UK, Australia, other countries urge Guyana to abolish death penalty

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Several foreign governments, including the United Kingdom and Australia, on Wednesday, urged Guyana to abolish the death penalty, but Guyana says that decision will have to be determined by the people in a constitutional reform process.

There are 16 persons on death row in Guyana – 14 males and two females.

On August 25, 1997, two men – Michael Archer and Peter Adams – were hanged to death at the Georgetown prisons. They were found guilty of murder during a robbery in Berbice.

They were the last to be executed under laws which provide for the death penalty.

Since then, successive governments have not used the death penalty but that moratorium has not been made formal.

On Wednesday, Guyana’s human rights record was up for review at what is called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

There, a host of nations urged Guyana to abolish the death penalty.

“It is regrettable that death sentences continue to be imposed; we urge the government to establish a formal moratorium on executions with a view to eventual abolition,” the representative of the United Kingdom stated.

Slovenia called on Guyana to consider acceding to or ratifying Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

The protocol is the only international treaty of worldwide scope to prohibit executions and to provide for the total abolition of the death penalty. It requires the States that ratify it to renounce the use of the death penalty definitively.

Paraguay made the same recommendation. Panama urged Guyana to consider commuting pending to death sentences to prison sentences.

Portugal recommended that the country amend Article 138 of the constitution, to allow for the abolition of the death penalty.

Guyana’s Ambassador John Deep Ford noted that while the death penalty is still in law, it has not been used for more than two decades.

“While the death penalty still exists in Guyana, Guyana is de facto abolitionist,” Ambassador Ford stated.

Ford noted that in recent times, there were consultations which confirmed that abolition is of great concern for all of Guyana.

“Thus, while the State is committed to fulfilling all its international obligations, it is compelled to engage in a participatory process,” Ford stated.

He said the government has indicated its willingness and preparedness to embark on a consultative process to ascertain the will of the people regarding abolition, this will be pursued as part of the Constitutional Reform Bill and the Law Reform Commission Act.

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