Country Listing

Guyana Table of Contents



The Guyanese judicial system consisted of the Supreme Court, which encompassed a Court of Appeal and a High Court, and ten magistrates' courts (see Judiciary , ch. 4). The Court of Appeal, created in June 1966, consisted of a presiding chancellor, the chief justice, and the number of justices of appeal determined by the National Assembly. The High Court consisted of the chief justice as president and several subordinate judges. Its jurisdiction was both original and appellate, and included criminal cases brought before it on indictment. A person convicted by the High Court had the option of resorting to the Court of Appeal. The High Court had unlimited jurisdiction over civil matters and exclusive jurisdiction over probate and divorce. Magistrates had the authority to decide small claims in civil suits and had original jurisdiction in criminal cases.

As a demonstration of PNC dominance over state institutions, the party's flag was flown over the Court of Appeal. This gesture undermined public confidence in the impartiality of the Guyanese judiciary.

Under the constitution of 1980, anyone charged with a criminal offense has the right to a hearing by a court of law, and in the early 1990s this right apparently was being respected. Guyana had a bail system, and defendants were granted public trials. Arrest did not require a warrant issued by a court; the presumption of guilt by a police officer was sufficient. The National Security Act, which had been widely used to detain political dissidents, was repealed in 1991. Although capital punishment was still permitted, no execution had taken place since the 1970s.

A report by the Guyana Human Rights Association indicated that in 1991, the country's three main prisons--at Georgetown, Mazaruni, near New Amsterdam, and at New Amsterdam--were overcrowded and in deteriorating condition. Mandatory sentences for narcotics offenses had resulted in a large increase in the inmate population without a corresponding expansion of facilities. The Guyana Human Rights Association claimed that malnutrition and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) were widespread in the nation's prisons.

Data as of January 1992