On June 13, 1980, Dr. Walter Rodney, a historian of international prominence and a leader of one of the opposition parties in Guyana, the Working People's Alliance (WPA), was killed when a bomb exploded and wrecked the car in which he was riding in Georgetown, Guyana. The Associated Press report then on the incident stressed the fact that Rodney was the third senior member of the WPA to have been killed in seven months, the others having been killed by the police.
The killing took place while Rodney and others were on trial for a variety of trumped up political charges, which centered on charges of arson. Independent observers at the trial had asserted that the proceedings were clearly going against the government of Prime Minister Forbes Burnham and the trial had been suspended for a two-month period in order to give the government opportunity to "improve" its case. At the same time the government had indicted seventeen people associated with the WPA on a charge of treason. All of this occurred after Burnham had personally vetoed the appointment of Dr. Rodney to a position at the University of Guyana. A representative of Amnesty International present in the court during the preliminary examination on these charges declared that Amnesty International would formally adopt the case as a subject of its inquiry into political repression in Guyana.