Guinea Bissau: Pillay urges new transitional authorities and military to respect human rights

HARARE (25 May 2012) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on took note that on 22 May the Military Command in Guinea Bissau handed over power to a transitional civilian government, following the signature of a political agreement and a transitional political pact.

Pillay remains concerned about the continued instability in Guinea Bissau following the 12 April coup d'état, and worried by the reports of human rights violations which have been committed, including violent repression of a peaceful demonstration, looting and arbitrary detention of civilians. “Anyone who has committed violent or excessive acts must be held accountable,” she said.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of full respect for the fundamental human rights of freedom of movement and expression, as well as peaceful association and assembly,” the UN Human Rights chief said. “The transitional government has a clear duty to ensure that all human rights are fully respected and protected in the country, including the right to security and safety of those who need to return to their homes”.

“I hope that, with the establishment of a transitional government, the right of individuals to free movement will be guaranteed,” the High Commissioner said. She urged the authorities to withdraw a list reportedly circulated by the Military Command containing the names of 57 people forbidden to leave the country until further notice.

Pillay noted that any restriction on a person’s right to leave the country based on political considerations, rather than legitimate limitations, could be a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Guinea Bissau ratified in December 2010.

The Covenant states that a person’s right to leave any country, including his or her own, can only be restricted in very specific circumstances.

Finally, the High Commissioner welcomed the release on 27 April of Mr Raimundo Pereira and Mr Carlos Gomes Junior, arrested and kept in detention in the aftermath of the 12 April coup d’ etat, as a result of mediation efforts by the Economic Community of West African States.

Pillay is currently undertaking the first ever mission by a UN Human Rights chief to Zimbabwe, ending today Friday 25 May.

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