Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1987

The Republic of Guinea-Bissau adopted a constitutional form of
government in May 1984, when the 4-year-old Revolutionary
Council established after the 1980 coup d'etat was abolished.
Following the promulgation of the Constitution, one-party
elections were held for the National Popular Assembly, which
in turn elected General Joao Bernardo Vieira to a 5-year term
as President of the Council of State and chose the other
members of the Council. According to the Constitution, the
Assembly decides fundamental questions of internal and
external policy, but it meets infrequently and effective power
and day-to-day control rests in the hands of the President,
the Council of State, and the party. The President serves as
Head of State, Commander-in-Chief, and General Secretary of
Guinea-Bissau's sole political party, the African Party for
the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) . Although
the President is the most powerful member of the Council,
decisionmaking is collegial rather than autocratic. The party
selects all candidates for office.
The armed forces (FARP) are responsible for state security,
both external and internal, as mandated by the Constitution.
The FARP leaders are usually members of the PAIGC and often
hold key positions in the Politburo or Central Committee.
Guinea-Bissau remains one of the least developed nations,
dependent upon foreign aid for its survival. The Government's
postindependence efforts to exercise central control over the
economy resulted in chronic shortages of most basic
cohmmodities, high unemployment, and a weak national currency.
In 1987 the Government, continuing a program of economic
reform which began in late 1983, imposed a series of severe
austerity measures to stimulate agricultural production and
promote a shift from a state-run centralized economy to a free
market system. While the 1987 reforms resulted in strong
growth of the private sector, inflation remained high and the
urban populations witnessed a sharp drop in their standard of
living and purchasing power.
Persons accused of political crimes are tried by military
tribunals. Approximately 40 men remain imprisoned on an
island in the Bijagos Archipelago. Most of these prisoners
are serving sentences for complicity in a plot to overthrow
President Vieira in October 1985. There have been no
executions since six leaders of the 1985 plot were executed in
July 1986.
Section 1 Respect for Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
     a. Political Killing
There were no reports of officially inspired political killing.
     b. Disappearanceppearance
There were no known cases of disappearance.
     c. Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishmenture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
There were no known instances of torture and other cruel,
inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in 1987. The
Constitution prohibits cruel and inhuman punishment. However,
prison conditions are unsanitary and cramped, and interrogation
methods are severe. Prisoners' families routinely bring them
food and medical supplies.
Amnesty International (AI) received reports in 1986 that some
of the detainees arrested in connection with the 1985 coup
plot had been beaten and otherwise ill-treated.
     d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, Exile or Forced Laborrary Arrest, Detention, Exile, or Forced Labor
Arrests in Guinea-Bissau are frequently arbitrary, as arrest
procedures are undefined and the use of arrest warrants is the
exception rather than the rule. The modern legal system,
inherited from the Portuguese colonial regime but modified by
the Constitution, includes important procedural rights, such
as the right to counsel and the right to a judicial
determination of the legality of detention. Bail procedures
are observed erratically. The Government has on occasion
detained members of movements deemed hostile to the regime,
such as the Yanque-Yanque religious movement. The Government
has the legal right to exile prisoners but did not do so in
There is no forced or compulsory labor in Guinea-Bissau.
Conscientious objectors are not exempt from military service.
     e. Denial of Fair Public Trial of Fair Public Trial
Traditional law still prevails in most rural areas, and many
urban dwellers continue to bring judicial disputes to
recognized traditional counsellors. The official judicial
system is based on the Portuguese model. With some exceptions,
intervals between arrest and trial are often lengthy. All
defense lawyers are court-appointed, as private legal practice
is prohibited. The judiciary is a part of the executive
branch. Trials involving state security usually are not open
to outside observers and are conducted by military tribunals.
FARP members are tried by military courts for all offenses.
The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for both
civilian and military cases except those involving national
security matters, in which instance the Council of State
reviews all decisions.
The 1986 trials of former Vice President of the Council of
State, Colonel Paulo Correia, and 55 others took place before
the Superior Military Tribunal, the highest military court.
The 12 persons sentenced to death appealed to the Council of
State for clemency and, as a result, 6 had their death
sentences commuted to 15-year prison terms. AI attended one
session of the trial, and its 1987 report states it informed
the Government of its concern that the trial had not conformed
to international standards of fairness. However, it noted
there had been an invited audience and the defendants had
legal counsel.
Of those convicted in the 1986 trials described above, an
estimated 40 men remain incarcerated at a prison labor camp on
an island in the Bijagos Archipelago. Although isolated from
outside observers, the prisoners are reportedly under light
guard and are responsible for growing much of their own food.
     f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondencerary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
The Constitution guarantees the inviolability of domicile,
person, and correspondence. These guarantees are not always
respected in cases of serious crimes or state security when,
for example, the use of search warrants is rare. International
and domestic mail is subject to surveillance and censorship.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties Including:
     a. Freedom of Speech and Pressof Speech and Press
The Constitution guarantees freedom of intellectual, artistic,
and scientific expression, with the significant exception of
cases in which these rights are exercised in a manner "contrary
to the promotion of social progress." In fact, the Government
controls all information media and views the press as a vehicle
of the party. Self-censorship by journalists is common;
however, some criticism and questioning of policies is
permitted, although never of individual officials. In 1987
one journalist was fired from the national radio station
following an interview with a minister during which he
allegedly asked hostile questions.
     b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Associationof Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and
association, and Government approval is not required for
peaceful assemblies and demonstrations. However, all existing
organizations and associations are linked to the Government or
the party, including the sole labor union, the National Union
of the Workers of Guinea-Bissau (UNTG) , and antigovernment
meetings are not tolerated.
