Guinea-Bissau: Military begins crackdown on critics

Amnesty International today revealed that Francisco José Fadul, a Court President and former Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau, was beaten by military personnel at his home in Bissau in the early hours of this morning.

He is currently in intensive care at the Simão Mendes National Hospital in Bissau.

The beating follows an assault by the military of well-known lawyer Pedro Infanda, who was arrested, severely beaten and tortured for four days by military officials before being transferred to police custody. He is also currently in intensive care at the Simão Mendes National Hospital.

Military officials do not have the authority to arrest civilians in Guinea-Bissau.

Both men held press conferences during which the military was criticized shortly before they were attacked by military officials.  

“The military of Guinea-Bissau is using extreme measures against any opposition or criticism – instilling fear in any who might consider freely expressing their views regarding military practices,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director.

Francisco Fadul held a press conference on Monday 30 March calling on the government to hold the military accountable for corruption and other crimes. He was reportedly beaten in the early hours of this morning by four military officials who hit him with the butts of their firearms and told him he was “too talkative”. He received injuries all over his body – including the head – and a stab wound on his arm.

Pedro Infanda was arbitrarily arrested by military officials on Monday 23 March and taken from his office to the Quartel Amura de Bissau military installation, where he was severely beaten with wooden objects for four days, and tortured. He was denied access to medical treatment, his family and an attorney. His entire body is covered in bruises.

Hours before his unlawful arrest, Pedro Infanda held a press conference in his office speaking on behalf of his client, Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchute, former head of the Guinea Bissau Navy. In the press conference, Pedro Infanda expressed his client’s opinion that the newly appointed Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces was not competent for his post.

Amnesty International expressed concern that the military has been permitted to arrest and detain civilians in violation of national laws. The unlawful arrests and ill-treatment by the military were also a violation of Guinea-Bissau’s international human rights obligations.

“The government must investigate immediately these arrests and beatings by the military, and ensure those responsible are brought to justice and that similar attacks do not happen again,” said Erwin van der Borght. “The military must be told in no uncertain terms that they do not have the authority to arrest or detain civilians.”

Notes to editors:

•    Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchute was accused of leading an alleged coup attempt against the late President Bernardo João Vieira on 6 August 2008. He reportedly escaped house arrest and fled to The Gambia by sea. •    Guinea-Bissau is a highly volatile country, with a long history of coups and military rebellions. Since 2000, soldiers have killed three Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, as well as other high ranking military officers. Those responsible for the killings were not brought to justice. •    In 2007, four journalists and a human rights defender, fearing they would be arrested and possibly tortured, went into hiding after reporting on the involvement of military officials in the growing drug trafficking trade. •    On Sunday 1 March 2009, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, General Batista Tagme Na Waie, was killed in a bomb attack in his office in the Armed Forces General Command in Bissau. Hours later, in the early hours of Monday, 2 March, in an apparent revenge attack, soldiers killed President João Bernardo Vieira, whom they believed was responsible for the death of General Tagme na Waie. The Military pledged to respect the Constitution and a new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces was appointed. In accordance with the Constitution the President of the National Assembly took over as interim President until new presidential elections are held, expected by early June at the latest.