Press Release

IACHR condemns deadly repression of public protest in Guyana

August 3, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of three persons during the repression by security forces of a protest in Linden, Guyana. The IACHR calls on the State of Guyana to use force in strict conformity with its international obligations and the applicable international principles.

According to the information received, police officers fired live rounds at protesters in Linden, killing three men and injuring about 20 others. Authorities have announced that that Guyanese President Donald Ramotar is committed to forming an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the events.

The IACHR reminds the State of its obligation to conduct a judicial inquiry into the deaths of these persons and the acts of violence, sanction those responsible and repair the consequences. Furthermore, the Inter-American Commission reminds that it is necessary to adopt mechanisms to prevent excessive use of force on the part of public agents in marches and protest demonstrations. In this regard, the IACHR calls on the State to urgently adopt all necessary measures for the due protection of the protesters within the framework of respect of inter-American human rights standards.

The Commission notes that the rights to association, assembly, and freedom of expression are fundamental rights broadly guaranteed by the American Convention on Human Rights. Given the importance of these rights for the consolidation of democratic societies, the Commission has maintained that any restriction of these rights should be justified by an imperative social interest. In this sense, the Commission observes that the States may impose reasonable limitations on protests with the objective of ensuring that they are peacefully carried out, as well as to disperse those protests that turn violent, so long as such limits are governed by the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. As the actions of state agents must not discourage the rights to assembly, association and free expression, dispersion of a protest may only be justified under the duty to protect people. The security operations that are implemented in these contexts should contemplate those measures which are the safest and the least restrictive of the fundamental rights involved. The use of force in public demonstrations should be exceptional and strictly necessary in accordance with internationally recognized principles.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 99/12