UN Human Rights Committee, Guyana differ on if “credible” vs “verifiable and factual info” used to question govt

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2024, 22:28 by Denis Chabrol

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) and the Guyana government on Thursday remained at loggerheads over the basis for several questions about corruption and governance, with the UN body saying its sources were “credible” and the administration maintaining that it was more about what was “verifiable and factual.”

“We made it very clear with the delegation that when we ask questions, we use exactly the same methodology for all State parties to the government. It means that we prepare questions based on credible information, reliable resources that we received,” UNHRC member, Helene Tigroudja told a news conference.

The Guyana government had been confronted with several thorny questions about corruption, human rights and governance, press freedom, and the responsiveness of the Commissioner of Information.

She said the Committee also explained to the Guyana delegation that all the reports and information referred to in their dialogue were posted on the UNHRC website. Ms Tigroudja said States at times criticise the Committee but the methodology is “public and transparent”. “I can understand that the State is not happy with the way that we draft our questions but these questions reflect some concerns, serious concerns we have in terms of implementation of the Covenant (of Civil and Political Rights) by the State party,” she said.

While Ms Tigroudja said public information and public documents were, the Guyana government, in its “Comments on the Advanced Unedited Version of the Concluding Observations” told the Committee that it did not believe that the questions reached the desired threshold. “Therefore, the State party wishes to reiterate, as was said during the process of review, that merely assuming a source to be credible does not guarantee that the information being provided is verifiable and factual,” the Guyana government said. Guyana was also told that the Committee would use information from sources- UN bodies, academic and civil society; “we were assured these would be credible sources.”

Guyana, instead, listed “numerous sources of credible and verifiable information” which it said the UNHRC appeared to have ignored. They include Guyana’s many submissions over the last three years in response to UN rapporteurs and independent experts’ calls for information, the annual UNDP Human Development Index, reports from other UN agencies including UNFPA, UNICEF, the Inter-Parliamentary
Union, as well as the IMF Article 4 statements on Guyana, World Bank and IDB reports which refer to Guyana, as well as Guyana’s reports on its anti -corruption measures in its 2nd self-assessment to the UN Convention Against Corruption and Guyana’s report to the IACAC MESICIC in 2023 and 2024, and its reports to the EITI 2021 as well as Guyana’s 2023 Voluntary National Review Report to UN, all of which
are publicly posted on websites.

Vice President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo had previously claimed that the United States-nominated Committee member, Professor Laurence Helfer was “contaminated” by Guyanese opposition persons in New York. On Thursday, he remarked that “they are fed this nonsense from Norton.”

The UNHRC official, for her part, said the committee hearings were not about finger-pointing. “The interest of the dialogue is not to accuse any State and Guyana, here in this case, but it’s to bring the attention of the State to some of the information we received… and to give the delegation the opportunity to provide their feedback or to provide their replies,” she said.

Guyana expressed  its disappointment that serious allegations have been leveled by some Committee members , in particular, the naming of officials of the Government of Guyana that were not based on fact nor from credible sources, and broad statements were made which were not based on fact, or from credible sources. “When concerns about the credibility of these allegations were raised by the State party,
members of the committee stated that their sources were credible,” Guyana said in its response.

Ms Tigroudja said countries are not punished for failing to implement recommendations but should be taken by States as  guiding document.