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OHCHR and Guinea sign agreement for presence

The UN Human Rights office and the Government of Guinea on 4 May in Geneva signed an agreement establishing OHCHR’s presence in the West-African country. The new country office will work to promote and protect human rights in Guinea.

Navi Pillay and Guinean Foreign Affairs Minister Bakary Fofana sign an agreement © OHCHR photoThe decision to establish an OHCHR country office in Guinea originates from a report by an International Commission of Inquiry mandated by the Secretary-General to investigate the 28 September 2009 violent suppression by Guinea’s security forces of a mass demonstration against the military junta. The report confirmed the killing of 156 people and uncovered the rapes of women and the arbitrary arrest of political opponents as well as the looting of their homes. In view of the Commission’s findings, the report recommended the establishment of the office as well as a series of reforms which were endorsed by the Secretary-General in January 2010.

After signing the ‘host country agreement’ with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Francophonie of the Republic of Guinea, Mr. Bakary Fofana, the UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay said that “The new office will boost the UN’s ability to cooperate with the Government in its efforts to promote and protect the human rights of all Guineans. It is a clear indication of the current Government’s commitment to draw a line under the country’s troubled history.”

The Government of Guinea also made moves to implement other recommendations of the International Commission of Inquiry by starting work with the UN and the Economic Community of West African States to reform the security sector. The Government has also pledged its cooperation with the International Criminal Court which is assessing whether perpetrators of the September 2009 human rights violations can be tried in the country.

In addition, on the day of the signing of the agreement, Guinea participated in the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process where the country’s human rights record was examined.

At the UPR, Mr. Fofana noted that Guinea’s transitional bodies have taken up an institutional transformation in order to consolidate the State’s capacity to prevent and address human rights violations. The new policies, he said, aimed at reinforcing the rule of law.

“It is evident that this will be a long road strewn with multiple challenges. The Government will have to overcome them by working with political parties, civil society and the help of the international community”, he said.

The UN Human Rights presence will assist the Government of Guinea in reporting on its compliance with international human rights treaties. It will also advise on establishing a National Human Rights Institution and undertaking judicial reforms in the country. Furthermore, the office will help combat impunity for human rights violations including sexual and gender-based violence and promote the social and economic rights of Guineans.

“The office’s key objectives are to support the Government’s efforts to protect human rights, to fight against impunity -- which has bedeviled Guinea for decades -- and to empower the Guinean people in the realization of all their rights, including economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said.

One of the first tasks of the new OHCHR Guinea office will be to monitor the human rights situation before and during the presidential elections in July, in the same way the UN Human Rights office observed the presidential elections in Togo in March 2010.

5 May 2010