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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Guinea

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Guinea, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4f38.html [accessed 2 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.
 

President Lansana Conte and an appointed Transitional Committee for National Recovery (CTRN) two-thirds civilian, one-third military continued to direct the pace of political reform. Guinea held its first multiparty presidential elections in more than three decades on December 19 and planned to hold legislative elections in 1994. In a highly controversial election, Conte was elected President, gaining 51.7 percent of the vote in the final official count. Although all 42 political parties participated in the election, the Government controlled the electoral process from start to finish, and the opposition was denied any significant role. The Government insisted on holding the elections, notwithstanding considerable pressure for postponement from outside observers, religious leaders, and the Electoral Commission itself. The results of the election were contested by opposition party observers, who were excluded from the final hours of the vote-counting. The Supreme Court, in reviewing the opposition's claim that the election results had been achieved by fraudulent means, upheld the first round victory of Lansana Conte.

Military and paramilitary forces number around 17,000. Responsibility for internal security is shared by a Gendarmerie, the Republican Guard, the National Police, and the Presidential Guard. Both military personnel and police committed human rights abuses.

Over 80 percent of the population of 7 million people is engaged in subsistence agriculture, and per capita gross domestic product is about $430. 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, which involved, among other things, a sharp reduction in the size of the public service. This austerity program created a pool of unemployed civil servants who continued to be a source of civil unrest.

Human rights remained circumscribed despite holding presidential elections involving 8 candidates and 42 political parties. The Government carefully directed the electoral process and rejected opposition demands for important changes. However, all candidates had access to the media and were able to organize political rallies. Against a background of sporadic outbreaks of ethnically based violence and recourse to vigilante justice by a citizenry beset by increasingly violent criminal activity, major human rights abuses included torture and extrajudicial killings by poorly disciplined security forces; government 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 and poor treatment of prisoners; and its inability to prevent vigilante justice.

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 political killings, but there were a number of extrajudicial killings. Security forces used excessive force in responding to peaceful demonstrations, notably on May 25, when 31 political parties staged a largely peaceful, unauthorized march of more than 100,000 people in Conakry. Official reports indicated that 2 people were killed and more than 200 injured in this confrontation. Opposition leaders stated that it was only after the march officially ended that local authorities instigated violence by deploying local toughs, some of whom looted and destroyed stores owned by members of the same ethnic group that played an active role in organizing the rally. No one was arrested, charged, or disciplined in connection with either the killings or injuries.

Police again used excessive force on September 28 in dispersing a crowd at a demonstration organized by various political parties demanding a transitional government of national unity and an independent electoral commission. Officials admitted that security forces killed two persons and and wounded nine during the violence. The official casualty report for the violence and ensuing ethnic conflict was 63 dead, hundreds wounded, and scores arrested. The opposition claimed that mayors of the local municipalities had paid progovernment Party for Unity and Progress (PUP) members to disrupt the September 28 demonstration as a pretext for intervention by security forces.

On February 8 in Faranah, the military authorities sent soldiers to control a demonstration by disgruntled youths who had paid to be recruited into the army and then were rejected by army recruiters, allegedly for their opposition sympathies. One soldier fired directly into the crowd, killing 3 women and injuring 20 other demonstrators when the youths began destroying the property of local officials. Military authorities investigated and transferred the soldier to another part of the country.

On June 4, security forces fired into a crowd of protesters in Dinguiraye, killing Ousmane Ba and another man and injuring 15 others. Although an investigation was opened by the local prosecutor, no charges were filed or arrests made.

In August Conakry police tortured several detainees and beat one person to death in a case in which the son of a prominent businessman had been murdered. The 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 police official in charge of the station where the torture reportedly occurred. Authorities arrested two officers. They remain under detention, pending a review of the case by a court of first instance.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances. There was no progress in resolving the disappearance of 63 people arrested in the wake of the April 1984 seizure of power and the July 1985 coup attempt, despite a suit filed in 1992 by the Association of Victims of Repression (AVR) against present and former government officials involved in the arrests.

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

The 1965 Penal Code and the 1990 Constitution prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. However, the police are often responsible for brutality against suspects and, in at least one case, beat to death a detainee (see Section 1.a.). The use of beatings to extract confessions is common.

