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Guinea-Bissau Human Rights - History

Guinea-Bissau Human Rights - History

Guinea-Bissau Human Right 2017 Report April 2018

Guinea-Bissau is a multiparty republic. It was ruled by the democratically elected President Jose Mario Vaz of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC) and his appointed prime minister, Umaro Sissoco Embalo. Vaz took office in 2014 after a general election that included all 102 seats in the National Assembly. International observers considered the elections free and fair. The country has endured prolonged political gridlock punctuated by periods of turmoil since President Vaz dismissed former prime minister Domingos Simoes Pereira in 2015.

Civilian authorities maintained control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included lack of judicial independence and due process; interference with privacy; official corruption exacerbated by government officials’ impunity and suspected involvement in drug trafficking; lack of investigation and accountability in cases of violence and discrimination against women and children; female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); and trafficking in persons.

While the government took steps to investigate and punish officials who committed abuses, impunity in general remained a serious problem.

A. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

B. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

C. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and the armed forces and police respected these prohibitions.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions varied widely. In the makeshift detention facilities for pretrial detainees, conditions were harsh and life threatening. Except in the prisons in Bafata and Mansoa, electricity, potable water, and space were inadequate.

Physical Conditions: Conditions of confinement were poor. Detention facilities generally lacked secure cells, running water, adequate heating, ventilation, lighting, and sanitation. Detainees’ diets were poor, and medical care was virtually nonexistent. At the pretrial detention center in Bissau, detainees relied on their families for food. Officials held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners and juveniles with adults. There was one reported death in police custody in January.

Administration: Authorities did not investigate allegations of inhuman conditions. There was no prison ombudsman to respond to prisoners’ complaints or independent authorities to investigate credible allegations of inhuman conditions.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of detention conditions by local and international human rights groups.

D. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government usually observed these prohibitions. Detainees may challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court through a regular appeals process, obtain prompt release, and obtain compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The country is divided into 37 police districts. An estimated 3,500 police personnel in nine different police forces reported to seven different ministries. The Judicial Police, under the Ministry of Justice, has primary responsibility for investigating drug trafficking, terrorism, and other transnational crimes. The Public Order Police, under the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for preventive patrols, crowd control, and maintenance of law and order. Other police forces include the State Information Service (intelligence), Border Police (migration and border enforcement), Rapid Intervention Police, and Maritime Police. According to the constitution, the armed forces may be called upon to assist police in emergencies.

Police were generally ineffective, poorly and irregularly paid, and corrupt. They received no training and had insufficient funding to buy fuel for police vehicles. Traffic police often demanded bribes from drivers. Lack of police detention facilities frequently resulted in prisoners leaving custody during investigations. Impunity was a serious problem. The attorney general was responsible for investigating police abuses; however, employees of that office were also poorly paid and susceptible to threats, corruption, and coercion.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police and armed forces, although the government had few mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires arrest warrants, although warrantless arrests often occurred, particularly of immigrants suspected of crimes. By law detainees must be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours of arrest and be released if no indictment is filed, but this standard was not always met. Authorities informed detainees of charges against them. The law provides for the right to counsel at state expense for indigent clients; lawyers did not receive compensation for their part-time public defense work and often ignored state directives to represent indigent clients. There was a functioning bail system. Pretrial detainees had prompt access to family members. Authorities usually held civilian suspects under house arrest.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports police occasionally arrested persons arbitrarily and detained them without due process. In April PAIGC political bureau member Manuel Manecas dos Santos was arrested and held for 24 hours with no formal accusation, reportedly for a media interview in which he described the political deadlock as an attempted coup d’etat against the constitution by President Vaz.

E. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary was subject to political manipulation. Judges were poorly trained, inadequately and irregularly paid, and subject to corruption. A lack of resources and infrastructure often delayed trials, and convictions were extremely rare. Authorities respected court orders, however.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

Citizens have the right to a presumption of innocence; to be informed promptly of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals; to a fair trial without undue delay; to be present at their trial; and to communicate with an attorney of choice or have one provided at court expense from the moment charged and through all appeals. The law provides for the right to confront witnesses and present witnesses and evidence, not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to admit guilt, and to appeal. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; however, most cases never came to trial. There is no trial by jury. Trials in civilian courts are open to the public.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals may seek civil remedies for human rights violations; however, there was no specific administrative mechanism to address human rights violations.

F. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. Police routinely ignored privacy rights and protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

A. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech, including for the press; however, there were reports the government did not always respect this right.

Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. There were several private newspapers in addition to the government-owned newspaper No Pintcha, but the state-owned printing house published all of them. In July, the Portuguese state radio station RDP and state television and radio station RTP had their licenses suspended, ostensibly for a lapse of governmental agreements between Portugal and Guinea-Bissau. Many believe, however, that they were targeted for providing airtime to the political opposition.

Violence and Harassment: The government took no steps to preserve the safety and independence of media or to prosecute individuals who threatened journalists.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were reports of journalists receiving threats and practicing self-censorship. In September union officials at the Guinea-Bissau state television service TGB presented a petition to the government signed by 88 employees that denounced attempted censorship, in overt or other forms.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 3.8 percent of the population used the internet in 2016. Lack of infrastructure, equipment, and education severely limited access to the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

B. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. In April a march by an opposition political faction in Bissau clashed with police, resulting in 18 injuries to police and protesters.

D. Freedom of Movement

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The country hosted thousands of long-term refugees and asylum seekers from Senegal’s Casamance Region. Many residents maintain ethnic and family ties on both sides of country’s poorly marked northern border with the Casamance, rendering the nationality of many individuals in the region unclear.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting of asylum or refugee status. The government did not grant refugee status or asylum during the year, and there were no reported requests for either. The UNHCR office in Bissau facilitated the issuance of refugee cards.

Durable Solutions: On December 6, the government announced that it would grant nationality to between 4,000 and 10,000 refugees, many of whom had lived in the country for decades. Most of these refugees were originally from Senegal’s Casamance region, with a minority from Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The 2014 general elections resulted in a new National Assembly and president. Jose Mario Vaz of the PAIGC and Umaro Sissoco Embalo, respectively, served as president and prime minister. Embalo was the fifth prime minister appointed by President Vaz during his term. Independent observers assessed the 2014 elections as free and fair.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women and/or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate, although the 102-member National Assembly had only 14 female members. Some observers believed that traditional and cultural factors limited the political participation of women compared to men.

The law provides criminal penalties of one month to 10 years in prison for corruption by officials; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials in all branches and on all levels of government engaged in corrupt and nontransparent practices with impunity. The Ministry of Finance made some strides against widespread and ingrained corrupt practices when it suspended September salary payments to thousands of nonexistent, deceased, duplicative, or retired civil servants.

Corruption: Members of the military and civilian administration reportedly trafficked in drugs and assisted international drug cartels by providing access to the country and its transportation infrastructure. The failure to interdict or investigate suspected narcotics traffickers contributed to the perception of government and military involvement in narcotics trafficking.

Financial Disclosure: By law public officials are required to disclose their personal finances before the Court of Audits, and these disclosures are to be made public. The court has no authority to enforce compliance, and penalties are not specified for noncompliance. By year’s end no public officials had disclosed their personal finances.

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Commission on Human Rights is a government human rights organization. It was independent but remained inadequately funded and ineffective.

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties for conviction of two to 12 years in prison; however, the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law permits prosecution of rape only when reported by the victim, which observers noted was rare due to victims’ fear of social stigma and retribution.

