HRS operates under the mandate and in line with the DPA – DPKO – DFS - OHCHR Policy on Human Rights in Peace and Political Missions (2011). It has prioritized its interventions as follows:
Strengthen the capacity of national institutions to protect and promote human rights, by advising the UN system in Guinea-Bissau and national counterparts on international human rights standards, policies and guidelines as adopted by the Human Rights Council and other UN bodies. National human rights counterparts include People’s National assembly (ANP), line ministries, the judiciary, security and defence forces, National Human Rights Commission, and civil society organisations.
HRS advises ANP Committee on Constitutional Matters and Human Rights as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding compliance with international standards, encourages the ratification of human rights instruments and reporting on their implementation. Of note, during the 2015l Universal Periodical Review (UPR), the country accepted 149 out of 151 recommendations made by the HR Council, and is close to ratifying all 9 instruments that comprise the body of international human rights law. HRS further advocates with the ANP, the Ministries of Justice and Defence, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Supreme Court and the military courts, to propose legislative review including of the Constitution, the Criminal Code, the Civil Code and their respective Codes of Procedure, and military justice laws.
As for the Constitution, HRS advocates for a clear mandate for the Prosecutor General, Constitutional and Audit Courts, and the National Human Rights Commission (see above), as a way to ensure more accountability and impartiality, and to discourage the use of these institutions as political tools. Furthermore, HRS contributes to the integration of human rights in the administration of justice by training together civilian and military judicial actors (judges, prosecutors, lawyers and police) on their specific role at each stage of the proceedings.
Strengthen the capacity of individual to defend and demand their rights by facilitating training for human rights focal points in all regions, and the establishment of a national Human Rights Defenders Network, which is now also supported by the ECOWAS Defenders Network. Traditional leaders have also benefitted from training on SGBV, newly adopted legislation, and international human rights standards. As a result, there has been an increase in reporting human rights violations to local authorities. Moreover some leaders acknowledge the need to abide by the laws and accept the formal justice system.
HRS works hand in hand with the public information component of the mission and NGOs to raise awareness among media professionals and local communities through training and a weekly radio programme. Following requests by the Ministry of Education, human rights training has been delivered in schools for students and teachers, resulting in increased reporting of human rights violations by children, in particular FGM and domestic violence. The final objective of the trainings is to encourage the integration of human rights in primary and secondary schools’ curricula.
HRS assists national authorities and civil society organizations in preparing and submitting their reports to the UPR Working Group, and support the implementation of the recommendations accepted by the state. HRS also facilitates the preparation of a national human rights plan of action. Technical advice is further provided to ANP and line ministries regarding their specific role in implementing treaties ratified by the State. In 2015, HRS enabled the visit of the Special Rapporteur for the Independence of the Judges and Lawyers to Guinea-Bissau.
HRS leads joint assessment and monitoring missions, and reports to respective authorities with recommendations, strengthens the capacity of the National Human Rights Commission on the Paris Principles, and facilitates the revision of its statute.
Support the fight against impunity for gross human rights violations as a major cause of political instability, through monitoring and reporting, advocacy, technical advice, capacity building and public awareness. HRS monitors and reports on issues critical to human rights protection and promotion. The monitoring mandate assesses whether responsible authorities take action on reported human rights violations, investigate, prosecute, bring perpetrators to justice, and provide redress to victims. The mandate therefore includes trial observation and assessing conditions of persons deprived of their liberty. In 2015, HRS resumed the practice of delivering reports on the conditions of detained persons to the Ministry of Justice, and upon the receipt of the Government’s inputs, sharing them with other stakeholders for both awareness and resource mobilization, in close coordination with PIU.
Together with PAS and ROLSI, HRS proposed an internal strategy to address impunity, and advocated for a balance between the need for political dialogue and national reconciliation, and the risk of institutionalization of impunity through additional amnesty laws. In this context, HRS worked with ECOWAS and OHCHR to follow up on the 2012 Bamako Declaration and Plan of Action on Impunity, Justice and Human Rights. As a result that Guinea-Bissau became the first ECOWAS member state to follow up on the Bamako Conference and draft its own plan of action to address impunity, justice and human rights issues.
In order to further encourage dialogue on impunity, and upon request from the parliament, HRS worked with the Ministry of Justice, the Faculty of Law, PAS, ROLSI, PIU and Gender Unit, to train MPs on international norms related to amnesty and the fight against impunity. As a result, in December 2013, the ANP rejected a proposed Amnesty Bill on grounds that it violated international standards and could perpetuate impunity within the armed forces.
Since Guinea-Bissau became one of the sample countries for testing the HRDDP in 2011, HRS and ROLSI have been ensuring its implementation. This includes reporting, vetting and certification of national security and defence forces, DDR, and information sharing on human rights violations committed by security and defence forces, through a database centrally managed by OHCHR.
Gender Unit, located at the Office of the SRSG, together with PAS, ROLSI and HRS has been working with women organizations and CSOs on their political empowerment. This effort contributed to the issuance of the Canchungo Declaration in 2014, embraced by all state institutions and set the tone for implementing gender equality in Guinea-Bissau. The Declaration was released at an event chaired by the President of the Republic and received wide media attention, mobilized by PIU. The Women’s Political Platform, other CSOs and the Ministry for Women Affairs trained by Gender Unit, PAS and HRS have also drafted a bill on quotas for women at the ANP. Upcoming training on lobbying and advocacy techniques, will help these organization push for the bill’s adoption next year.
ROLSI pioneered initiatives to promote gender balance and mainstreaming in defence, security and criminal justice institutions. There are associations of women in uniformed institutions, which replicated to civil society initiatives, e.g., women jurists. In addition, Women and youth representatives are systematically invited to multiple SSR debates. Gender responsive perspectives are being pushed forward in defence, security and criminal justice areas through advocacy on fast-track promotion and agreement on quotas for women in new recruitments.
The joint work of mission components aims at turning women into agents of peacebuilding in their respective communities, while addressing the gender gap that exists in all levels of society and State Institutions, including armed and security Forces, Government and Parliament.