The UNTG is affiliated with the Communist-controlled World
Federation of Trade Unions and is a member of the Organization
of African Trade Union Unity. Strikes, while not specifically
forbidden, do not occur. The manufacturing sector is extremely
small and many major enterprises are state owned. The
overwhelming majority of salaried workers are employees of the
State, and the UNTG is forbidden to organize these public
     c. Freedom of Religionof Religion
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution and has
been respected. Christians, Muslims, and animists worship
freely, and proselytizing is permitted. However, the
Government is concerned over a new and growing religious
movement known as the Yanque-Yanque . This movement, founded a
few years ago by a woman who claims to receive visions and to
have healing powers, finds its support mainly among young
people of the Balanta tribe. Yanque-Yanque is a monotheistic
religion which rejects traditional animist. Christian, and
Muslim values and is characterized by unusual and sometimes
violent rituals which include the taking of a locally produced
narcotic mixture. These rituals have occasionally caused
physical harm to participants and even to persons outside the
movement. The Yanque-Yanque reject modern social and economic
structures including, by implication, the Government. While
Yanque-Yanque does not presently constitute a political
movement, the Government has maintained surveillance on
members and occasionally questioned, detained, and even
arrested its leaders on narcotics charges. The occasional
taking of drugs, without any legal repercussions, is
characteristic of the rituals of some other local religions.
     d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreignof Movement within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Citizens are allowed to move freely throughout Guinea-Bissau.
Foreign travel is not restricted, nor is citizenship revoked
for political reasons. Thousands of persons have emigrated
for economic reasons. Return of expatriates is encouraged,
although the 1986 deaths of two opposition members in a
mysterious car accident during their forced repatriation from
Senegal convinced some government opponents that they would
not be welcomed back to Guinea-Bissau. While sympathetic to
the principal of asylum, Guinea-Bissau does not host
significant numbers of refugees.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Gonvernment
The present' political system makes no provisions for
democratic change of government. Guinea-Bissau is led by the
PAIGC party and military (FAR?) elite, headed by President
Joao Bernardo Vieira. By the terms of the Constitution, all
political activity must take place within the party/state
structure. The 1984 electoral slates for the National Popular
Assembly at the district, regional, and national levels were
party-prepared lists. The President, members of the Council
of State, and National Popular Assembly deputies are elected
to 5-year terms. There are provisions for constitutional
amendments and national referendums to be initiated by the
National Popular Assembly. No single ethnic group dominates
party/government positions, but Papel and Creole (mixed-race)
groups, predominantly located in and around the capital of
Bissau, have disproportionate representation in the Government.
Women have legal equality with men and hold some influential
jobs in the party and the Government. The current Minister for
Labor and Social Security and the President of the National
Popular Assembly are both women.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Although international human rights groups have visited
Guinea-Bissau, their visits have always been tightly
controlled. The Government invited an AI mission to visit in
1986. AI delegates held discussions in June 1986 with
President Vieira and many other officials and, as noted,
attended one session of the trial of Correia and others.
There are no local human rights groups in Guinea-Bissau.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
The population of Guinea-Bissau comprises diverse tribal
groups, each with its own language, customs, and social
organization. The Fula, Mandinga, Balanta, Manjaca, and Papel
are important groups. Creoles enjoy an advantageous position
within the society due to their generally higher level of
education and their links abroad. Although the President and
other influential leaders regularly urge the nation to
overcome ethnic differences, the perception of economic
dominance by Creoles (and to a lesser extent Fulas) has
created resentment among other ethnic communities. Most of
the defendants in the 1986 coup trial were members of the
Balanta ethnic group.
Discrimination against women, while officially prohibited,
continues within certain ethnic groups, especially the Muslim
Fulas and Mandinkas of the North and East. Among those groups
female genital mutilation is still practiced, despite official
prohibition and educational campaigns against this custom.
Women enjoy higher status in the societies of the Balanta,
Papel, and Bijagos groups living mainly in the southern
coastal region.
In an overwhelmingly rural and agricultural society,
traditional division of labor practices both between sexes and
age groups continue to prevail. Children in all rural
communities work in the fields and at home for no pay. The
Government does not attempt to discourage this practice and in
fact delays the opening of schools until the rice season has
ended. Even in the small modern sector, labor laws are
ill-defined and unevenly enforced in Guinea-Bissau, due
primarily to the extreme economic underdevelopment of the
society. However, there are government regulations covering
such matters as job-related disabilities and vacation rights,
and the Government in 1987 approved a new labor code which set
a minimum age of 14 for general factory labor and of 18 for
heavy or dangerous labor, including all labor in mines. The
normal workweek is 35 hours. There is no minimum wage