Prison conditions, including those in the women's prison, are primitive and unhealthy.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Penal Code requires that detainees must be charged within 72 hours before a magistrate. 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 this provision is often not respected.

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. During the election campaign security forces detained and tortured a bodyguard of one of the opposition candidates. The authorities never brought charges against those involved, even after public disclosure of the incident.

In April security forces arrested two members of the Air Force, Lieutenant Madice Keita and Lieutenant Souleymane Dayan Diallo, and held them for 15 days, ostensibly for involvement in a coup plot. During the election campaign, the military held several junior officers incommunicado for questioning; they were released within a week.

At year's end, there were no known political or security detainees being held by the Government. The authorities freed Amadou Diallo, who was arrested in 1992 for allegedly plotting to kill the President.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution affirms the judiciary's independence. However, magistrates are civil servants with 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 45 in all), and an outdated and overly restrictive Penal Code. There are also allegations of corruption and nepotism in the judiciary, with relatives of influential members of the Government being 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 the Government in principle provides funds for legal defense in serious criminal cases, in practice these funds are rarely disbursed; the lawyer frequently either receives no payment or provides no services to defend the accused.

The judiciary includes courts of first instance, two Courts of Appeal (one in Kankan and one in Conakry), and the Supreme Court, the court of final appeal, which heard its first case in April. 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 all judgments regarding violations under the Penal Code have been rendered by civilian courts. There is a traditional system of justice at the village or urban neighborhood level at which litigants present their civil cases before a village chief, neighborhood chief, or council of wise men. 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.

Guinea did not have any known political prisoners at the end of 1993.

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

The Constitution provides for inviolability of the home. In public statements, the Government also stressed the inviolability of the home, and judicial search warrants are required by law. However, these procedures are frequently ignored or not strictly followed, 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 civilians at night roadblocks in order to extort money to supplement their low salaries. It is widely believed that security officials monitor mail and telephone calls.

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 new Constitution provides freedom of expression, subject to certain limitations. The Government introduced in 1992 a new Press Law and a National Communications Council (NCC), ostensibly to assure impartiality in the media. 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 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, or 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 Communication continues to act as overseer of state-owned media.

In May the NCC granted free air time only 5 minutes on television and 10 minutes on radio per month to all political parties. During the fall presidential election campaign, candidates expressed their views freely and had alloted access nightly to the television and radio network. Of the total of 240 broadcasts prepared by the candidates, the Communications Commission rejected one broadcast because it used an unofficial language (the candidate did not protest) and rejected another due to alleged slanderous content (this candidate's banned remarks were soon printed and distributed throughout Conakry.)

A vocal and active opposition press has grown since 1992 and is widely read by politically active Guineans, mainly in the capital. Its reporters do not practice self-censorship, and its articles harshly criticized the President and the

Government. At least one new independent journal, L'Horizon, was launched. The approximately 25 existing publications, many launched in 1992, continued to publish despite continuing technical and financial difficulties. Some newspapers are linked with opposition parties while others offer news and criticism of both the Government and the opposition.

Many political tracts, both signed and unsigned, circulated widely throughout Conakry and other regions, and included specific criticisms of the President and high officials. Foreign publications, some of which include criticism of the Government, circulated freely.

There were no known attempts to interfere with foreign radio broadcasts. However, the Government showed its sensitivity to its image abroad by harassing several journalists involved in international reporting. The radio authorities on March 15 officially suspended Ben Daouda Sylla, a journalist at the state-owned national radio station and correspondent for Africa Number One, ostensibly for his portrayal of a "truncated image of Guinea," but presumably for his more critical accounts transmitted outside the country. He was allowed to resume his duties for Africa Number One in May. The police interrogated Serge Daniel, a journalist from Benin working as the Radio France correspondent, ostensibly because his visa papers were not in order, but allegedly due to his reporting on the political situation.

The Ministry of Higher Education exercises limited control over academic freedom through its influence on the faculty hiring process. 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 prior notification to the Government.

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. Event organizers may be held criminally liable if there is violence or destruction of property. Local officials declared opposition parties liable for the destruction of property after the May 25 march (see Section l.a.), but the Government did not press charges, and the case was eventually dropped. In late September, the Government reported that 63 people died in interethnic violence following political marches in Conakry. The Government did not charge the march organizers with responsibility for the violence. The Government suspended the right to march in the streets in response to this outbreak of violence. During the election campaign, the Government permitted political parties to hold mass demonstrations throughout the country.

