GEORGETOWN: The Guyana government has dismissed a United States report that has been critical of the country’s human rights record. President Donald Ramotar said the U.S. should be among the last countries to criticize Guyana as it has a less than stellar record when it comes to many human rights issues.
“We do have issues which we will continue to work on,” said Ramotar, making reference to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where hundreds of prisoners labelled as terrorists are held by the U.S. military.
Ramotar also spoke of the recent hunger strike by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and allegations of torture, such as waterboarding.
“That is something that we would never do here in Guyana,” he said.
In its report, entitled “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012,” the U.S .State Department said the most serious human rights abuses involved suspects’ and detainees’ complaints of mistreatment by security forces, unlawful killings by police and poor prison and jail conditions.
Other human rights problems included lengthy pretrial detention; allegations of government corruption, including among police officials; excessive government influence over the content of the national television network; sexual and domestic violence against women and abuse of minors.
The report says there were no independent and transparent procedures for handling allegations of killings and other abuses by security force members.
It says prosecutions, when pursued, were extremely lengthy and convictions were rare, “leading to a widespread perception that security force members enjoyed immunity”.
The report says prison and jail conditions were “poor and deteriorating, particularly in police holding cells” and that overcrowding was a “severe problem”.
In addition, the State Department says there were reports of corruption in the police force. It said in 2011, authorities charged and brought to court 39 Guyana Police Force members for various crimes, including robbery, simple larceny, bribery and indecent assault.
However, Ramotar said the U.S. was “no paragon of virtue” when it comes to its human rights record over the years.
“We do not like being lectured to by other countries,” he said.
Ramotar said Guyana deserves recognition for its efforts to improve the safety and security of society, making reference to the ongoing amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism legislation that will soon be returning to the Parliament.