Public dialogue soon on capital punishment, decriminalization of gay sex -Luncheon

Guyana will soon be holding public consultations on corporal punishment, capital punishment and the decriminalization of gay sex in keeping with the country’s commitment at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2010, according to Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon.

Speaking at his weekly press conference at the Office of the President, Dr Luncheon said that among the more important highlights in Guyana’s submissions in 2010 were the pledges to hold consultations on corporal punishment, capital punishment and decriminalizing same sex unions.

The Universal Periodic Review was attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and Presidential Advisor on Empowerment Gail Teixeira.

Although Guyana had given those pledges since 2010 the consultations would only be held this year and the outcome would be reported to the UN by this yearend.

Asked why it took so long to commence the consultations, Dr Luncheon said that the three issues are the kinds of matters that one would deal with “within an extremely elaborate and well thought out way.”

He said Guyana has about nine months to hold the consultations and he believes that the country can provide to everyone’s satisfaction “a pretty reasonable national effort at defining where we stand on these issues.”

Dr Luncheon was also asked why there has been a freeze in the hanging of persons who are on death row with the last execution being in 1999 and he said that  since the commitment was made to the UN in 2010 it would not have been right to continue to hang persons.

“Maybe if I am forced to answer…I would say…we left the UPR in 2010 with the commitment to consult on the matter and if I am boxed in to offering some defence of the delay in implementing the laws of Guyana which provides for capital punishment…I would want to believe were we to continue hanging whilst we continue promising to consult on the matter, then the old people would say it is a done case,” Luncheon said.

Thirty-two men are believed to be on death row awaiting executions.

Luncheon said on the three issues cabinet adopted the recommendations from the sub-committee on governance, calling for public consultations organized by Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee and Teixeira respectively.

It was a split cabinet which approved the consultation on capital punishment as it was pointed out that legislative intervention during the previous administration had rejected abolition of the death penalty in favour of offering other penalties for defined categories of murder and it was in that context Rohee was asked to conduct the consultations on the subject.

“That was the one recommendation offered by the cabinet sub-committee that considered the matter, that enjoyed the support of cabinet,” Luncheon said on the decriminalization of gay sex.

Guyana’s submission to the UPR in 2010 had come under some flak from the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) which had argued that the country’s report did not benefit from consultations and was contemptuous of the council and civil society here.

GHRA had said that the Guyana Report reflected contempt for both the Human Rights Council and for Guyanese civil society.

Also Teixeira was considered to have provided a misleading answer to the UN council in relation to compensation for the 15-year-old boy who was tortured by police in October 2009.

Her answer was recorded and when questioned by Stabroek News on the issue she had denied that she had implied that the boy was compensated.

In answer to concerns raised by Canadian Ambassador Jeffrey Heaton, Teixeira had said, “The young man (Twyon) Thomas, a most tragic event. It has been openly investigated and the perpetrators have been brought to the court and have been charged and also compensation and counseling and medical treatment for the patient.” Her answer implied that there was compensation for Thomas when there hasn’t been any.

“I know what I said and I didn’t say he was compensated,” she said, adding that “there is a fault somewhere” in the webcast viewed by this newspaper, Teixeira had said when contacted by Stabroek News.

Thomas is still to be compensated even though the court has awarded him a sum, but he never attended court resulting in the matters against the alleged perpetrators being dismissed and he has not been seen since.

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