No law prohibits domestic violence, but it, including wife beating, was widespread. The government did not undertake specific measures to counter social pressure against reporting domestic violence, rape, incest, and other mistreatment of women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. Conviction for its practice is punishable by a fine of up to five million CFA francs ($9,190) and five years in prison. Muslim preachers and scholars called for the eradication of FGM/C. The Joint Program on FGM/C of the UN Population Fund and UNICEF worked with the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the dissemination and application of the law by building the capacities of officials responsible for program implementation.

The April 2017 UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau’s Report on the Right of Health in Guinea-Bissau estimated that 45 percent of the female population had undergone the FGM/C procedure.

For more information, see:

Sexual Harassment: There is no law prohibiting sexual harassment, and it was widespread. The government undertook no initiatives to combat the problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/.

Discrimination: By law women have the same legal status and rights as men, but discrimination against women was a problem, particularly in rural areas where traditional and Islamic laws dominated.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or from citizen parents. Birth registration does not occur automatically at hospitals; parents must register births with a notary. Lack of registration resulted in denial of public services, including education. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Most children remained at home frequently because schools were only open intermittently due to strikes by teachers. The Ministry of Public Education began a national campaign to raise awareness to enroll and keep children from the age of six in school.

Child Abuse: Violence against children was widespread but seldom reported to authorities.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 16 for both genders. Early and forced marriage occurred among all ethnic groups. Girls who fled arranged marriages often were trafficked into commercial sex. The buying and selling of child brides also occurred. There were no government efforts to mitigate the problem. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: There is a statutory rape law prohibiting sex with a person under age 16. The rape law carries a penalty for conviction of two to 12 years in prison, and the law prohibits child pornography. When pedophilia and sexual harassment were reported, police at times blamed victims.

There were reports of child sex tourism occurring in the isolated Bijagos Islands.

Displaced Children: The national nongovernmental organization (NGO) Association of the Friends of Children estimated that up to 500 children, mostly from neighboring Guinea, lived on the streets of urban centers including Bissau, Bafata, and Gabu. The government provided no services to street children.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were small communities of Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists in the country and no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government did not counter discrimination against persons with disabilities or provide access to buildings, information, and communications. The government made some efforts to assist military veterans with disabilities through pension programs, but these programs did not adequately address health care, housing, or food needs. Provisions existed to allow blind and illiterate voters to participate in the electoral process, but voters with intellectual disabilities could be restricted from voting.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation. Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex individuals. There were no reported violent incidents or other human rights abuses targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation or identity. There was no official discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment or access to education and health care.

A. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides all workers the freedom to form and join independent unions without prior authorization.

The law does not provide for the right to bargain collectively; however, the tripartite National Council for Social Consultation conducted collective consultations on salary issues. Workers and employers established most wages in bilateral negotiations.

The law provides for the right to strike, but workers must give prior notice. The law also prohibits retaliation against strikers and does not exclude any group of workers from relevant legal protections. Many sectors of the economy were on strike at some time during the year, typically because of low salaries. Workers in the education, media, and public sectors struck during the year.

The law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference. Laws on unions provide protection only for trade union delegates, while the constitution provides for workers’ rights to free speech and assembly. The law prohibits employer discrimination against official trade union representatives. The law requires reinstatement of workers terminated for union activity; there were no reports of such termination during the year.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable labor laws, including remedies and penalties. Penalties for violations, which usually took the form of fines, were insufficient to deter violations. Authorities generally respected freedom of association. No workers alleged antiunion discrimination. Worker organizations were not independent of government and political parties, employers, or employer associations, which sometimes sought to influence union decisions and actions.

B. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the government did not effectively enforce the laws. Penalties, which usually took the form of fines, were sufficiently stringent and commensurate with other serious crimes such as rape, but the government did not use these or other relevant laws to prosecute cases of forced labor. There were reports forced child labor occurred, including forced begging, selling food on urban streets, and domestic service (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

C. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

There are no specific laws that protect children from hazardous occupations. The legal minimum age is 14 for general factory labor and 18 for heavy or dangerous labor, including labor in mines. Minors are prohibited from working overtime.

The Ministries of Justice and of Civil Service and Labor and the Institute of Women and Children did not effectively enforce these requirements, particularly in informal work settings. Resources, inspections, and remedies were inadequate. Penalties usually took the form of fines and were insufficient to deter violations. The government provided no services of any kind and did not arrest or prosecute any violators.

Forced child labor occurred in domestic service; begging, including that perpetrated by corrupt teachers in some Quranic schools; agriculture and mining; shoe shining; and selling food on urban streets. Some religious teachers, known as marabouts, deceived boys and their families by promising a Quranic education but then put the boys to work or took them to neighboring countries for exploitation. The small formal sector generally adhered to minimum age requirements, although there were reports minors worked overtime despite the prohibition.

The national NGO Association of the Friends of Children was the main organization in the country working to receive and reintegrate returning “talibes.” Quranic students in some cases were trafficked into Senegal and forced to beg there.

Children in rural communities performed domestic and fieldwork without pay to help support their families.

The government ratified the Optional Protocol to the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2014 but undertook no investigative or enforcement actions. The child code bans child trafficking and provides for three to 10 years’ imprisonment for conviction of the crime.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/.

D. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations do not prohibit discrimination regarding race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, citizenship, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, or social origin.

Women faced considerable pay gaps and, because employers preferred to avoid paying maternity benefits, were less likely to be hired than men. Documented discrimination on the other above categories with respect to employment and occupation was not available.

E. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Council of Ministers annually establishes minimum wage rates for all categories of work. The lowest monthly wage in the formal sector was 19,030 CFA francs ($35) per month plus a bag of rice. The informal sector included an estimated 80 percent of workers. No official estimate for the poverty income level was available.

The law provides for a maximum 45-hour workweek. The law also provides for overtime work with premium pay, and overtime may not exceed 200 hours per year. There is a mandatory 12-hour rest period between workdays. The law provides for paid annual holidays.

In cooperation with unions, the Ministries of Justice and Labor establish legal health and safety standards for workers, which the National Assembly may adopt into law. The standards are current and appropriate for the main industries. Workers, including foreign workers, do not have the right to remove themselves from unsafe working conditions without losing their jobs.

The inspector general of labor is responsible for enforcing these standards but did not do so effectively and did not enforce these standards in the informal economy. The Ministry of Labor employs one inspector for each of the country’s eight rural regions and two for Bissau Region. The number of labor inspectors was inadequate, and they lacked resources and training. There were no reports that inspections were conducted during the year. Penalties, which usually take the form of fines, were not sufficient to deter violations. Many persons worked under conditions that endangered their health and safety.


Justice System Violates Human Rights in Guinea-Bissau


While the nation does possess legitimate political rights, including free and fair elections, lack of human rights in Guinea-Bissau continues to make victims out of its citizens. As of 2016, these included abuses such as corruption of government officials as well as violence and discrimination of women and children.

The list continues on, according to the U.S. Department of State. Other abuses included unfair and abusive treatment of detainees, lack of due process and human trafficking. No effective action was taken against the perpetrators of human rights in these situations.

In particular, prisoner detention stands out as one of the most grotesque human rights abuses. The conditions of detention facilities are life-threatening, according to the state departments.

“Cells lack running water, adequate heating, ventilation, lighting and sanitation. Detainees’ diets were poor and medical care was virtually non-existent,” stated the human rights report in 2016. The means by which detainees arrive in these deplorable conditions often violates another human right, lack of due process, as authorities often “arbitrarily” arrest and detain people.

