Guinea-Bissau 2016/2017

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The continuing political crisis delayed implementation of recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of 2015, and hindered economic and social reforms. No progress was made in improving prison conditions. The judiciary did not always follow due process, and was criticized for incompetence and corruption.


In February, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Integrated Peace Building Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) for another year.

Tension between President Vaz, the government and parliament, as well as within the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), escalated, paralysing parliamentary proceedings.

In January the National Assembly’s Permanent Commission expelled 15 parliamentarians for refusing to support the government’s programme. Political tension was exacerbated when Prime Minister Correia was dismissed in mid-May. The appointment two weeks later of Baciro Djá as Prime Minister triggered violent protest in which police used force, including tear gas, to disperse demonstrators who were throwing stones and burning tyres outside the presidential palace.

In September, Guinea-Bissau acceded to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Justice system

The criminal justice system remained weak and failed to guarantee due process. In June, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers reported on her 2015 visit to Guinea-Bissau, describing the justice system as “sad” and “terrible”. She highlighted lack of resources, incompetence, corruption, impunity and limited access to justice as the main obstacles to judicial independence.

In July, the Supreme Court took over 20 days, instead of the 10 days allowed by law, to respond to the writs of habeas corpus challenging the detention of parliamentarian Gabriel So. His arrest was ordered by the Bissau Regional Court despite his parliamentary immunity.

In August, the Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the arrest and detention of João Bernardo Vieira for allegedly violating bail. In contravention of the law, he was not brought before a judge within 48 hours from his arrest; he was released after one week.


Investigations into past human rights violations, including political killings between 2009 and 2012 made no progress. However, in May the Bissorã Regional Court, in the Oio region, convicted four police officers of beating Tchutcho Mendonça to death in July 2015 in police custody. Three officers were sentenced to seven years and three months’ imprisonment and one to five years’ imprisonment.

Prison conditions

The authorities took no action to improve prison conditions. Inadequate sanitation, lack of health care and food provision, and severe overcrowding in prisons and detention centres persisted. Detainees and prisoners had to rely on their families for food and medicine or on the goodwill of other inmates.

Conditions in detention centres in the capital, Bissau, amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The Criminal Investigation Police cells, with capacity for 35 people, regularly held over 90. Detainees were not separated according to sex, age or type of crime, and uncharged detainees were routinely held for longer than the 48 hours prescribed by law.