The political situation deteriorated sharply following the death in January of President Malam Bacai Sanhá, culminating in a coup in April. It deteriorated further following a reported attack on a military barracks in October, which exacerbated the already fragile human rights and humanitarian situation. The armed forces committed numerous human rights violations with impunity, including arbitrary arrest and detention, beatings and extrajudicial executions. Freedoms of assembly, expression and the press were severely curbed. The killings of political and security figures since 2009 remained unpunished.
In January, President Malam Bacai Sanhá died after a long illness. Presidential elections held in March were won by former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior. As he fell just short of an outright majority, a second round was scheduled for late April. Ten days before the second round of the elections, the military staged a coup, took control of the capital, Bissau, and arrested the former Prime Minister and Interim President. Both were released from military custody two weeks later and sent into exile.
Repressive measures were imposed to stifle criticism of the self-styled Military Command that had taken control. All demonstrations were banned and soldiers used force to disperse peaceful spontaneous demonstrations. The military claimed their action was prompted by the presence of Angolan troops in the country under a bilateral agreement to assist with the training and reform of the security sector. In early May the Military Command and its civilian allies reached an agreement with ECOWAS for a one-year transition and the deployment of ECOWAS troops to Bissau. Two weeks later, a transitional President and government were appointed, which was not recognized by the international community.
In October the authorities claimed that a group of soldiers and civilians had launched an attack on a military base in the outskirts of Bissau and that six attackers were killed. They accused the former Prime Minister of involvement. Military personnel committed serious human rights violations in the search for the alleged perpetrators of the attack.Top of page
Private radio stations were shut down at the time of the military coup and remained off the air for two days. They were allowed to resume broadcasting under severe censorship and at least one radio station decided to remain closed. Journalists were also impeded from carrying out their work and were harassed or arrested. The correspondent of Portugal’s state broadcaster, Radio Televisão Portuguesa, was expelled in October for his critical reporting of the government and military authorities.Top of page
There were reports suggesting that the six people allegedly killed during the attack on the military base in October, four civilians and two military officers, had been extrajudicially executed. Soldiers also reportedly extrajudicially executed five people in Bolama, Bijagos Islands, whom they accused of being accomplices of Pansau Ntchama, the alleged leader of the October attack. Others were unlawfully killed for their links with deposed government figures.
Luis Ocante da Silva, a close friend of the former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, José Zamora Induta, died as a result of beatings by soldiers. On 6 November he was taken from his home by a group of soldiers, beaten and taken to an undisclosed location. Two days later soldiers took his body to the morgue in the central hospital. His family were allowed to see only his face and were not allowed to take the body for burial.
No investigations were carried out into these killings or other human rights violations by the military. Impunity also persisted for political killings since 2009.Top of page
Following the coup in April, soldiers searching for deposed government officials beat their families, friends and employees and vandalized their homes. Most ministers went into hiding, where they remained for several months; a few fled the country. Members of civil society groups were also targeted. Some, including several members of the Human Rights League, received threats against their lives and took refuge in embassies.
The day after the October attack on the military base, soldiers arrested and beat Iancuba Indjai, president of the opposition Party of Solidarity and Labour and spokesperson of the Anti-Coup National Front, a grouping of political parties and civil society groups who opposed the April coup. Iancuba Indjai was abandoned by the roadside some 50 km from Bissau. Local residents found him seriously injured and alerted his family. He was subsequently taken to a hospital abroad.
Later the same day, soldiers went to the Bissau office of Silvestre Alves, a lawyer and president of the Democratic Movement party; they beat him and took him away. He was later found unconscious by a road 40km from the city by local people who took him to a hospital. He was taken abroad for medical treatment.Top of page