Police are, for the most part, ineffective and corrupt, which might result be a result of their lack of regular payment by the state. Lack of funding results in insufficient of training as well as scarce resources for police to carry out their duties properly. Unfortunately, almost all levels of law enforcement are susceptible to coercion, threats and bribes, including the attorney general’s office.

Consequently, unlawful arrests continue to be made, violating human rights in Guinea-Bissau. These include arrests without warrants and the holding of detainees for longer than the permitted period of time. Additionally, military detainees were often not informed of charges against them.

To add to the human rights abuses conducted throughout the justice system, the independent courts, including judges, were “poorly trained, inadequately and irregularly paid and subject to corruption.”

It appears that those accused of suspected of crime in the state have very little security, as human rights in Guinea-Bissau are not enforced. Furthermore, there continues to be no administrative means of addressing human rights violations.

Little progress had been made in improving these conditions, and the justice system remains extremely weak to this day. One of the only few actions of accountability undertaken by the state was in July 2015 in the Oio region, where three officers were sentenced to imprisonment for human rights abuses.

Investigations continue to be made by human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International. The citizens of Guinea-Bissau are desperately in need of intervention from the international community.


Guinea at a Glance

Guinea is a poor country. According to the Human Rights Council, it needs to tackle poverty, and should take into account the needs of children, who are also affected by this issue (Conseil des droits de l’homme, 2020). Food insecurity, along with issues concerning the right to water and sanitation, are highly prevalent in the country. These problems particularly affect rural areas, highlighting the divide between urban and rural areas (Comité des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels, 2020). Similarly, the right to housing and the right to education are also of concern (Comité des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels, 2020).

As has been remarked several times by different UN Committees in their concluding observations, the prevailing issue facing Guinea is the large gap in resources to allocate to programmes for human rights in general, and to the implementation of children’s rights in particular. Economic inequality and poverty are extremely common in the country.[1]


Guinea-Bissau celebrates Human Rights despite vulnerabilities

DSRSG Carmignani highlighted that "once Guinea-Bissau ratifies the Convention on the Protection from Enforced Disappearance, and its two Optional Protocols, this United Nations member-state will be the first one to integrate the entire architecture of international human rights.”

The Head of UNIOGBIS Human Rights section and Human Rights High Commissioner representative, Guadalupe de Sousa Reis, considered this year's celebration "very special", since it coincides with the 50th Anniversary International of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and 76 years of the entry into force of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"These two agreements are the foundation of international human rights law and have already been ratified by 164 - most of the Member States of the UN - and most of these states have already integrated the contents of the two documents in their legal systems," said Guadalupe Sousa Reis, adding that these treaties "can help find solutions within the international law to deal with terrorism issues, ethnic, religious, cultural intolerance, etc." that exist in the world today.

Guinea-Bissau has ratified these covenants and almost all international human rights instruments, however president of the Guinean Human Rights League (LGDH), Augusto Mario, makes a negative assessment of the human rights situation in the country: "the picture is too negative, there are fragilities at all levels." "We have a great vulnerability in our rights and freedoms protection system, lack of guarantee of the rights to demonstrate and limitations and restrictions on the exercise of other certain freedoms," he noted, pointing out as evidence, the recent order by the Prosecutor -General – “which has no legal grounds,” - to suspend a weekly talk radio show on the national radio (RDN).

This human rights activist cited several cases of human rights violations committed by security forces in recent years, such as beatings in police stations, for which no one has been held accountable so far. "Violent actions perpetrated by police officers, whose mission is to guarantee the physical integrity and safety of persons. In 2015 we changed our paradigm: if before, it was members of the armed forces who committed these acts now it’s the security forces, which brings the situation back to the same level as in the past," he said.

Finally, with regard to economic and social rights, Mario Augusto said: “I think the result is in sight, the extreme poverty we live in and the lack of access to employment, which is shocking in Guinea-Bissau. "

A series of academic, recreational and cultural activities preceded the celebration of Human Rights Day in particular training sessions on Human Rights, a conference at the Bissau law Faculty, devoted to "50 Years of the International Covenants on Human Rights, a march promoted by the National Commission for Human Rights, and concerts, among others.

The celebrations were organized by the Government, in partnership with the United Nations Integrated Office in Support of Peacebuilding for Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) and civil society organizations.


Justice for the 2009 Stadium Massacre

Ten years after security forces massacred over 150 peaceful opposition supporters, and raped dozens of women, at a stadium on September 28, 2009, those responsible have not been tried. Guinean judges have indicted 14 people over the massacre, including Moussa Dadis Camara, then-leader of the military junta that ruled Guinea in September 2009, and individuals who remain in positions of power such as Moussa Tiegboro Camara, who is in charge of fighting drug trafficking and organized crime. In August 2019, a steering committee, established in August 2018 to organize the trial, confirmed Conakry’s Court of Appeal as the site for the trial. Justice Minister Mohammed Lamine Fofana stated in November that the trial would take place no later than June 2020.


Republic of Guinea-Bissau | República da Guiné-Bissau

Background:
Guinea-Bissau was the only country in West Africa to have fought its way to independence. The war with Portugal ended in 1974, but since the country has been plagued by coups and political unrest.

In 1980, a military coup established authoritarian dictator Joao Bernardo 'Nino' VIEIRA as president, VIEIRA was a key figure in struggle against Portuguese colonial rule. Despite setting a path to a market economy and multiparty system, VIEIRA's regime was characterized by the suppression of political opposition and the purging of political rivals. Several coup attempts through the 1980s and early 1990s failed to unseat him. In 1994 VIEIRA was elected president in the country's first free elections.

A military mutiny and resulting civil war in 1998 eventually led to VIEIRA's ouster in May 1999. In February 2000, a transitional government turned over power to opposition leader Kumba YALA, after he was elected president in transparent polling. In September 2003, after only three years in office, YALA was ousted by the military in a bloodless coup, and businessman Henrique ROSA was sworn in as interim president. In 2005, former President VIEIRA returned from asylum to win presidential election pledging to pursue economic development and national reconciliation. In March 2009 President VIEIRA was killed in an assassination attack. He was replaced by an elected leader (Malam Bacai Sanhá).
Guinea-Bissau is a major transit point for Latin American cocaine headed for Europe and some army officials are known to have become involved in the trade.

In April 2012 Guinea-Bissau troops staged a coup attempt, attacking the prime minister's residence, arresting politicians and taking over the national radio station and the ruling party headquarters. This took place short before the second round of Guinea-Bissau's presidential election and short after Angola's mission to support the military reform in the West African country (MISAANG) has ended.

Time:
Local Time = UTC (no GMT time offset)
Actual Time: Mon-June-21 11:36

Other Cities: Bolama (former capital of Portuguese Guinea until 1941) Bafata, Gabu, Canchungo, Farim, Cacheu.


Government:
Type: Republic, multi-party since 1991.
Independence: 24 September 1973 (proclaimed unilaterally) 10 September 1974 (de jure from Portugal).

Geography:
Location: Western Africa, between Guinea and Senegal, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean.
Area: (including Bijagós Archipelago): 36,000 km² (14,000 sq. mi).
Regions: Oio, Tombali, Cacheu, Bolama, Quinara, Biombo, Bafata, Gabu.
Terrain: Almost all of Guinea-Bissau is low-lying and bathed daily by tidal waters that reach as much as 62 miles (100 kilometres) inland savanna in the east.

