Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September 2014, 13:07 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Guinea

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Guinea, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4334.html [accessed 30 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
 

 

The Government controlled the election of President Lansana Conte from start to finish and denied the opposition any significant role. Complete management of the elections rested with the Ministry of Interior and Security. The Government insisted on holding the elections, notwithstanding considerable pressure for postponement from the political opposition, outside observers, and religious leaders. The National Electoral Commission, which began functioning only a few days before the elections, called for a postponement and refused to participate in the verification of results. Opposition party observers, who were excluded from the final hours of vote-counting, contested the final results. In January the Supreme Court rejected opposition legal challenges to the vote count and ruled that Lansana Conte had won the election on the first round with 51.7 percent of the vote.

The Gendarmerie and the National Police share responsibility for internal security. The Government eliminated the Republican and Presidential Guards and incorporated these units into other existing units. Both military personnel and police continue to commit human rights abuses. Eighty percent of the population of 7 million engage in subsistence agriculture, and annual per capita gross domestic product is about $511. Guinea's major exports are bauxite, gold, and diamonds. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund continued to contribute to Guinea's economic restructuring program. This led, among other things, to a sharp reduction in the size of the public service.

Human rights remain circumscribed. The Government dominated the electoral process and rejected opposition demands for important changes. An independent press occasionally criticized the Government, but the latter owns and operates the electronic media, the major medium for reaching the vast majority of the public.

There were sporadic outbreaks of ethnically based violence and recourse to vigilante justice, prompted in part by increased violent criminal activity. Major human rights abuses included extrajudicial killings by security forces; police abuse of prisoners and detainees; governmental failure to guarantee access by attorneys to clients in prison, where much abuse takes place with impunity; the Executive Branch's influence over the judicial system; the Government's continued neglect of the prison system; its domination of the electronic media, thus denying the political opposition the means to reach the populace; its denial of citizens' rights to change the government and its inability to prevent vigilante justice; and violence and discrimination against women.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of targeted political killings, but there were several extrajudicial killings by security forces using excessive force.

In March military recruits in Labe rioted following an altercation in a bar in which a soldier nearly beat a civilian to death. After family and friends of the civilian seized and flogged to death a military officer who had not been involved in the prior altercation, armed military recruits ransacked the neighborhood of the bar, wounding many people. During the riot an elderly woman died of a gunshot wound.

On August 31, security forces in Kerouane used tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse a crowd at a political opposition rally. Two independent newspapers reported that two individuals died. Ministry of Justice officials reported that an investigation would take place, although no results were reported by year's end.

Concerning the August 1993 death in police custody of Alseny Limam Kourouma, police reportedly tried to cover up the incident by forcing a doctor to issue a false death certificate listing heart failure as the cause of death. The authorities suspended and detained the officer in charge of the station where the torture had reportedly occurred. Authorities arrested and detained two officers who are still awaiting trial.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of abductions or disappearances.

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

The Penal Code and the Constitution prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. However, the police often use beatings to extract confessions and also employ other forms of brutality.

In February the police summarily punished a number of taxi drivers for illegally stopping or parking at the roadside. The drivers received lashes across their buttocks while they were made to spread themselves over the hoods of their cars. A few drivers reportedly required medical treatment due to the severity of the lashings.

On September 11 in N'Zerekore, local police harassed and then detained at their station an American citizen as she returned home that evening. After leaving the station, an army soldier assaulted her and attempted to rape her. Local, regional, and national authorities cooperated in identifying the assailant. In November, he was dismissed from the army, sentenced to 6 months in prison with hard labor, and fined $220.

On November 26, soldiers in Conakry detained approximately 40 civilians at Camp Almamy Samory. The detainees, mainly Guineans and Lebanese, were beaten and held without charges for over 5 hours. Soldiers allegedly raped some of the women in the group.

Prison conditions, including those in the women's prison, are inhumane and life-threatening. The standards of sanitation and nutrition remain poor. Deaths due to malnutrition and disease are frequent. The Government does not permit local human rights organizations to visit prisons. On the night of December 31, sixteen prisoners died in Conakry's Central Prison. The State Prosecutor began an investigation.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Penal Code requires that detainees must be charged before a magistrate within 72 hours. Once charged, the accused may be held until the final outcome of the case, including during the period of any appeals. Release on bail is at the discretion of the magistrate who has jurisdiction in the case. The Constitution proscribes incommunicado detention. The law guarantees attorneys access to their clients, but authorities frequently do not respect this provision.

In practice, administrative controls over the police are ineffective, and security forces rarely follow the Penal Code; arbitrary arrest remained a persistent threat to Guineans.

