Guinea-Bissau - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF GUINEA-BISSAU

Amnesty International  Report 2013


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Head of state: João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira
Head of government: Aristides Gomes
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: signed

Dire economic and social conditions continued to threaten political stability. Tens of thousands of people faced hunger in the south while fighting in the northern border area displaced thousands of families. There were restrictions on freedom of expression.

Background

The country remained one of the poorest in the world. In October a United Nations Development Programme report indicated that two in three people lived in abject poverty and that one in four children died before reaching the age of five.

There were frequent strikes throughout the year by teachers, health workers and others over non-payment of salaries. In September the police violently dispersed a demonstration by striking workers.

In September, a bill prohibiting the practice of female genital mutilation was tabled in the People's National Assembly. However, it was not enacted by the end of the year.

Conflict and forced displacement

In March, the army clashed with a faction of the Senegalese separatist group Democratic Forces of Casamance Movement (Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance, MFDC), in the north, along the border with Senegal. About 20,000 people, mostly women and children, were internally displaced following attacks on the town of São Domingos and surrounding villages. More than 2,000 took refuge across the border in Senegal.

The MFDC reportedly laid landmines including along the main road. Eleven people died and 12 others were injured when a bus carrying people fleeing the fighting hit an explosive device. There were also unconfirmed reports of deliberate killings by the MFDC.

Fundamental freedoms

Freedom of expression came under attack. Journalists and politicians were threatened for reporting the fighting along the northern border and for criticizing the authorities. At least four politicians were reportedly arrested and briefly detained. On several occasions in March armed soldiers entered a hotel in São Domingos where international journalists were lodged, apparently seeking to arrest a foreign correspondent.

• Marcelino Simões Lopes Cabral, a former minister of defence, was arrested at home in Bissau and detained for a few days in April for allegedly helping the leader of the MFDC. No charges were brought against him. He had been arrested before, in 2003, for criticizing the government of the day.

• In August, two soldiers, Commodore Mohamed Laminé Sanhá and Lieutenant-Colonel Almane Alam Camará, were arrested for allegedly plotting to kill the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces. They were released uncharged after three days. They had been arrested on several occasions before since 2000, and on each occasion were released uncharged after spending several months in prison.

Food shortages

Tens of thousands of people in the south faced hunger following the failure of the 2005 rice crop owing to the build up of salt in rice paddies, compounded by irregular rainfall. In addition the price of cashew nuts, the country's main export, fell. In May the government launched an appeal for aid which began to arrive in September. However, despite the government's price fixing, most of the population could no longer afford to buy rice.