Climate: Tropical generally hot and humid rainy season (Jun - Nov)

People:
Nationality: Bissau-Guinean(s).
Population: 1.54 million (2016)
Ethnic groups: Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%, others 16%.
Religions: Indigenous beliefs 50%, Muslim 45%, Christian 5%.
Languages: Portuguese (official), Crioulo, French, many indigenous languages: Balanta-Kentohe 26% Pulaar 18% Mandjak 12% Mandinka 11% Pepel 9% Biafada Mancanha Bidyogo Ejamat Mansoanka Bainoukgunyuno Nalu Soninke Badjara Bayote% Kobiana Cassanga, Basary.
Literacy: 40%

Natural resources: Fish and timber. Deposits of bauxite and phosphate are not exploited offshore petroleum.

Agriculture products: Cashews, tropical fruits, rice, peanuts, cotton, palm oil.

Industries: Very little industrial capacity.

Exports - commodities: bauxite, gold, diamonds, coffee, fish, agricultural products

Exports - partners: India 22.5%, Spain 8.2%, Ireland 7.3%, Germany 6.2%, Belgium 5.5%, Ukraine 5.3%, France 4.1% (2015)

Imports - commodities: petroleum products, metals, machinery, transport equipment, textiles, grain and other foodstuffs

Imports - partners: China 20.4%, Netherlands 5.4%, India 4.4% (2015)

Political system
Guinea-Bissau is a unitary semi-presidential republic, and since 1991 with a multi-party system. Head of state is the president, head of government is the prime minister. But a long-running dispute between factions in the ruling PAIGC party has brought the government to a political impasse there have been five prime ministers since August 2015. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the unicameral National People's Assembly. The judicial system is headed by a Supreme Court.

Official Sites of Guinea-Bissau

Note: External links will open in a new browser window.

Map of Guinea-Bissau
Political map of Guinea-Bissau.
Administrative Map of Guinea-Bissau
Map of Guinea-Bissau showing its administrative regions.

Google Earth Guinea-Bissau
Searchable map and satellite view of Guinea-Bissau.
Google Earth Bissau
Searchable map and satellite vie of the capital city of Guinea-Bissau.

Political Map of Africa
The 54 countries of Africa.
Map of Africa
A Relief Map of Africa.

Agência de Notícias da Guiné - ANG
Guinea-Bissau News agency (in Portuguese)

International News Sources
allAfrica.com: Guinea Bissau
Recent news from the West Africa republic.

IRIN News
News from Guinea-Bissau provided by the UN news agency.

Arts & Culture


Imagens de Bissau - Images of Bissau .

Business & Economy

Guinea-Bissau's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is one of the lowest in the world. Its economy is based mainly on agriculture, fish, cashew nuts and ground nuts are the main export products (more than 90%). Latin American-based drug traffickers are using Guinea Bissau and several other West African nations as a trans-shipment point for cocaine into Europe.

Banque Centrale des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO)
Central Bank of West African States of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

IZF.net, le portail de la Zone Franc CFA
Information about business and investment in the Western African countries within the monetary system of the Franc Zone - CFA. (in French)

Travel and Tour Consumer Information

Destination Guinea-Bissau - Travel and Tour Guides

Discover Guinea-Bissau: Bissau, Lagoas Cufada Natural Park, Bijagos Archipelago Biosphere Reserve, Parc Naturel des Mangroves du Fleuve Cacheu, Saltinho Waterfalls, Bijagós Archipellago (nice group of 80 plus islands, some with resorts).

Wikivoyage Guinea-Bissau
Travel information for Guinea-Bissau by Wikivoyage.

Guinea-Bissau Travel Information
Lonely Planet Destination Guide abou Guinea-Bissau

Guiné-Bissau: CONTRIBUTO
A website dedicated to Guinea-Bissau (in Portuguese)

Education

Universidade Amílcar Cabral
The only public university in the country is located in Bissau. (no website by now, July 2017)

Environment & Nature

World Database of Protected Areas: Guinea-Bissau
List of National Parks and protected areas in Guinea-Bissau.

Birds and birding in Guinea Bissau
Site provides also information about Fauna and Flora of Guinea-Bissau.

Boloma Bijagos
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Information about the archipelago of 88 islands located on the coast of Guinea-Bissau.


Claiming Human Rights

The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a member of the United Nations and the African Union. It has ratified many UN Human Rights Conventions (compare list on the right) and thus has made binding international commitments to adhere to the standards laid down in these universal human rights documents.

Guinea-Bissau is a Portuguese-speaking country in West Africa. With an area of 36,152 square km it is rather small. It has a border on the Atlantic Ocean in the west. On a global scale, its population density is low. The capital of the country, which became independent on 10 September 1974 from Portugal, is Bissau. Guinea-Bissau is a member of the regional economic communities ECOWAS and CEN-SAD.

With a Human Development Index of 0.40 Guinea-Bissau ranks tenth lowest among 182 countries ranked in the UNDP Human Development Report of 2009. Life expectancy of the 1.6 million inhabitants at birth is 48 years, population growth is 2.2 percent per year. GNI is 250 US-$ per capita. External debt is 213.6 percent of gross national income. Primary school enrolment is 45.1 percent.

In as far as Guinea-Bissau has ratified the Optional Protocols for UN Human Rights Conventions or has accepted the Competence of the corresponding UN Treaty Bodies (compare list on the right), the inhabitants of Guinea-Bissau and their representatives are able to invoke their human rights through these bodies.

All inhabitants of Guinea-Bissau may turn to the UN Human Rights Committee through procedure 1503, to the Special Rapporteurs for violations of specific human rights or to ECOSOC for women's rights violations.

Since Guinea-Bissau is a member state of UNESCO, its citizens may use the UNESCO procedure for human rights violations in UNESCO's fields of mandate.

Employers' or workers' and certain other organizations (not individuals) of Guinea-Bissau may file complaints through the ILO procedure in the cases of those conventions which Guinea-Bissau has ratified.

Since Guinea-Bissau is an AU member, its citizens and NGOs may file complaints to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

They may also file complaints according to the EU guidelines (on Human Rights Defenders, Death Penalty and Torture) to Embassies of EU Member States and the Delegations of the European Commission.

In cases of human rights violations by multinational enterprises, they may also invoke the National Contact Point in an OECD member state.


International Federation for Human Rights

Paris-Geneva, April 2, 2009. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, denounce the death threats against Mr. Luis Vaz Martins, President of the Guinean League for Human Rights (LGDH) and more generally the current tensions that prevail in the country and put human rights defenders at risk.

On April 1, 2009 at around 5.30 pm, an unidentified individual dressed in civilian cloth and armed with a makarov gun visited LGDH offices and asked for Mr. Luis Vaz Martins with a threatening tone. Mr. Vaz Martins was out of the office at that moment.

This visit came a few hours after the issuance of a LGDH press release, denouncing the serious human rights violations committed by elements of the Bissau-Guinean military over the past weeks. The press release referred in particular to the attack sustained by Dr. Francisco José Fadul, leader of the Party for Democracy, Development and Citizenship (PADEC) and President of the Court of Public Auditors, interrogated and tortured on April 1 at his home, after he denounced the growing influence of the military in public life. Mr. Fadul is currently undergoing intensive care in hospital.

Over the past days, LGDH also denounced the torture suffered from March 23 to 26 by lawyer Pedro Infanda, the defendant of the former chief of the armed forces José Américo Bubo Na Tchute, currently in exile. This lawyer was reportedly asked by his assailants to stop defending the former military head and to refrain from criticising the armed forces. He was then put under police custody. As of April 2, 2009, he was in intensive care unit.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern for the security of LGDH staff members, in particular its executive representatives Messrs. Vaz Martins and Bubacar Ture, in an attempt by the military and its supporters to silence everyone denouncing human rights violations committed in the country, particularly the abuses of the military.