Political parties must provide information on their founding members and produce internal statutes and political platforms which are consistent with the Constitution before the Government will recognize them. The 43 parties that applied for official recognition received it.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution declares Guinea to be a secular State, and religious groups enjoy religious freedom. An estimated 85 percent of the population is Muslim. The Government observes major Christian and Muslim holidays. Foreign missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant, operate freely.

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

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

Guineans are generally free to travel within the country and to change their place of residence and work. Travelers face periodic harassment by police and military roadblocks, particularly at night. Citizens commonly pay bribes to avoid police harassment. Foreign travel is not restricted; many Guineans travel widely.

The Government restricted movement on election day. Also, at the height of the election campaign, the Minister of Defense issued an order, without specified time limit, closing Guinea's land borders. The Government had not rescinded this order at year's end, although cross-border movement of people and goods soon resumed.

There were two incidents of travel restrictions for political reasons. On election day, paramilitary police at a checkpoint outside Conakry did not allow opposition presidential candidate Jean Marie Dore to pass, thereby preventing him from voting. A few days later at the same checkpoint, security forces denied passage to opposition presidential candidate Mamadou Ba. The order was reversed within 8 hours.

Guinea currently hosts approximately 580,000 Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees. An additional 80,000 Guinean residents of Liberia and Sierra Leone fled violence and returned to Guinea, where they received relief assistance. The Government continued 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.

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

Throughout 1993 President Conte, his Cabinet, and the presidentially appointed legislature (CTRN) wielded full powers of government. On December 19, Guineans had their first opportunity in over 30 years to change their government by democratic means. However, the Government controlled the electoral process, and Lansana Conte was elected President in a disputed outcome. A former military officer, Conte first came to power in 1984 in a bloodless military coup d'etat.

Following the vote, opposition candidates claimed serious electoral irregularities and, in particular, protested the unilateral annulment by the Minister of Interior and Security of results from Siguiri prefecture, which voted heavily for an opposition candidate. They also pointed out that the provisional results announced by the Minister of Interior and Security on December 23, which gave President Conte a majority of 50.93 percent, were inconsistent with the preliminary results that they and independent observers had noted at the National Vote Counting Commission. Subsequently, the opposition petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the results that had given President Conte a first-round victory. On January 4, 1994, the Court annulled the results of Siguiri prefecture and the city of Kankan and declared candidate Lansana Conte the winner with 51.7 percent of the vote.

The Government postponed the first elections for the National Assembly, scheduled for 1992, until 1994 pending, among other things, the completion of a national census upon which voter rolls could be based. The Government completed that census in November. The opposition alleged that the Government manipulated the voter census in Conte's favor, but international observers stated the census was acceptable.

The presidential party, the Party for Unity and Progress (PUP), held a preeminent position going into the December election. Throughout the year, the opposition made credible claims that the Government provided the PUP with state resources to support its campaigns, refused to modify preelection procedures, and pressured civil servants to support, or not to oppose openly, the PUP. The Government rejected opposition political groups' demands for the establishment of a transitional government of national unity prior to the election. Although the Government established a National Electoral Commission as demanded by the opposition, it was an advisory panel without authority to direct the elections.

PUP's strength also rested on the fragmentation of the opposition. The three leading opposition parties are the Malinke-based Assembly of the Guinean People, the Peuhl (Fulani)-based Union for the New Republic, and the Party of Renewal and Progress.

While women are poorly represented in the Government, they voted overwhelmingly in the presidential election on December 19. All voters, male and female, were able to vote in secret and were treated equally.

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

Local nongovernmental organizations primarily interested in human rights issues included: the Guinean Organization for Human Rights (OGDH); the Guinean Association for the Defense of Human Rights; the Children of the Victims of Camp Boiro; the Association of Victims of Repression (AVR); and the Committee for the Defense of Civic Rights formed in 1993. These groups, especially OGDH and AVR, were vocal in calling attention to human rights abuses but had to be cautious in criticizing the Government. Following an appeal by the president of the International Federation for Human Rights, in March the Interior Minister withdrew his August 1992 suspension of OGDH and AVR for taking part in a political march in July 1992.

