Guyana joins initiative that supports development of human rights programs in the Caribbean, Latin America

Joint Press Release
July 27, 2023

During a bilateral meeting today between Brigadier Omar Khan, Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Chief of Staff, and U.S. Army General Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the two leaders signed the Human Rights Framework committing their organizations to “human rights engagement, cooperation and integration.”

With the signing of the Framework, Guyana became the thirteenth nation to join SOUTHCOM’s Human Rights Initiative (HRI), which marked its 25th anniversary in December with a commemorative event hosted by the command and attended by more than 100 representatives from Western Hemisphere militaries, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academia.

Rooted in SOUTHCOM efforts to promote a culture of respect for human rights in the early ‘90s, the HRI was established in 1997 to bring together military, public security, government, and civil society representatives from across the hemisphere with the aim of developing comprehensive and effective human rights programs for defense and security forces that focused on four crucial areas:  doctrine, education and training, internal control systems, and cooperation with civilian authorities.

In 2002, with input from more than 30 democratic countries and human rights experts from academia, as well as international and non-government organizations (NGOs), the HRI contributed to the development of a Consensus Document on human rights that currently serves as a human rights model. Under the Human Rights Framework and through membership in the HRI, the GDF formalizes its intent to implement the Consensus Document with support from SOUTHCOM’s Human Rights Office.

Human Rights has always been a pillar of the Guyana Defence Force’s operational and administrative mandate and is reflected in its values and standards. The opportunity to sign on to the regional initiative demonstrates the GDF’s commitment to the principles and promotion of human rights.  The GDF continues to improve its awareness of and respect for human rights.

Through its Human Rights Office, SOUTHCOM has previously supported the efforts of 12 countries that committed to implementing human rights programs in their defense or public security institutions, including the Dominican Republic, which established the first Latin American military school dedicated to human rights education, as well as Colombia and Peru, which also established military schools dedicated to human rights education and training.