The Observatory urges the European Commission Delegation in Bissau as well as European Union (EU) Member-States embassies in Guinea-Bissau to take immediate action in the light of the above-mentioned elements, so as to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of LGDH members as well as of all human rights defenders, in line with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

The Observatory also urges the United Nations Office in Guinea-Bissau to take any action required to ensure the protection of LGDH and civil society members.

The Observatory more generally calls upon the authorities of Guinea-Bissau to ensure that acts of harassment against human rights defenders in the country be stopped, in conformity with the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.


U.S. Department of State

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Guinea-Bissau is a multiparty republic with a population of approximately 1.7 million. On July 26, Malam Bacai Sanha of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) was elected president in elections that international observers declared free and fair Carlos Gomes, Jr., was appointed prime minister on January 2 by former president João Bernardo Vieira. The presidential election followed the March 2 assassination of former president Vieira by the military as revenge for the bombing death a few hours earlier of former armed forces chief of staff General Jose Batista Tagme Na Waie. Speaker of Parliament Raimundo Pereira served as interim president between the assassination and Sanha's election. During the year members of the military were responsible for assassinating the president, the former armed forces chief of staff, a member of parliament, and a presidential candidate, providing further evidence that civilian authorities did not maintain effective control of the security forces.

Human rights abuses included the following: arbitrary and politically motivated killings beatings and torture poor conditions of detention arbitrary arrest and detention lack of judicial independence and due process interference with privacy journalist intimidation widespread official corruption, exacerbated by suspected government involvement in drug trafficking, and impunity violence and discrimination against women female genital mutilation (FGM) child trafficking and child labor, including some forced labor.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

The government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including killings that were politically motivated.

On March 1, the armed forces chief of staff, General Jose Batista Tagme Na Waie, was killed when a bomb detonated under the stairway leading to his office in military headquarters. On March 2, hours after the assassination of Na Waie, soldiers under the command of Colonel Antonio Indjai tortured and then hacked to death with machetes President Vieira in what was generally considered retaliation for the killing of Na Waie. Navy commander Jose Zamora Induta initially said the president was shot after admitting that he ordered the killing of Na Waie, although Induta subsequently denied any connection between the killings. Observers noted that the longstanding tension between Vieira and Na Waie had increased due to Na Waie's November 2008 accusation that Vieira was involved in the drug trade. It was unclear whether the killings were linked to the growing cocaine trade out of West Africa, but Vieira and senior military officers had been accused of profiting from it.

The government convened a national commission of inquiry that launched its investigation of the Vieira and Na Waie killings on March 11, but no one was identified or charged for Vieira's or Na Waie's killings by year's end.

On June 5, military personnel beat, shot, and killed National Assembly deputy Helder Proenca, his bodyguard, and his driver on the outskirts of Bissau. Proenca, who had been accused on June 5 by Colonel Samba Djalo, chief of the Military Information and Security Service, of plotting to overthrow the government, reportedly was killed while resisting arrest. On November 20, the state attorney general filed a criminal complaint against Djalo however, no perpetrators were formally identified or punished for Proenca's death by year's end.

Also on June 5, soldiers shot and killed presidential candidate and national assemblyman Baciro Dabo in his bed. The soldiers accused Dabo of being involved with Proenca in plotting to overthrow the government. No perpetrators were identified or punished for Dabo's death by year's end.

There were no developments in the April 2008 killing of a judicial police officer by security forces.

During the year Alexandre Tchama Yala, the suspected leader of a November 2008 coup attempt in which two presidential guards were killed, escaped detention, and was rumored to be at large in Bissau at year's end.

There were no developments in the case of the 2007 execution-style killing of former commodore Lamine Sanha.

Unexploded ordnance resulted in four deaths and 10 injuries during the year.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices however, armed forces and security forces did not always respect this prohibition. The government did not punish members of the security forces who committed such abuses.

On March 2, military personnel reportedly tortured former president Vieira before killing him in his home (see section 1.a.).

On March 23, military members forcibly removed lawyer Pedro Infanda from his office in Bissau to a military installation, where he reportedly was beaten and tortured for four days, denied medical treatment, and released. Infanda had stated in a March 23 press conference that the appointment of Jose Zamora Induta as armed forces chief of staff following Na Waie's death was not in accordance with the proper order of succession. No action was taken during the year against those responsible for the torture and abuse.

On April 1, soldiers beat former prime minister Francisco Fadul during his detention at armed forces headquarters. Faustino Imbali was arrested on June 5 and held without charge for two months after calling on the government to hold accountable security force members responsible for the military assassinations of then president Vieira and then armed forces chief of staff Na Waie, and for characterizing the assassinations as a de facto coup.

On October 14, journalist Mario de Oliveira was verbally abused and beaten during his detention following a Donos da Bola newspaper publication of an interview with the minister of the interior, Major Samba Djalo.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no prisons or detention centers in which to incarcerate convicted criminals and suspects, and the government detained most prisoners in makeshift detention facilities on military bases in Bissau and neighboring towns. Conditions of confinement were poor. Detention facilities generally lacked running water and adequate sanitation. Detainees' diets were poor and medical care was virtually nonexistent. Pretrial detainees were held together with convicted prisoners, and juveniles were held with adults.

The government permitted some independent monitoring of detention conditions by local and international human rights groups. During the year representatives from the UN Peace‑ Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) visited prisoners. The government also permitted visits to detention locations by the Human Rights League of Guinea-Bissau (LGDH). The government required advance scheduling of visits and did not permit regular repeated visits.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions however, security forces arbitrarily arrested persons and were involved in settling personal disputes, sometimes detaining persons upon request without full due process.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

The country is divided into 37 police districts, and there were an estimated 3,500 police in nine different police forces reporting to seven different ministries. The approximately 100 officers of the judicial police, under the Ministry of Justice, have primary responsibility for investigating drug trafficking, terrorism, and other transnational crime, while the 1,300 members of the public order police, under the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for preventive patrols, crowd control, and conventional maintenance of law and order. Other police forces include the state information service, the border service, the rapid intervention force, the maritime police, and other groups.

Police were ineffective, poorly and irregularly paid, and corrupt. Police could not afford fuel for the few vehicles they had, and there was a severe lack of training. Police in Gabu received more equipment during the year but had received no formal police training since 1996. However, judicial police received narcotics investigative training in Brazil, Cape Verde, and Portugal. Transit police were particularly corrupt and demanded bribes from vehicle drivers, whether their documents and vehicles were in order or not. Impunity was a problem. Corruption and a lack of detention facilities and vehicles frequently resulted in prisoners simply walking out of custody in the middle of investigations. The attorney general was responsible for investigating police abuses however, employees of the attorney general were also poorly paid and susceptible to threats and coercion.

According to the constitution, the armed forces are responsible for external security and can be called upon to assist the police in internal emergencies. However, during the year members of the military assassinated the president, the armed forces chief of staff, a member of parliament, and a presidential candidate (see section 1.a.). After the assassination of Na Waie, members of the military usurped the chain of command and imposed naval captain Jose Zamora Induta as the interim armed forces chief of staff and Colonel Antonio Indjai as his deputy. Induta and Indjai were formally appointed by presidential decree on March 15.

Soldiers also released imprisoned soldiers who were suspects in the November 2008 coup attempt. Following the July 2008 grounding at Bissau airport of a plane suspected of transporting narcotics, members of the armed forces tampered with evidence and interfered with the investigation.