On January 21 in Kankan, security forces stopped, beat, and imprisoned an opposition party delegation touring the region. Local police subsequently released the members of the delegation. In June gendarmes detained two soldiers to answer questions concerning their alleged disloyalty and malfeasance. After 2 days, they were released.

At year's end, there were no known political or security detainees being held by the Government.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution affirms the judiciary's independence. Magistrates, however, are civil servants having no guarantee of tenure and are susceptible to influence by the executive branch. Judicial authorities often defer to central authorities in politically sensitive cases. In addition, the administration of justice is plagued by numerous other problems, including a shortage of magistrates (who generally are poorly trained) and lawyers (there are 48 in all), and an outdated and overly restrictive Penal Code. Owing to corruption and nepotism in the judiciary, relatives of influential members of the Government are virtually above the law.

The Penal Code provides for the presumption of innocence of accused persons, the independence of judges, the equality of citizens before the law, the right of the accused to counsel, and the right to appeal a judicial decision. Although in principle the Government is responsible for funding legal defense costs in serious criminal cases, in practice it rarely disburses these funds. The attorney for the defense frequently receives no payment.

The judiciary includes courts of first instance, two Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court, the court of final appeal. There is also a State Security Court, but it has not met since the trial of those allegedly involved in the coup attempt of 1985. A military tribunal prepares and adjudicates charges against accused military personnel. Since 1988, civilian courts have rendered all judgments regarding violations under the Penal Code.

A traditional system of justice exists at the village or urban neighborhood level. Litigants present their civil cases before a village chief, a neighborhood chief, or a council of wise men. The dividing line between the formal and informal justice systems is vague, and a case may be referred from the formal to the traditional system to ensure compliance by all parties with the judicial ruling. Conversely, if a case cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties in the traditional system, it may be referred to the formal system for adjudication. Suspected criminals, notably thieves, are sometimes beaten to death by their victims, and by others with tacit approval of police authorities. Guinea did not have any known political prisoners at year's end.

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

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the home and judicial search warrants are required by law. Police frequently ignore these procedures, however, or do not strictly follow them, and interference in citizens' lives continued, primarily through police harassment. Police and paramilitary police often ignore legal procedures in the pursuit of criminals and frequently detain private citizens at night roadblocks in order to extort money to supplement their incomes. It is widely believed that security officials monitor mail and telephone calls.

Local businesses, especially expatriate companies, often complain of intimidation and harassment by public officials and authorities.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Government has stated publicly that it supports free speech and a free press, and the Constitution provides for freedom of expression, subject to certain limitations. But while proclaiming freedom of the press and communications, the Press Law gives the Government a sufficiently broad range of possible restrictive actions as to vitiate any real protection. It also prohibits seditious talk or chants uttered in public, establishes defamation and slander as criminal offenses, and prohibits communications that offend the President, incite violence, discrimination, hatred, or disturb the public peace.

The Government owns and operates the electronic news media, with national and rural radio being the most important outlet in reaching the public. It also publishes the official newspaper, Horoya. Reporters for the official press, who are government employees, practice self-censorship in order to protect their jobs. The Ministry of Communications continues to act as overseer of state-owned media.

There is a vocal and active independent and opposition press, which is on occasion critical of the President and the Government. The two weekly newspapers, Le Lynx and L'Independant, and up to two dozen other publications continue to publish despite technical and financial difficulties. Some newspapers are linked to opposition parties while others offer news and criticism of both the Government and the opposition.

Political tracts circulate widely throughout Conakry and other regions, and include specific criticisms of the President and high officials. Foreign publications, some of which include criticism of the Government, are usually available. There were no known attempts to interfere with foreign radio broadcasts. On March 9 the Government shut down the country's first and only independent radio station, Radio Gandal. It had begun, without a license, to broadcast music on March 3.

The Ministry of Higher Education exercises control over academic freedom through its influence on the faculty hiring and control over curriculum. In general, teachers are not subject to classroom censorship.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of association is protected by law, but there are legal restrictions on assembly. The Penal Code bans any meeting that has an ethnic or racial character or any gathering "whose nature threatens national unity." A September 1992 statute allows public gatherings only with 72-hour prior notification to the Government. Following intercommunal riots in September 1993, the Government banned all street marches except for funerals.

Pursuant to this statute, local administrative authorities may cancel a demonstration or meeting if they have grounds to believe that public order will be threatened. They may hold event organizers criminally liable if violence or destruction of property ensues. Organizers of political rallies in the opposition stronghold region of Upper Guinea have been arrested for violating this statute.

