Guinea: The National Institution for Human Rights must respect the Constitution

Press release
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Paris, Conakry, 26 January 2015 – Our organisations [1] are concerned about the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the Independent National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) and urges the Guinean authorities to respect the law, and not jeopardise an institution that is important to Guinean democracy. The amendments introduced by the Executive Branch, without consulting the National Assembly, threaten the independence and proper functioning of this institution.

Our organisations are pleased that this institution was established, at last, since it is expected to play a role in consolidating the rule of law in Guinea, and its creation is stipulated in the Constitution. But we fear that its legitimacy and effectiveness will be permanently weakened, and that its very existence may be challenged if the circumstances in which it is established violate the Constitution, said Thierno Sow, President of OGDH.

Since the creation of this institution was written into the Constitution, the National Transition Council (Conseil national de transition, CNT) in July 2011 adopted a draft law specifying the practical terms and conditions - organisation, scope, composition - for its establishment.

After the CNT submitted the draft law to the Head of State, it was substantially amended and then sent on to the Supreme Court. Granted, the Executive Branch has the legal power to amend draft legislation, but the bill thereafter is supposed to be discussed and voted upon in the National Assembly before the final text is submitted for validation to the Supreme Court.

Human rights organisations in Guinea are in favour of the establishment of an institution that will be able to contribute to greater promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms. But independence from the government is one of the basic conditions for the permanent establishment of such an institution and the effectiveness of its actions. Our organisations wish to refer to the principles on the status and functioning of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights (the “Paris Principles”) and urge the government to comply with them. The Paris Principles stipulate the need for the institution to be “independent of the Government and not be subject to financial control which might affect its independence”. During the Universal Periodic Review, held this January in Geneva, several States recommended that Guinea create a national human rights institution that is in compliance with the Paris Principles.

Hence, the increase in the number of members and the appointment of close to a majority of them by the government is a serious setback when considering the provisions of the text adopted by the NTC. This selection procedure could compromise the independence of the institution and is all the more dubious since two of the NIHR members will be sitting in the Constitutional Court, which has jurisdiction over the elections.

It is hard to understand how a national human rights institution can be formed that violates the Constitution. Especially considering the 2015 elections schedule. For a NIHR to fulfil its functions as custodian of fundamental freedoms and discharge its role as a regulatory authority that is independent of political dissensions, it must be established legally and be transparent, said barrister Drissa Traoré, Vice President of FIDH.

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