Military members also tortured and arbitrarily detained political opponents during the year.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

The law requires arrest warrants, although warrantless arrests often occurred. The law requires that detainees be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours after arrest and that prisoners be released if no timely indictment is filed however, authorities did not always respect these rights in practice. In general, detainees were informed promptly of charges against them, but some military detentions involved no notification of charges. The law provides for the right to counsel and to counsel at state expense for indigent clients however, lawyers did not receive compensation for their part‑time public defense work and often ignored state directives to represent indigent clients. There was a functioning bail system, and pretrial detainees were allowed prompt access to family members.

Criminal suspects, particularly immigrants, were sometimes arrested without warrants.

On March 23, military members arbitrarily arrested Pedro Infanda, who was subsequently tortured (see section 1.c.).

On April 1, soldiers arbitrarily arrested and beat Francisco José Fadul, the former president and former chief justice of the Audit Court (see section 1.c.).

The vast majority of the prison population consisted of detainees awaiting the conclusion of their trial however, few detainees remained in custody for longer than one year. Most left before the conclusion of their trials as a result of inadequate detention facilities, lack of security, and rampant corruption. The few prisoners who were convicted seldom remained in custody for more than two years. Prisoners remanded to their homes due to space constraints in detention facilities often failed to return to prison.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary however, the largely nonfunctional judicial branch had little independence. Judges were poorly trained, inadequately and irregularly paid, and subject to corruption. Courts and judicial authorities were also frequently accused of bias and passivity, according to an October 2008 report published by the International Federation for Human Rights. The attorney general had little protection from political pressure since the president needs no other approval to replace the incumbent. Trials were often delayed by lack of materials or infrastructure, and convictions were extremely rare.

The judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court, regional courts, a financial court, and a military court. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for civilian cases, and the Supreme Military Court is the final court of appeal for military cases. Regional courts have both criminal and civil branches. The financial court tries financial crimes, such as embezzlement, and has jurisdiction over regional courts. Military courts do not try civilians, although civilian courts try all cases involving state security, even if the accused are members of the military. The president has the authority to grant pardons and reduce sentences.

Traditional practices prevailed in most rural areas, and persons who lived in urban areas often brought judicial disputes to traditional counselors to avoid the costs and bureaucratic impediments of the official system. Police also often resolved disputes.

There is no trial by jury. For all citizens, the law provides for a presumption of innocence, the right to have timely access to an attorney, to question witnesses, to have access to evidence held by the government, and to appeal. Trials in civilian courts are open to the public. Defendants have the right to be present and to present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. For those few defendants whose cases went to trial, these rights were respected in a majority of cases and despite the otherwise dysfunctional judiciary. Citizens who cannot afford an attorney have the right to a court‑appointed lawyer however, court‑appointed attorneys received no compensation from the state for representing indigent clients, were not punished for failing to do so, and generally ignored such responsibilities.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

On June 5, military officials arrested State Information Services director General Antero Correira and held him without charge until his release on July 7. Correira reportedly had refused to sign a Ministry of Interior communiqué about the June 5 killing of Helder Proenca and Baciro Dabo in connection with a coup plot.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The judicial system handles civil as well as criminal matters, but it was neither independent nor impartial. There was no administrative mechanism to address human rights violations. Domestic court orders often were not enforced.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice. However, police routinely ignored privacy rights and protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press however, the government did not always respect these rights in practice. Security forces detained persons for exercising their right to free speech, particularly when they spoke out against military officials or arbitrary killings during the year. Journalists practiced self‑censorship.

On April 1, soldiers entered the home of Francisco José Fadul, the former president and former chief justice of the Audit Court, and severely beat him and his wife with firearms before stealing many of their possessions. Fadul had held a press conference on March 30 in which he called on the government to hold the armed forces responsible for corruption and other criminal activities.

In addition to the government‑owned newspaper No Pintcha, several private newspapers published without restriction. All newspapers were published through the state‑owned printing house. The national printing press often lacked raw materials, and salaries were not always paid, resulting in publication delays.

There were several independent radio stations, a national radio station, and a national television station. International radio broadcasts could be received.

On March 3, following the assassination of then president Vieira, the army shut down two private radio stations but reopened them later the same day.

Journalists reported receiving telephone threats and summons to government premises to explain their activities or statements, while others reported prolonged court proceedings that impeded their work.

On October 14, the minister of the interior, Major Samba Djalo, ordered the arrest of Mario de Oliveira, the director of the newspaper Donos da Bola, following the publication of a fabricated interview with Djalo (see section 1.c). After intervention by the Guinea‑Bissau Human Rights League, Oliveira was released after six hours.

There were no developments in the 2007 case in which unknown persons broke into the home of Radio France Internationale reporter Allen Yere Embalo, stole his camera, video footage of a report on drug trafficking, and more than 600,000 CFA ($1,200). Embalo returned to the country during the year.

There were no developments in the 2007 case against Reuters journalist Alberto Dabo, who was charged with defamation, abuse of freedom of the press, violating state secrets, and slander due to his statement that former navy chief Jose Americo "Bubo" Na Tchuto was involved in drug trafficking.

There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e‑mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups engaged in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e‑mail. Lack of infrastructure, equipment, and education severely limited access to the Internet.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly and the government generally respected this right in practice. Permits were required for all assemblies and demonstrations.

The constitution and law provide for the right of association, and the government generally respected this right in practice.

The constitution and law provide for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.

Although religious groups require a government license, there were no reports that any applications were refused.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There was no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti‑Semitic acts.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

The law did not specifically prohibit forced exile however, the government did not use it.

Internally Displaced Persons

IDPs moved back and forth over the border with Senegal, depending on the status of the ongoing armed conflict in Senegal's Casamance region. With ethnic and family ties on both sides of the poorly marked border, the nationality of IDPs was not always clear.

The country is a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol and is also a party to the 1969 African Union Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa. The government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice, the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. The government did not grant refugee status or asylum during the year.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The constitution and law provide citizens with the right to peacefully change their government however, this did not occur during the year due to the military assassination of the president, the killing of one presidential candidate, and the arbitrary arrest and torture of another (see sections 1.a and 1.c).

Elections and Political Participation

The constitution provides that an election be scheduled within 60 days of the death of a president however, interim president Raimundo Pereira postponed the first round of the presidential election until June 28, citing lack of resources. On June 28, PAIGC candidate Malam Bacai Sanha received 39 percent of the vote, and Party of Social Renewal candidate Koumba Yala received 29 percent, which led in a second round election on July 26. On that day Sanha won with 63 percent of votes cast. Despite the violent context in which both rounds were conducted, international observers characterized the polls as free and fair.

During the year the ruling PAIGC party attempted to restrict opposition political activity. Formal membership in the dominant party conferred some informal advantages. The political opposition was subjected to political violence due to military intimidation, torture, and killing of politicians, and candidates were not totally free to campaign as they preferred. Pedro Infanda withdrew from the presidential race because he feared for his own life following the killing of candidate Baciro Dabo. The Balanta ethnic group, mainly through its dominance of the armed forces, dominated the political system.

In August 2008 former navy chief Na Tchuto fled the country following an alleged failed coup attempt. He returned to the country on December 28, sought refuge in the local UN office, and began negotiations with the government regarding the possibility of going on trial for his alleged involvement in the coup attempt. Na Tchuto remained in the UN office at year's end.

The 98-member National Assembly has 10 female members. The Supreme Court president, three of the 19 government ministers, and one of nine state secretaries are also women.

All ethnic groups were represented in the government, and the minority Balanta group dominated the army.