Political parties must provide information on their founding members and produce internal statutes and political platforms consistent with the Constitution before the Government recognizes them. At year's end, there were 46 legally recognized political parties.

On September 8, local officials and security forces in Faranah attempted to detain Alpha Conde, Secretary General of the Malinke-based political party, the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG). Government officials stated that local officials wanted only to talk to Alpha Conde and that they had made no attempt to detain him. Conde intended to hold a political rally, but authorities prevented him from entering the city. The Ministry of Interior subsequently canceled the remaining portion of Conde's tour of Upper Guinea, where his party had enjoyed its greatest electoral success.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution declares Guinea to be a secular state, and religious groups freely practice their faiths. Foreign missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant, operate freely.

The Government and the quasi-governmental National Islamic League have spoken out against the proliferation of Shi'ite fundamentalist sects "generating confusion and deviation" (within Guinean Islam) but have not restricted these groups. The Constitution provides religious communities the freedom to govern themselves without state interference.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for the right of Guineans to travel freely within the country and to change their places of residence and work. The Government requires all citizens to carry national identification cards which they must present on demand at security checkpoints. Travelers in large cities face harassment by police and at military roadblocks, particularly late at night. It is common for citizens to pay bribes to avoid police harassment. The Government permits foreign travel, although it retains the ability to limit it for political reasons. For example, in February airport security officers prevented Siradiou Diallo, Secretary General of the Party for Renewal and Progress, from boarding a plane to Senegal. Several hours later, officials allowed him to depart.

In June the Government ordered the removal of checkpoints at prefectoral borders. In November authorities instituted midnight to daybreak roadblocks throughout the city of Conakry in order to control increasing banditry. Security agents were instructed to detain only those lacking proper documentation. However, some security agents, and in particular soldiers, harassed, detained, and beat those who did not pay bribes.

Guinea currently hosts approximately 633,200 Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees. The Government continues to work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and many other international and nongovernmental organizations to provide food and shelter to those designated as refugees. While the Government has generally been hospitable toward refugees, there have been reports of local police officials and border patrol soldiers demanding bribes or sexual favors for entry into Guinea. There were no reports of forced repatriation.

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

Although multiparty elections were held in 1993, the Government dominated the electoral process (even excluding opposition observers from the final vote count) thus calling into serious doubt the ability of the people effectively to exercise their constitutional right to change the government.

Following the installation of Lansana Conte as President on January 29, the Government took steps to inhibit opposition political activity. The RPG coordinated a tax boycott in its stronghold, Upper Guinea. This ended in May, owing to oppressive tactics of the Government, including detention without charge of RPG militants, arrests for organizing rallies, and disrupting RPG political rallies.

The President's party, the Party of Unity and Progress (PUP), remained the preeminent political organization. PUP's strength rested on the fragmentation of the opposition.

While women are numerically underrepresented in the Government, they participated overwhelmingly in the presidential election. President Conte named four women to ministerial positions, including the Minister of Agriculture.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Local nongovernmental organizations primarily interested in human rights issues include: the Guinean Organization for the Defense of Human Rights (OGDH); the Guinean Human Rights Association (AGDH); the Children of the Victims of Camp Boiro; the Association of Victims of Repression (AVR); and the Committee for the Defense of Civic Rights. These groups, especially OGDH, AGDH and AVR, were vocal in calling attention to human rights abuses. The government-controlled press denounces efforts by foreign governments or organizations to interfere in internal affairs, including the protection of human rights.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution states that all persons are equal before the law, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, language, beliefs, political opinions, philosophy, or creed.

Women

Although the Constitution provides for equal treatment of men and women, women face discrimination, particularly in rural areas, where opportunities for women are limited by custom and the demands of child-rearing and arduous subsistence farming. Women are not denied access to land, credit or businesses. The Government has affirmed the principle of equal pay for equal work, but in practice women receive less pay than men in most equally demanding jobs. According to a 1991 United Nations Development Program report, females receive only 20 percent as much schooling as males.

Violence against women, including wife beating, is common, although social workers' estimates differ as to the extent of the problem. Wife beating is a criminal offense and constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law; however, police rarely intervene in domestic disputes. Although the Government has made regular statements in the media against sexual harassment, women working in the small formal sector in urban areas complain of frequent sexual harassment. Refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone reported some Guinean soldiers demanded sex in exchange for entry into Guinea. Although not considered widespread, the social stigma attached to rape prevents most women from reporting it. The Government has not vigorously pursued criminal investigations of alleged sexual crimes.

