The United Nations Integrated Peace Building Office in Guinea Bissau (UNIOGBIS) was established on 1 January 2010 and replaced the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office. The human rights section (HRS) of the Office currently comprises thirteen staff responsible for providing technical assistance, education and information on human rights standards and also for integrating the human rights perspective into all United Nations projects / programmes.
In addition to a lack of basic facilities and minimum living standards, the country has been plagued by political instability since the civil war in 1997/1998. Arbitrary detention, torture and impunity are issues of major concern. Presently there is no accredited national human rights institution in Guinea Bissau.
Despite legislative elections being held in 2008, which were widely considered to have been free and fair, there have been at least six murders of high profile individuals following the elections and no perpetrators have been identified. Amongst those killed was late President Joäo Bernardo Vieira killed on 2 March 2009, the day after the assassination of Military Chief General, Batista Tagme Na Waie. Malam Bacai Sanha was voted in as the country’s new President in July 2009.
Discrimination against women, children and people with disabilities are also issues to be addressed. There is currently no provision against discrimination in Guinea Bissau’s constitution or legislation. Consequently, discriminatory practices against vulnerable groups have persisted without any legal basis for deterrence or redress. The 2006 Guinea Bissau Common Country Assessment (CCA) exposed how ill equipped the country’s justice system is.
The country has, however, recently shown dedication to improving its human rights record and bringing it into compliance with international standards. On the 18 August 2010 the Prime Minister expressed a commitment to ending traditional harmful practices, with particular focus on early forced marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM). A draft law prohibiting FGM was approved by parliament on 6 June 2011.
On the 2 June 2011, a draft law prohibiting human trafficking was also approved. It establishes preventative measures, in addition to rules regarding protection and the reintegration into society of trafficking victims. The law also provides for creation of the National Committee on Prevention, Protection and Combating Trafficking.
New draft laws have also been approved on domestic violence and on press freedom and the status of journalists.
In addition to consultations on the possible revision of the country’s constitution which were held in early 2011 the Government has revised laws on:
- Access to justice;
- The treatment of detainees;
- The functioning of prisons and
- Partially revised the code of penal procedures.
There is also an open invitation to special procedures to visit the country.