Section 4 Official Government Corruption and Government Transparency

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption from one month to 10 years in prison however, the government did not implement the law, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Official corruption and lack of transparency were endemic at all levels of government. Members of the military and civilian administration reportedly assisted international drug cartels by providing access to the country and its transportation facilities. Customs officers frequently accepted bribes for not collecting import taxes, which greatly reduced government revenues. The largely nonfunctional and corrupt judiciary was unable and unwilling to enforce the law and investigate corruption cases. Attempts by the attorney general to investigate corruption were impeded by the armed forces. The World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators reflect that corruption was a severe problem.

During the year several members of the administrative and financially autonomous FISCAP agency in the Ministry of Fisheries were arrested for embezzlement. However, at year's end no one had been formally charged nor was anyone in custody in connection with this case.

According to a September 2008 UN report on the country and the activities of the UN Peace-Building Support Office, the country was rapidly moving from being a transit hub to a major market place in the drug trade. A 2008 UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report stated that the country was becoming a strategic link in the transport of illegal narcotics from South America to Europe, although the UNODC reported that the volume of drugs transiting through the country decreased during the year. The failure to interdict suspected narcotics flights contributed to the perception of government and military involvement in narcotics trafficking.

Systemic failure to act throughout the police, military, and judiciary resulted in the absence of prosecutions of drug traffickers. Drug traffickers usually had official protection at some level. If judicial police were able to overcome this obstruction, they had no resources to conduct investigations, no detention facilities to detain suspects, and no means of transporting detainees to court. Judges and guards, who went months without receiving salaries, were highly susceptible to corruption and often released suspected traffickers, who subsequently disappeared. Judicial officials who displayed independence, resisted corruption, or attempted to investigate or prosecute narcotics traffickers were threatened.

During the year attorney general Luis Manuel Cabral launched an investigation into the military's protection of the crew and seizure of the cargo of an unauthorized airplane impounded at Bissau airport in July 2008. At year's end no military or government official had been charged with any crime relating to this matter. However, on June 4, Cabral sought refuge in the Angolan embassy after receiving threatening telephone calls related to the independent investigation into the March assassinations of the president and armed forces chief of staff.

Public officials are legally required to disclose their personal finances before the Court of Audits, but the court's authority was weak.

The National Assembly has an anticorruption committee, which was inactive during the year.

The law provides that "everyone has the right to information and judicial protection" however, such access was seldom provided.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. The two major human rights organizations were the LGDH and the Observation League.

There were reports that NGO workers were harassed during the year.

For example, on April 1, LGDH president Luis Vas Martins reported that an armed man came to his office and threatened to kill him due to an LGDH statement condemning the beating of Francisco Jose Fadul (see section 1.c.). In 2007 Martins reported receiving threatening telephone calls that he believed were linked to his human rights activities. There were no developments in this case by year's end.

Prior to his assassination on March 1, then army chief of staff Tagme Na Waie withdrew the arrest warrant against Mario Sa Gomes, president of the NGO Guinean Association of Solidarity with the Victims of Judicial Error. Sa Gomes had gone into self-imposed exile in 2007 after calling for Na Waie's dismissal for alleged involvement in drug trafficking. The case against Sa Gomes officially ended with the March death of Na Waie, and Sa Gomes remained abroad by choice.

The government permitted visits by UN representatives, including UNOGBIS personnel. The International Committee of the Red Cross visited several times. In October the UN issued the Report of the Secretary-General on Developments in Guinea-Bissau and on the Activities of the United Nations, which was critical of the country's human rights record. There was no government response to the report by year's end.

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits discrimination but does not designate the bases of discrimination the government did not enforce prohibitions against discrimination.

The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, but government enforcement was limited. No information on the extent of the problem was available.

Domestic violence, including wife beating, was an accepted means of settling domestic disputes. There is no law that prohibits domestic violence, and politicians reportedly were reluctant to address the subject for fear of alienating more traditional voters or particular ethnic groups. Although police intervened in domestic disputes if requested, the government did not undertake specific measures to counter social pressure against reporting domestic violence, rape, incest, and other mistreatment of women.

There are no laws against prostitution and it was a problem.

There is no law prohibiting sexual harassment and it was a problem.

Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There is access to birth control and limited access to HIV testing.

The law treats men and women equally and prohibits discrimination however, discrimination against women was a problem, particularly in rural areas where traditional and Islamic laws were dominant. Women were responsible for most work on subsistence farms and had limited access to education, especially in rural areas. Women did not have equal access to employment. Among certain ethnic groups, women cannot manage land or inherit property. Although no data was available, women reportedly experienced discrimination in employment, pay for similar work, and owning a business.

Citizenship is derived by birth within the country and by parental relation. Child registration does not occur automatically at hospitals. Parents must register their child's birth with a notary. The government conducts yearly campaigns to register children in the countryside. Lack of registration results in the denial of education since school registration requires a birth certificate. Lack of registration does not result in the denial of health services.

Public schooling was free and universal through high school, but compulsory only through the sixth grade. Teachers were poorly trained and paid, sometimes not receiving salaries for months, which resulted in closure of the schools for nearly half of the school year. Children often were required to help their families in the fields, which conflicted with schooling. In general there was no difference in the treatment and attendance of boys and girls, but Islamic schools banned girls from school.

Violence against children existed but was seldom reported to the authorities.

There is no law prohibiting FGM, and certain ethnic groups, especially the Fulas and the Mandinkas, practiced it, not only on adolescent girls but also on babies as young as four months. There was no government effort to combat FGM during the year. In September FGM was performed on a three-week-old baby in Bissau, who subsequently died from a hemorrhage.

Child marriage occurred among all ethnic groups, but no reliable data existed to quantify the problem. Girls who fled arranged marriages often were forced into prostitution to support themselves. The practice of buying and selling child brides also reportedly occurred on occasion. Local NGOs worked to protect the rights of women and children and operated programs to fight child marriage and protect the victims of child marriage. Observers noted during the year that NGO efforts to enroll more girls in school had a negative side effect on child marriages: more girls were forced to marry at a younger age because parents feared the social opportunities of school would increase the risk of their daughters losing their virginity before marriage.

There are no explicit penalties for child prostitution, but there is a statutory rape law against having sex with someone less than 16 years old. The rape law carries a penalty of two to six years in prison. There is no law against child pornography.

The Child Protection Office of the Bissau Police Department estimated that approximately 1,000 children were living on the streets of Bissau, with a growing number of boys engaged in gangs and petty crime. The government provided no services to street children.

There are no laws that prohibit trafficking in persons, and children were trafficked from, through, and within the country. Boys, known as "talibes," were sent from rural areas to attend Koranic schools in neighboring countries, primarily Senegal, where they were exploited, abused, and forced to beg to meet daily monetary quotas for their Koranic teachers. Other boys were sent to work in cotton fields in the south of Senegal. Children were trafficked to work as domestic servants, shine shoes, or sell food on the street in urban areas. Girls were sometimes exploited as prostitutes.

According to the local NGO Association of the Friends of Children (AMIC), there was a general reduction in the number of talibes sent abroad during the year.

On April 8, AMIC organized the repatriation of 13 children from Senegal. On June 26, AMIC organized another repatriation of 20 children from Senegal. During the year 20 children returned from Senegal on their own accord. During the year six traffickers were captured in Pirada near the Senegalese border they had not been tried at year's end.

Traffickers often were teachers in Koranic schools and were related to the families of victims. Traffickers typically approached the parents of young children and offered to send the children for a religious education where they would be taught to read the Koran. Parents received no compensation for sending their children and in many cases paid for the initial travel. In some cases children sent away were unwanted, especially in second marriages, if the new wife did not want to raise children from the first marriage.

