May 2010, pp. 3-4, AMR 35/001/2009, Nov. 9, 2009.
[19] Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Guyana: Criminal violence and state response; state protection for witnesses of crime (2007- September 2009), http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4b20f041c.html, Oct. 8, 2010.

Decisions of International Human Rights Bodies

Decisions of Human Rights Committee

In multiple decisions on individual communications filed with the Human Rights Committee, the HRC found violations of Article 14(3) (b), (c), (d) and (e) and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because the accused was deprived of his right to counsel when his lawyer was not present at all stages of the criminal proceedings (including preliminary hearings and appeals), thus depriving the defendant of a fair trial and amounting to an arbitrary deprivation of life. In one case, the HRC found that Guyana failed to consider exculpatory evidence. [1] Additionally, the HRC found unreasonable delays of up to four years in violation of Articles 14(3)(c) and 9(3), the denial of a speedy trial unlawfully infringing defendant’s right to liberty. [2]

The HRC has found prison conditions in violation of the Article 10(1) right of prisoners to be treated humanely and with dignity. [3] The HRC has ruled multiple times (most recently in 2006) that the mandatory death penalty in Guyana amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life in contravention of Article 6 of the Convention. [4]

The human rights violations found in the aforementioned cases have not been fully addressed by Guyana, where lengthy pre-trial detention and inhuman conditions of detention are the norm and post-acquittal detention is now possible. [5] In 1999, Guyana revoked its recognition of the competency of the Human Rights Committee to consider communications addressing death penalty-related issues, [6] and there is no indication that Guyana has addressed the 2006 decision of the HRC (properly issued on a communication filed prior to 1999) that the mandatory death penalty violates the Convention.

In its 2000 Concluding Observations following Guyana's Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern that Guyana did not protect the right to a fair trial when imposing the death penalty, expressed concern over Guyana’s failure to remedy human rights violations addressed in earlier Committee decisions, expressed concern over pervasive police brutality including extrajudicial killings, and recommended that Guyana institute procedural safeguards for those accused of capital crimes and abolish the death penalty. [7]

Decisions of Other Human Rights Bodies

In the Human Rights Council’s 2010 Universal Periodic Review of Guyana, a number of nations supported Guyana’s de facto moratorium on executions and urged Guyana to abolish the death penalty. [8]

References

[1] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 838/1998, para. 6.4, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/75/D/838/1998, 2002.
[2] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 676/1996, para. 7.12, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/62/D/676/1996, 1998.
[3] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 913/2000, para. 6.3, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/85/D/913/2000, 2005.
[4] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 838/1998, para. 6.3, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/75/D/838/1998, 2002.
[5] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 676/1996, para. 7.11, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/62/D/676/1996, May 7, 1998.
[6] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 728/1996, para. 9.2, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/73/D/728/1996, Dec. 21, 2001.
[7] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 676/1996, paras. 7.4, 7.6, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/62/D/676/1996, May 7, 1998.
[8] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 913/2000, para. 6.3, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/85/D/913/2000, 2005.
[9] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Commn. No. 812/1998, paras. 7.2, 8, 9, U.N. Doc CCPR/C/86/D/812/1998/Rev.1, May 16, 2006.
[10] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Guyana, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136115.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[11] Associated Press, Guyana Prosecutors Now Allowed to Appeal Verdicts, http://caribbeancourtofjustice.blogspot.com/search/label/Guyana, Mar. 20, 2010.
[12] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4?=en, last accessed Aug. 5, 2010.
[13] U.N. ICCPR, Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations: Guyana, paras. 7-10, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add.121, Apr. 25, 2000.
[14] Cite to be obtained after September 2010.

Additional Sources and Contacts

Direct member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

None.

Other non-governmental organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy surrounding the death penalty

None.

Helpful Reports and Publications

None.

Additional notes regarding this country

Though official executions are very infrequent, extrajudicial killings remain a problem, outstripping the murder rate in 2008. [1]

References

[1] Amnesty Intl., 2006 Annual Report for Guyana, http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=ar&yr=2006&c=GUY, last accessed Feb. 21, 2010; OHCHR, Information Compiled by Guyana Human Rights Association, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/docs/ngos/GHRA-dataPoliceBrutality.pdf, 2006; U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Guyana, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136115.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; U.S. Dept. of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Guyana, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/wha/119162.htm, Feb. 25, 2009.
[2] Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Guyana: Criminal violence and state response; state protection for witnesses of crime (2007- September 2009), http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4b20f041c.html, last accessed Oct. 8, 2010.

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