U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Guinea
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Guinea, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa452c.html [accessed 13 July 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
GUINEAPresident Lansana Conte took office as head of state of the Republic of Guinea in 1994, after multiparty elections in which the Government dominated the electoral process. Guinea held its first multiparty legislative elections in 1995, delivering more than 60 percent of Parliament's seats to President Conte's Party of Unity and Progress (PUP). The PUP is one seat short of the majority required to make constitutional amendments. Opposition leaders, some international observers, and segments of the citizenry voiced suspicion of PUP's considerable victories in both parliamentary and municipal elections. Although the PUP continues to dominate all three branches of government, opposition parties have on occasion persuaded PUP members of Parliament, including the National Assembly leadership, to vote with the opposition on specific legislative matters. The judiciary is subject to executive influence, particularly in politically sensitive cases. The gendarmerie and the national police share responsibility for internal security and sometimes play an oppressive role in the daily lives of citizens. The Red Berets--autonomous presidential guards--are accountable to almost no one except the President. Members of all the security forces, which many citizens view as corrupt, ineffective, and even dangerous, frequently commit human rights abuses. About 85 percent of the country's 7 million people engage in subsistence agriculture. Annual per capita gross domestic product is about $750. More than 90 percent of export earnings come from mining, particularly bauxite, gold, and diamonds. Additional exports include coffee and fruit. In July 1996, President Conte appointed a new government, including the country's first Prime Minister, which emphasized economic reform. The Government continued to circumscribe human rights. The Government's tight control over the electoral process and the lack of an independent electoral oversight mechanism, and a prohibition on nongovernmental broadcast media, call into serious doubt the ability of citizens to change the government. Major human rights abuses include: disappearances; police abuse of prisoners and detainees; use of torture by military personnel; inhuman prison conditions and frequent deaths due to these conditions and lack of medical care; instances of arbitrary arrest and detention; governmental failure to ensure access by attorneys to clients in prison; the executive branch's influence over the judicial system and the electoral process; occasional instances of vigilante justice by unidentified uniformed personnel; infringement on citizens' privacy; restrictions on freedom of speech and the press; restrictions on freedom of assembly; societal discrimination and violence against women; and prostitution and genital mutilation of young girls. The Government dominated the electoral process. However, the PUP head of the National Assembly and the leaders of the opposition called for the creation of an independent electoral commission. The independent press criticized the Government, but met with a broad range of restrictions, including the arrest of journalists. The Government owns and operates the electronic media, the major medium for reaching the vast majority of the public. The Ministry of Justice, the National Assembly and local nongovernmental organizations (NGO'S) attempted to educate the citizenry about the judicial process and individual rights. The Ministry of National Defense also sponsored a series of seminars to teach the armed forces and gendarmes about human rights. The International Committee of the Red Cross, trained Ministry of Security officials and customs officers on humanitarian law.