Remarks as delivered
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
Human Rights Training for Police, Prosecutors, and Judges
February 25, 2022
Honorable Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonnette Cummings,
Madam Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire,
Director of Public Prosecutions Shalimar Ali-Hack
GPF Senior Superintendent Ewart Wray,
Director Blaha and Department of State colleagues,
Police, Prosecutors, and Judges,
Good morning. I am pleased to open today’s training session on the Department of State Leahy Law that governs U.S. foreign assistance to security forces. The Leahy law, based on the U.S. commitment both to international security assistance and human rights, is a key element of our foreign policy. It is linked to the strongly-rooted values that the United States seeks to promote with our international partners.
Today’s virtual session is entitled Leahy Vetting: Law, Policy, and Process. Before I explain that title, it is important to provide some context to today’s engagement. First and foremost, as President Ali and I have discussed numerous times, the United States and Guyana have a strong security partnership. That means the United States is committed to assisting Guyanese security forces by providing them proper training and equipment, to ensure the security forces maintain the highest levels of professionalism. This keeps Guyana safe, and a safe Guyana means the Caribbean and the hemisphere are safer.
The United States provides different kinds of training and assistance. In recent years, this included training on improving evidence collection for street crimes, to put criminals behind bars; computer equipment for border security; training on how to detect forged documents; and training and equipment to combat narcotics trafficking and enhance port security. Every year, the United States sends law enforcement officers from Guyana and across the hemisphere to our International Law Enforcement Academy in El Salvador for in-depth training to learn new skills. We want to continue to partner with you to provide that training.
Guiding our provision of security training and assistance in Guyana and around the world is a commitment to human rights. As we seek to help Guyana and other countries be more secure, we are also committed to ensuring they do so in a way that upholds human life and dignity. This is enshrined in two provisions of U.S. law, called the Leahy law, named after Senator Patrick Leahy, the principal sponsor of these provisions. They prohibit training and assistance to units of security forces that have committed what are termed “gross violations of human rights.”
My colleagues from the U.S. Department of State will present today about the law, the definitions of gross violations of human rights, what that means for security forces, and how units that have perpetrated these violations have to comply with regulations and provide specific information if they wish to once again receive assistance.
Before I turn to them to present, I want to impress how human rights violations make it difficult for the United States to provide security training and assistance.
During my nearly three years in Guyana I have spoken with numerous prosecutors and judges, and met police officers in all ten regions. We are currently working with the judiciary on a project to address backlogs and make the justice system more efficient. I know the work you do is important, and it is also difficult. We want to provide skills and training to help you do your jobs.
Unfortunately, we have found numerous occasions where members of a police unit have committed human rights violations, they have not been charged or convicted for their crimes, and that means we are unable to approve candidates of those units to receive any sort of U.S.-supported training. And that is why we wanted to give today’s presentation about how we can improve our cooperation and assistance. We want to raise awareness of how to avoid these violations in the first place, and to lay out the steps on how to re-start assistance if these violations do unfortunately occur.
I know there are participants today at all different points in their careers. Many of you will, in the future, be leaders of the Guyanese police, prosecutor’s office, and judiciary. The United States wants to see you and the Guyanese law enforcement and criminal justice system succeed in fulfilling your mission, which is to serve all citizens and communities of Guyana in a professional, pro-active and accountable manner.
I hope you find today’s training useful and instructive, and thank you for being here.