Laws against the removal of minors, sexual exploitation, abuse, and kidnapping of minors can be used to prosecute traffickers. Kidnapping provides for a penalty of between two and 10 years in prison, and rape carries a penalty of between one and five years' imprisonment. Despite these laws, the government seldom investigated trafficking cases, and there were no successful prosecutions of traffickers. Instead authorities prosecuted parents who colluded with traffickers. Parents of returned victims had to sign a contract promising not to send their children away under penalty of jail, and during the year AMIC monitored the agreement through visits to the households of repatriated trafficked children and held antitrafficking education programs.

The Ministry of Interior has responsibility for antitrafficking efforts however, the government had no national plan to combat trafficking or the capability to monitor, interdict, or prosecute traffickers.

There were reports that customs, border guards, immigration officials, labor inspectors, or local police may have been bribed to facilitate trafficking however, no specific information was available.

Government officials, including police and border guards, worked closely with AMIC and the UN Children's Fund to prevent trafficking, raise awareness, and repatriate victims. During the year the government actively assisted in the repatriation of dozens of children from Senegal. The regional court played an instrumental role during the year in alerting parents that they would be held legally accountable if they sent their children to beg in a foreign country. AMIC coordinated efforts with the government, police, and civil society to prevent trafficking, help returned victims find their families, and hold parents accountable in court if their children were retrafficked after participating in the reintegration program. AMIC also ran a facility for victims and conducted regular awareness programs on radio stations in the Gabu area and during visits to villages in source areas. AMIC and local police worked with religious and community leaders in Gabu and Bafata. Another program, founded by the local imam of Gabu, held evening Koranic studies after school as an alternative to the schools in Senegal.

The State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities, mandate building access for them, or provide for equal access to employment and education. There were no government efforts to mitigate discrimination against persons with disabilities or ensure their access to buildings or streets. However, there were no reports of overt societal discrimination. The government made some efforts to assist military veterans with disabilities through pension programs, but these programs did not adequately address health, housing, or food needs.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There was no freedom of sexual orientation. Gay men and lesbians were afraid to be open in their behavior. There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation, and there were no violent incidents or human rights abuses targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation or identity. There was no official or societal discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, or access to education and health care.

Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There was open discussion of HIV/AIDS and no societal violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

a. The Right of Association

The law provides all workers with the freedom to form and join independent trade unions without previous authorization or excessive requirements, and workers exercised this right in practice. A significant majority of the population worked in subsistence agriculture, and only a small percentage of workers were in the wage sector and organized. Approximately 85 percent of union members were government or parastatal employees who primarily belonged to independent unions.

The law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference and provides for the right to strike, but the government did not always protect these rights. The only legal restriction on strike activity was a prior notice requirement. The law also prohibits retaliation against strikers.

Unlike 2008, there were no reports that security forces forcibly dispersed legal strike participants.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law does not provide for or protect the right to bargain collectively however, the tripartite National Council for Social Consultation conducted collective consultations on salary issues. Most wages were established in bilateral negotiations between workers and employers.

The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination however, no workers alleged antiunion discrimination, and the practice was not believed to be widespread.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, but there were reports that such practices occurred.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

There are no specific laws that protect children from exploitation in the workplace, and child labor occurred. The legal minimum age is 14 years for general factory labor and 18 years for heavy or dangerous labor, including labor in mines minors are also prohibited from working overtime. The small formal sector generally adhered to these minimum age requirements however, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Civil Service and Labor did not enforce these requirements in informal work settings.

Most child labor occurred in the informal sector. The incidence of children working in street trading in cities increased during the year. Types of forced child labor included domestic servitude, shoe shining, and selling food in urban streets. Children in rural communities performed domestic and fieldwork without pay to support families or because of a lack of educational opportunities. Some children were partially or completely withdrawn from school to work in the fields during the annual cashew harvest. The government had not taken action to combat such practices by year's end.

The Institute of Women and Children and the ministries of labor and justice are responsible for protecting children from labor exploitation however, there was no effective enforcement. The government took little action to prevent child labor during the year. AMIC, in collaboration with the NGO International Cooperation and Development, succeeded in rescuing approximately 1,000 child workers. The NGO Network of Youth was also involved in removing child workers.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Council of Ministers annually establishes minimum wage rates for all categories of work, but it did not enforce them. The lowest monthly wage was approximately 19,030 CFA ($38) per month plus a bag of rice. This wage did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family, and workers had to supplement their incomes through other work, reliance on the extended family, and subsistence agriculture.

The government was four months in arrears in salary payments by year's end, paying August salaries on December 5. Civil servants went on strike on October 7 to protest three months of salary arrears.

The law provides for a maximum 45‑hour workweek however, many employees were forced to work longer hours. The law also provides for overtime pay, as long as it does not exceed 200 hours per year, and a mandatory 12‑hour rest period between workdays however, these provisions were not enforced.

With the cooperation of the unions, the ministries of justice and labor establish legal health and safety standards for workers, which the national assembly then adopts into law however, these standards were not enforced, and many persons worked under conditions that endangered their health and safety. Workers, including foreign workers, do not have the right to remove themselves from unsafe working conditions without losing their jobs.


Guinea-Bissau — History and Culture

Guinea-Bissau’s history is marked by long years of colonization under Western powers. It was ruled by the Portuguese in the 16th century and did not obtain independence until the 20th century, which explains the deeply rooted influences in the country’s language and culture. Still, Guineans were able to preserve their ethnicity and ancient roots, which are evident in art and music.

History

Originally, Guinea-Bissau was part of the Gabu Kingdom of the Mali Empire which endured until the 18th century. The earliest reports of European contact in the region were recorded in the mid-15th century. The Portuguese established settlements along the coastal and river areas, and eventually settled the country in the 16th century after establishing permanent trading posts on the shores.

The Portuguese colony included the mainland territory of Guinea-Bissau and the islands of Cape Verde. They prevailed over African opposition and became the sole power in the region in 1913. During the Salazarist Era, roads, bridges, schools and hospitals were built. Not long after, African nationalists under the headship of Amilcar Cabral started to contest Portuguese rule and eventually gained independence in 1974.

The nationalist forces developed an economic and political infrastructure that provided basic services for the local residents, but political conflicts plagued the country, with coups overthrowing one leader after another, eventually leading to a devastating civil war from 1998-1999. The turn of the century has brought in hope for the future, with a new government rebuilding infrastructure and making efforts to stabilize Guinea-Bissau's political and economic situation.

Culture

The Guinean culture is very colorful, thanks to the people’s diverse ethnic backgrounds. The population is made up of different tribes with distinct languages, social structures and customs, but Guineans are generally very accepting of their differences. Some of the more prominent groups are Fula, Mandinka, Balanta, Papel, Manjaco, and Mancanha, who live in different regions. Much of the remainder of the population is a mix of African and Portuguese descent. There is also a Cape Verdean minority.

Music is a big part of life in Guinea-Bissau. The tradition is connected to polyrhythmic Gumbe genres. The most common instrument is the calabash, which often accompanies rhythmically complex dances. In addition to the Gumbe genre, Tinga and Tina are also popular, along with folk and ceremonial music that are used in various rituals and initiations. Other distinct sounds on the islands include Kussunde, Balanta Brosca, Kundere, and Mandinga djambadon, all of which can be heard throughout the Bijagós Islands.

Until the arrival of other civilizations, most of the local population adhered to animist beliefs. Today, however, the majority practice Islam, followed by Christianity and indigenous religions. Traditions are often practiced with a certain syncretism with conventional African beliefs and practices.

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