Children

The Constitution provides that the Government has a particular obligation to protect and nurture the nation's youth, and it allocates a significant percentage of its budget to primary education.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), which international health experts have condemned as damaging to both physical and mental health, is performed at an early age and is practiced among Muslims and animists. According to an independent expert, about 60 percent of females have undergone this procedure.

Grandmothers frequently insist on the circumcision of a granddaughter, even when the parents are opposed. Infibulation, the most dangerous form of FGM, is not practiced. The Government has made efforts to educate health workers on the dangers of this procedure and supports the World Health Organization resolutions calling for its elimination.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

While the Constitution and the Penal Code prohibit racial or ethnic discrimination, ethnic identification is strong. Mutual suspicion affects relations across ethnic lines, in and out of government. The Cabinet includes representatives of all major ethnic groups, but a disproportionate number of senior military officers are Soussou, the ethnic group of President Conte.

People with Disabilities

The Constitution provides that all persons are equal before the law. There are no special constitutional provisions for the disabled. The Government has not mandated accessibility for the disabled and few disabled people work.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of employees to form labor unions and protects them from discrimination based on their union affiliations. Only an estimated 5 percent of the work force is unionized. Most union members are government employees, employees of the national utilities (electric, water, and telephone companies), or of foreign-controlled companies.

The Labor Code states that all workers (except military and paramilitary) have the right to create and participate in organizations that defend and develop their individual and collective rights as workers. It requires elected worker representatives for any enterprise employing 25 or more salaried workers.

The National Confederation of Guinean Workers (CNTG) was the sole trade union before the Labor Code was enacted. Even though there are now other trade union and labor confederations, the CNTG remains the largest confederation.

The CNTG is indirectly funded by the State, although dissident members seek to increase the Confederation's freedom from Government control. Independent unions and confederations have gained popularity, such as the Free Union of Teachers and Researchers of Guinea and the National Organization for Free Trade Unions of Guinea. Several disgruntled groups within the CNTG left the Confederation, citing corruption in the leadership. These groups joined with some independent unions to form a new confederation, the United Syndicates of Guinean Workers.

The Labor Code grants salaried workers, including public sector civilian employees, the right to strike 10 days after their representative union makes known its intention to do so. It prohibits strikes in sectors providing essential services (hospitals, radio and television, army, and police). Workers, including Conakry bank employees, transport workers, and university teachers, particularly the Medical Faculty, again exercised their right to strike.

Unions may freely affiliate with international labor groups. The Government continued to designate CNTG to represent workers in the International Labor Organization Conference in 1994.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Under the Labor Code, representative workers' unions or union groups may organize the workplace and negotiate with employers or employer organizations. The law protects the right to bargain collectively concerning wages and salaries without government interference. Work rules and work hours established by the employer are to be developed in consultation with union delegates. The Code also prohibits antiunion discrimination. Union delegates represent individual and collective claims and grievances with management. Individual workers threatened with dismissal or other sanctions have the right to a hearing before management with a union representative present and, if necessary, to take the complaint to the Conakry Labor Court which convenes weekly to hear such cases. In the interior, civil courts hear labor cases.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Code specifically forbids forced or compulsory labor, and there is no evidence of its practice.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment according to the Labor Code is 16 years. Apprentices, however, may start at 14 years. Workers and apprentices under the age of 18 are not permitted to work at night nor for more than 12 consecutive hours, nor on Sundays. The Labor Code also stipulates that the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs maintain a list of occupations in which women and youth under 18 cannot be employed. In practice, enforcement by Ministry inspectors is limited to large firms in the modern sector of the economy. Children of all ages work on family farms, in small trades, and in the informal sector, such as in street vending.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code provides for the establishment by decree of a guaranteed minimum hourly wage, but the Government has not yet done so. There are also provisions in the Code for overtime and night wages, which are fixed percentages of the regular wage. According to the Labor Code, regular work is not to exceed 10-hour days or 48-hour weeks, with a 40-hour workweek being the norm, and there is to be a period of at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week, usually Sunday. Every salaried worker has the legal right to an annual paid vacation, accumulated at the rate of at least 2.5 workdays per month of work. In practice, authorities enforce these rules only in the relatively small modern urban sector.

The Labor Code contains provisions of a general nature respecting occupational safety and health, but the Government has at year's end not yet elaborated a set of practicable workplace health and safety standards. Neither had it issued any of the ministerial orders laying out the specific requirements for certain occupations and for certain methods of work that are called for in the Labor Code. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is responsible for enforcing labor standards, and its inspectors are empowered to suspend work immediately in situations hazardous to health. Enforcement, however, remained more of a goal than a reality. Labor inspectors acknowledge that they cannot even cover Conakry, much less the entire country, with their small staff and meager budget.

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