The United Nations is setting up a human rights office in Guinea to help the Government prevent abuses such as last year’s violent suppression by the then military junta of mass protests in which 156 people were killed, women raped, political opponents arrested and their homes looted.
“The new office will boost the UN’s ability to cooperate with the Government in its efforts to promote and protect the human rights of all Guineans,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in Geneva yesterday after signing a host country agreement with Guinean Foreign Minister Bakary Fofana. “It is a clear indication of the current Government’s commitment to draw a line under the country’s troubled history.”
An International Commission of Inquiry mandated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to investigate last September’s violence recommended that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right (OHCHR) set up a country office in Conakry, the capital. Since then a transitional government has been established to oversee democratic elections on 27 June.
“The office’s key objectives are to support the Government’s efforts to protect human rights, to fight against impunity, which has bedevilled Guinea for decades, and to empower the Guinean people in the realization of all their rights, including economic, social and cultural rights,” Ms. Pillay said.
One of its first tasks will be to monitor the human rights situation before and during the elections. Generally, it will assist the Government in reporting on compliance with international human rights treaties. It will also advise on establishing a National Human Rights Institution and on judicial reforms, help combat impunity for human rights violations including sexual and gender-based violence, and promote social and economic rights.
The Government has already taken steps to implement other recommendations of the International Commission by starting work with the UN and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to reform the security sector. It has also pledged its cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in assessing whether perpetrators of the September human rights violations can be tried in the country.
At the UN Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review process in Geneva yesterday, Guinea’s record was examined and Mr. Fofana stressed that the transitional bodies had taken up institutional transformation to consolidate the State’s capacity to prevent and address human rights violations. “It is evident that this will be a long road strewn with multiple challenges,” he said. “The Government will have to overcome them by working with political parties, civil society and with the help of the international community,” he said.
Meanwhile in Conakry, Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit yesterday handed over to interim President Sékouba Konaté a joint assessment by the UN, African Union (AU) and ECOWAS of the security sector, including security and defence forces, judiciary, customs and finance, civilian control and dialogue between civilian and military elements.
Mr. Djinnit noted that the authorities had clearly expressed the political will to do their utmost to ensure in-depth implementation of reform. He praised Mr. Konaté’s courage for his continuing commitment, which will contribute to democracy and a return to constitutional order.