Human Rights Committee reviews Guyana's human rights record amid delegation's pushback

Published on 02 Apr 2024, 12:37 PM

Human Rights Committee reviews Guyana in a tense climate given the delegation’s questioning the veracity of the Committee information

On 18, 19 and 20 March 2024, the Human Rights Committee reviewed the third periodic report of Guyana. The dialogue was changed to online format at the last moment following the request of Guyana. During the three days of exchanges with the Committee, all the interventions were made by the head of the delegation, Ms. Gail Teixeira, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance.

Guyana’s recent developments are largely marked by the discovery of oil reserves off its coast by the company ExxonMobil in 2015. Guyana was one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere until 2016, and so multiple Committee members asked about measures taken to distribute the new and upcoming wealth among the local population and tackle poverty.

The climate of the dialogue was quite tense, with the delegation repeatedly asserting that Guyana was a very small country with an incredible recent progress and stating that the Committee's questions were based on exaggerations or inaccurate information, particularly those regarding corruption allegations towards the Vice President. The responses were quite limited, with frequent complaints about the excessive amount of questions asked. Moreover, the dialogue ended abruptly during the closing statements of the delegation, since it went well over time and interpreters had to stop.

Important matters discussed during the dialogue included the territorial dispute with Venezuela over the Essequibo region controlled by Guyana, which is currently a case in the International Court of Justice, discrimination and ill-treatment of Haitian migrants, the independence of the judiciary and violence against women.

Environmental impact of oil exploitation and corruption allegations

The vast influence of the oil discoveries in Guyana since 2015 marked most of the issues discussed during the dialogue. The environmental impacts of oil exploitation on local communities and industries, such as fishing, were of particular concern for the Committee, and it asked about measures to ensure relevant communities were consulted. There were also allegations of corruption against ExxonMobil Guyana following the granting of a license by the Government to exploit oil fields.

Guyana replied that its Environmental Protection Agency was imposing increased fines for flaring (the burning of the natural gas associated with oil extraction) to ExxonMobil and that they were not aware of allegations of preferential treatment for the oil company. Moreover, the World Bank was providing a $20 million loan assistance to the Environmental Protection Agency Act to strengthen its regulatory framework, including in the oil and gas sector. Allegations regarding the lack of consultation with relevant communities on the impact of oil extractions were said to be untrue.

Treatment of LGBTQI+ community

Another key issue was the treatment of LGBTQI+ individuals. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is not prohibited in the Constitution of Guyana and consensual same sex relations are criminalized by criminal law. There are also allegations of ill treatment of transgender people in police custody and in prisons. Very few cases of discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals were presented to the police and there were no outcomes from the investigations in those few ones anyways.

To this, the delegation replied they are drafting an amendment to the Prevention of Discrimination Act of 1997 to include the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as disability. In addition, the religious community of Guyana is opposed to removing the criminalization of same sex relations. As for the discrimination allegations to the police, the delegation mentioned it could not investigate or provide information on issues that were not reported.

Media independence and threats against journalists and activities

The Committee was also concerned with freedom of expression in Guyana given that Guyanese media is very politicized and more than 90% of mass media is controlled by the State or owned by Indo-Guyanese who support the Government. Moreover, journalists, activists, and human rights defenders have been targets of harassment and spyware by the government. The Committee thus asked about measures taken to ensure the opposition voices were not censored, to investigate reports of harassment of journalists, and to decriminalize defamation.

In response, the delegation said that only one television station and one newspaper were owned and operated by the State and that most of the media was privately owned, which was free to be critical of the Government. Moreover, the instances of harassment of the press mentioned were related to the previous Government.


Watch again the dialogue with the Committee here (part one), here (part two) and here (part three).

Recommendations of the Human Rights Committee

Concluding observations on Guyana's third periodic report were released on March 28, 2024. The State party is requested to provide, by March 29, 2027, information on the following recommendations:

Constitutional and legal framework within which the Covenant is implemented

The State party should strengthen its efforts, including through the constitutional review process, to ensure the compatibility of its statutory and customary law with the Covenant. It should consider reviewing Article 154 (A) (2) and (6) of the current Constitution to ensure that rights protected by the Covenant are restricted only as permitted thereunder. The State party should fully incorporate the provisions of the Covenant in domestic legislation. The State party should implement a thorough, accessible, and regularly updated program of specialized training on the Covenant for judges, prosecutors, and lawyers to ensure that they apply and interpret domestic law in the light of the Covenant. It should also raise awareness of the Covenant among all actors responsible for the implementation of the Covenant, as well as for the general public.

Access to justice, independence of the judiciary, and fair trial

The State party should take all measures necessary to reform the justice system, to this end, it should:

(a) Take measures necessary to safeguard the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, including by ensuring that the procedures for the selection, appointment, promotion, sanction, and removal of judges are transparent and impartial and comply with the Covenant and relevant international standards, including the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary;

(b) Adopt a comprehensive strategy to address the backlog of cases throughout the judiciary, particularly criminal cases, and ensure the right to a fair trial without undue delay, in accordance with article 14 of the Covenant and the Committee’s general comment No. 32 (2007) on the right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial;

(c) Expand the provision of free legal aid by strengthening the financial and human capacity of the Legal Aid Centres, to facilitate access to justice for all, including to those living in rural areas and to indigenous communities.

Right of Indigenous Peoples

The State party should expedite revisions of the Amerindian Act 2006 to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples to occupy, own, use, and develop their traditional lands, territories, and resources are fully respected, and that the revised provisions are effectively applied in practice. The State party should expedite the demarcation and titling of the collective lands of indigenous peoples, including by improving the accessibility and efficiency of the title granting process for Amerindian communities. The State party should ensure that the necessary participation and consultations are held with indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior, and informed consent before the adoption of any legislation, policy or project affecting their lands or territories and other resources.


Here you can find all the recommendations given by the Committee in the Concluding Observations.

The follow-up report of Guyana on the implementation of recommendations is due in 2027. The next list of issues will be adopted in 2030, and the next periodic report is due in 2031.

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