Guinea-Bissau : Serious deterioration of the security situation of civil society amidst the attempted coup

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AFPTV teams / AFP

Paris-Geneva, March 3, 2022 – Since the attempted coup of February 1, 2022, independent media, human rights organisations and their members have been targeted by the authorities. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) expresses its deepest concern over the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all civil society members in Guinea-Bissau and calls on the authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders and organisations in the country.

On February 1, 2022, a group of armed men attacked the Government Palace in the capital Bissau at a time when the government was meeting in a Council of Ministers with the presence of the President of the Republic, Mr. Umaro Sissoco Embalo. This attempted coup was foiled by the authorities after five hours of confrontation, resulting in the death of 11 people according to official sources.

After these violent events, the security situation in the country, in particular that of human rights defenders and organisations, significantly deteriorated.

On February 8, 2022, the Liga Guineense dos Direitos Humanos (LGDH), a member of International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), held a press conference reacting to the attack on the Government Palace and demanding a transparent investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice. The content of this statement did not please the national authorities who therefore started to intimidate and threaten the members of the LGDH. On February 10, 2022, the LGDH held a second press conference during which it denounced the atrocities unknown individuals committed against citizens and media since the attempted coup, including the attack against the premises of Radio Capital FM, and the deteriorating situation of human rights in the country. Since these meetings with the press, the main leaders of the League, especially its President Augusto Mário da Silva and Vice-President Bubacar Turé, have been receiving anonymous death threats and intimidating visits by armed men to their respective homes. As a result, several members of the LGDH and dissenting voices left their homes in search of safer places.

In the wake of these acts of intimidation against human rights defenders and dissenting voices, the residence of Mr. Luís Vaz Martins, former LGDH President, was invaded by armed men. As a result, he was forced to flee to a safer place.

Moreover, press freedom has been seriously threatened since the attempted coup, with independent media being targeted because of their critical stance towards the country’s authorities. On February 7, 2022, the premises of Radio Capital FM in Bissau, an independent radio critical of the regime, were attacked and their equipment destroyed by masked armed men, resulting in seven journalists injured, including one in a serious condition. Moreover, in the early evening of February 8, 2022, the house of Mr. Rui Landim, political commentator on Radio Capital FM, was attacked by armed men wearing Rapid Response police uniforms, who fired automatic weapons and tear gas at his house. The radio premises were already attacked and almost all its equipment destroyed on July 26, 2020.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders expresses its utmost concern over the deteriorating security situation in Guinea-Bissau and its impact on human rights defenders, independent media and civil society organisations. The above-mentioned attacks considerably undermine internationally recognised fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of association.

The Observatory urges the Bissaoguinean authorities to take all the necessary measures to guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders and civil society activists in the country. The Observatory further urges the authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against all organisations engaged in legitimate human rights activities in Guinea-Bissau, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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