The Government does not welcome commentary or investigation by outside groups of its human rights practices, which it sees as strictly an internal matter.

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. The Government has affirmed the principle of equal pay for equal work, but in practice women receive less pay than men in most jobs. In education, according to a United Nations Development Program report for 1991, females receive only 20 percent as much schooling as males.

Violence against women, including wife beating, is common, although social workers 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. The issue received some exposure in locally produced television dramas but is rarely mentioned in the press or given governmental attention.

Children

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

Female genital mutilation (circumcision), which has been condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and mental health, is performed at an early age and is practiced among Muslims and animists in Guinea. According to an independent expert, about 60 percent of Guinean females have undergone this procedure. Grandmothers frequently insist on the circumcision of a granddaughter, even when the parents are opposed. The most dangerous form of circumcision, infibulation, is not practiced. The Government has recently made efforts to educate health workers on the dangers of this procedure, and at the World Health Organization Assembly in May cosponsored a resolution calling for a plan of action for eliminating the harmful traditional practice worldwide.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

While racial or ethnic discrimination is prohibited by the Constitution and the Penal Code, ethnic identification is strong, and mutual suspicion affects relations across ethnic lines, in and out of government. The Cabinet includes representatives of all major ethnic groups. A disproportionate number of senior military officers are Soussou, the ethnic group of President Conte. In March there were incidents of interethnic violence between Soussou and Peuhl, including in Forecariah, where houses were looted and destroyed in the wake of a political rally, and in Conakry, where a minor incident escalated into fighting that resulted in two deaths. In late September, interethnic violence between Peuhl and Soussou in Conakry led to 63 deaths. During the election season, Malinke supporters of presidential candidate Alpha Conde clashed with mainly Soussou supporters of President Conte in different areas of Upper Guinea. Presidential voting often divided along ethnic lines.

People with Disabilities

The Constitution declares 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.

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 affiliation. Only an estimated 5 percent of the workforce is unionized. Most union members are government employees or employees of the national utilities (electric, water, and telephone companies).

Guinea's Labor Code, drafted with the assistance of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and promulgated in January 1988, 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. The Labor Code requires elected worker representatives for any enterprise employing 25 or more salaried workers.

While the new Labor Code ended the previously existing trade union monopoly system, most union workers still belong to the former sole confederation, the National Confederation of Guinean Workers (CNTG). The CNTG is indirectly funded by the State, although officials seek to increase the Confederation's freedom from government control. Independent unions and confederations are rapidly gaining popularity, such as the National Organization for Free Trade Unions of Guinea and the Free Union of Teachers and Researchers of Guinea.

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 strike. In sectors affecting "essential services" (e.g., hospitals, schools, media, and bakeries) some provisions for a minimal level of service may be required, though it is not clear how this principle is to be applied.

In 1993 workers increasingly resorted to strikes and threats of strikes to achieve their demands. In April and May union leaders at the state-owned electric utility, Enelgui, led two successful strikes demanding salary increases. Workers in Guinea's six banks went on strike for 1 week in May and threatened to do so again in June, seeking compliance with bank regulations on salaries and other issues applicable in surrounding Francophone countries.

Unions may freely associate with international labor groups. The Government continued to designate the CNTG to represent Guinean workers in the ILO Conference in 1993.

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. Collective bargaining for wages and salaries without government interference is protected by law. 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 under the Labor Code is 16 years. However, apprentices may start at 14 years. Workers and apprentices under the age of 18 are not permitted to work at night, for more than 12 consecutive hours, or on Sundays. The Labor Code also states that the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs must maintain a list of occupations in which women and youth under 18 may not 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 and in small trades. No minimum years of schooling are required; fewer than one-third of school-age children attend school.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government has not yet enacted minimum wage legislation, but the Labor Code provides for the eventual establishment by decree of a guaranteed minimum hourly wage. 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 at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week, usually on Sunday. Every salaried worker has the right to an annual paid vacation, accumulated at the rate of at least 2.5 workdays per month of service. In practice, these rules are enforced 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 not yet elaborated a set of practicable workplace health and safety standards. Neither has it as yet 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. However, enforcement 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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