GECOM violated the rights of the Guyanese electorate by broadcasting Observation Reports – CARICOM Team

0
Claudette Singh, Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission

The high-level CARICOM Team said it was “appalled” by the decision made by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to broadcast the Observation Reports – which contained numerous unsubstantiated allegations.

According to the CARICOM Team, by allowing the national broadcast of these reports, GECOM ‘willing’ and ‘wittingly’ violated the rights of the Guyanese electorate.

See full excerpt on this issue in the CARICOM Report submitted to GECOM Chair Justice Claudette Singh:

A reading of ROPA makes absolutely no reference to the Observation Reports which became a focal point of the Recount process. Observation Reports are in fact administrative contraptions to chronicle miscellaneous issues and which if carefully used can derive great benefits to an Election Commission to identify possible problems and to undertake corrective measures. As it were, these reports became integral component of the recount process and an invaluable tool for those seeking to discredit the recount.

For some unfathomable reason a decision was taken by GECOM to not only display the observation reports during the tabulation of the SOR’s at the end of the day, but to read the contents of the observation reports with the identified serial numbers of the voters. While names were not called, anyone familiar with the OLE which were widely circulated throughout Guyana and on display at least a week before poll day and on poll day within their respective districts, could easily identify the voters.

Quite apart from the fact that the parties had ample time to study the OLE and engage in their investigations prior to poll day, the Team was appalled that an institution charged with the responsibility for the conduct of elections would in any way compromise the safety of the elector, not to speak of the violations of international norms regarding the ballot. The Team is cognizant of the fact that absolutely no proof was offered when the challenge was mounted, nor is it possible to determine how the electors voted, but the challenge to the elector’s right to participate in the elections and the easy identification of the voter is problematic for a variety of reasons.

We are buttressed in this position on the basis of International Public Law (IPL) which provides a number of obligations for democratic or integrity-based elections and has resulted in the development of an acceptable framework for the conduct of credible elections based on a set of democratic standards.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), is the most widely subscribed treaty guaranteeing participatory rights. Minimally, the political covenant establishes the three basic requirements and guarantees for the conduct of genuine (democratic) elections and the expressed intent of the will of the people as the basis for the selection of a government. Article 25 of the Covenant clearly states that:

Every citizen shall have the right and opportunity, without any of the distinctions
mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
a) participate in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen
representatives;

b) to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the voters.
Additionally, Articles 2, 12, 14, 19, 22, and 26, address issues of process focus rights and individual rights and freedoms seen as vital to ensuring the will of the people.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) also provides core rights as it pertains to guarantees for the enjoyment of political rights and fundamental freedoms.

Guyana is a signatory to a number of instruments of IPL including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Fonns of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Fonns of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. So too is Guyana a party to the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

As a result, in the conduct of elections, Guyana is bound by the provisions requiring certain political and civic rights which extend also to the rights of the will of the people to be secured in choosing their elected representatives.

The Team is therefore of the firm view that GECOM willing and wittingly violated the rights of the Guyanese electorate in facilitating these requests and in permitting the national audio broadcast of the Observation Reports. Further, the reading of the Observation Reports with the mention of the serial number of voters in the country has the potential to expose the elector to harassment and quite possibly worse, and GECOM must be held accountable for such.