international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
Murder and treason are capital crimes.
In 2010, Guyana’s Parliament voted to partially abolish the mandatory death penalty for people convicted of murder.
However, the death penalty remains mandatory for certain categories of murder that include the killing of a law enforcement official while on duty, prison officers, members of the judiciary and legal officers, witnesses, as well as jurors, while in the execution of their duties.
On 30 December 2015, the parliament approved legislation that provides for the mandatory death penalty for acts of terrorism resulting in death.
Guyana, which is a member State of the Commonwealth, since 1970 “severed its ties” with the Judicial Committee of the London-based Privy Council. In 2001, Guyana was one of eleven States to ratify an agreement to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the Privy Council as the final court of appeal in the region. The Caribbean Court of Justice was inaugurated in Trinidad on 16 April 2005, and Guyana is one of the States that have already decided to switch to its jurisdiction.
The last execution was actually a double-hanging in August 1997, when Mike Archer and Peter Adams were put to death for a fatal robbery attempt.
In 2016, one death sentence was handed down and 23 people were on death row at the end of the year, according to the government.
On 20 June 2016, President David Granger, speaking on his weekly televised programme “The Public Interest”, has made clear his position on the death penalty issue in Guyana, noting that he has no intention of executing anyone. According to the President, the death penalty remains on the statute books but government is yet to pronounce on whether it will be abolished or not. “I don’t have any intentions of executing anyone. Some people feel that the death penalty is a deterrent; some feel that it is not, but I do not have any intentions of approving the execution of anyone”. He said some people think that, “it is best on the books as a last resort. There is a difference and there is no single statement out of the government whether it will abolish the death penalty or not. In due course, we will arrive at a position, but right, no. I agree there are two points of view”.
The War on Terror
On 30 December 2015, Guyana's parliament approved anti-terrorism legislation that provides for the mandatory death penalty for acts of terrorism resulting in death and would allow rendition of suspects to other countries.
Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan told skeptical opposition lawmakers that the legislation was necessary to make sure the nation does not become a haven for terrorists. “Draconian times require Draconian measures,” Ramjattan said during debate.
The ruling party used its one-seat majority to pass the bills, while all members of the opposition abstained, stating that the provisions allowing the death penalty for terrorism offenses would violate human rights.
Ramjattan brushed aside calls for removing the death penalty clauses, saying the option of capital punishment would “have that preventative, dissuasive effect” on potential offenders. United Nations
On 28 January 2015, Guyana was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. Regarding the abolition of the death penalty or the establishment of a moratorium raised by many delegations, the country’s delegation affirmed that, whilst having not reached the point of abolishing the death penalty, discussions were continuing. Guyana accepted the recommendations to consider taking all necessary steps to introduce a de jure moratorium on capital executions and continue advancing towards the abolition of the death penalty.
On 19 December 2016, Guyana voted again against the UNGA Resolution for a universal moratorium on capital executions.