U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Guinea-Bissau
|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-Bissau, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4528.html [accessed 2 September 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
GUINEA-BISSAUJoao Bernardo Vieira was elected President in the Republic of Guinea-Bissau's first multiparty elections in 1994. Vieira has ruled the country since taking power in a 1980 coup. He is also a member of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which was the only legal political party from independence in 1974 until adoption of a multiparty constitution in 1991. The PAIGC holds 62 of the 100 seats in the National Assembly where 4 other parties are represented. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but its functioning is hampered by a lack of resources and by corruption. The police, under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, have primary responsibility for the nation's internal security. The armed forces are responsible for external security and may be called upon to assist the police in internal emergencies. The police were responsible for human rights abuses. The population of 1 million relies largely upon subsistence agriculture and the export of cashew nuts. Annual per capita gross domestic product is estimated at $840. The country underwent a major economic transformation in 1997 with its entrance to the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). The introduction of the UEMOA's cfa franc has provided the country with its first convertible currency. In addition UEMOA provides a larger potential market for the country's products. In the short term, admission has caused some adjustment problems, including currency shortages, but on the whole UEMOA membership is expected to be positive. The country remains burdened by a heavy external debt and has inadequate tax revenues. Political pluralism brought about greater transparency. However, the overall human rights situation did not improve during the year. Police continued to engage in arbitrary detention, physical mistreatment, and other forms of harassment. The Government did not punish any members of the security forces for abuses. Prison conditions remained poor, and prolonged detention and a lack of due process continued. Journalists continue to practice self-censorship. Discrimination against women and female genital mutilation are problems.