Guinea is a constitutional democratic republic in the early stages of democracy after decades of authoritarian rule. In 2015 President Alpha Conde won re-election with 58 percent of the vote. The election was generally regarded as free and fair. Legislative elections, last held in 2013 and scheduled for the end of 2018, have been delayed indefinitely. Municipal elections, originally scheduled for 2010, took place in February 2018. The elections were generally considered free and fair, despite allegations of fraud. Protests erupted throughout the country following the release of the results, and opposition parties alleged the ruling party, the Guinean People’s Assembly, conspired to commit voter fraud.
The Ministry of Defense oversees the gendarmerie, and the Ministry of Security oversees the National Police. The gendarmerie and National Police share responsibility for internal security, but only the gendarmerie can arrest police or military officials. The army is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Noteworthy human rights issues included: alleged torture by government security forces to extract confessions; arbitrary arrest and excessive use of force by government security personnel; significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; restrictions on free expression and the press; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; endemic corruption at all levels of government; frequent rape and violence against women and girls, which rarely led to prosecution; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; and forced labor, including forced child labor.
Impunity by government authorities remained a problem. The government took minimal steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses during the year or in years past.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech, but there were multiple reports about government efforts to restrict press freedom.
Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent and opposition-owned media were active and generally expressed a wide variety of views. Print media had limited reach. Radio remained the most important source of information for the public, and numerous private stations broadcast throughout the country. FM radio call-in shows were popular and allowed citizens to express broad discontent with the government. An increase in online news websites reflected the growing demand for divergent views. Nevertheless, allegations against or criticism of the government or ruling party could result in government reprisals, including suspensions, fines, and arrests. During the year there were seven instances of journalists arrested for what they alleged to be harassment for criticizing the government.
Violence and Harassment: There were reports of physical attacks, harassment, and intimidation of journalists by government officials.
On March 26, journalist Lansana Camara, director of online publication Conakry Live, was arrested following accusations by Foreign Minister Mamadi Toure that Camara had defamed him. The accusations stem from an article by Camara concerning possible embezzlement in the ministry’s management of fuel purchases. Camara was released on April 1, after officials at the presidency questioned the arrest and journalists organized a march denouncing it. Camara was put under judicial supervision, limiting his movement to Conakry. As of September 15, he remained under judicial supervision.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government penalized media outlets and journalists who broadcast items criticizing government officials and their actions.
Some journalists accused government officials of attempting to influence the tone of their reporting.
In November 2018 the Communications High Authority suspended the accreditation of Mouctar Bah, a correspondent for Radio France International and Agence France Presse, until February 2019. Bah received his new press accreditation in May.
Libel/Slander Laws: Libel against the head of state, slander, and false reporting are subject to heavy fines. Officials used these laws to harass opposition leaders and journalists. Six journalists were arrested and charged with defamation during the year. Journalists alleged the defamation lawsuits targeted people critical of the government in an attempt to silence dissent.
National Security: Authorities used a cybersecurity law to punish journalists and executives at media outlets critical of the government or its officials.
Souleymane Diallo, founder and CEO of Lynx Press Group, and Boubacar Alghassimou Diallo, general manager of Lynx FM Radio, were placed under judicial supervision, limiting their movements to Conakry, following comments by a well known commentator on the Lynx FM radio show. Officials cited the cybersecurity law to justify their actions. The judicial supervision was lifted following protests organized by journalists and press associations.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the government allegedly barred public protests.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. Police and security forces, however, continued to detain persons at roadblocks to extort money, impeding the free movement of travelers and threatening their safety.
In-country Movement: The government required all citizens older than age 18 to carry national identification cards, which they had to present on request at security checkpoints.
In 2012 the government announced the elimination of all highway roadblocks but declared it would maintain checkpoints along the borders and on certain strategic routes in Conakry. Police and gendarmes, however, set up random checkpoints throughout the capital and the country and routinely asked drivers to pay “tolls” or other illegal fees. Police and gendarmes occasionally robbed and beat travelers at these checkpoints and sometimes threatened them with death.
f. Protection of Refugees
The country hosted refugees from neighboring countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As of June the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recorded 4,433 persons of concern, 3,627 of them Ivoirian refugees. UNHCR continued to provide protection and limited assistance to refugees of extreme vulnerability in Conakry and Macenta in the Kouankan camp by providing medical care and educational support for refugee children. UNHCR and the government through the National Commission for the Integration and Monitoring of Refugees worked on refugee local integration strategies and carried out campaigns to encourage voluntary repatriation. UNHCR worked with the Ivoirian government to encourage the Ivoirian refugees to return to Cote d’Ivoire.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, stateless persons, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. An October 2018 law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
There were multiple allegations of corrupt practices by public officials that went unpunished. Officials allegedly diverted public funds for private use or for illegitimate public uses, such as buying expensive vehicles for government workers. Land sales and business contracts generally lacked transparency.
Corruption: Security force corruption was endemic. Police and gendarmes ignored legal procedures and extorted money from citizens at roadblocks, in prisons, and in detention centers. The government reduced the number of road checkpoints, but traders, small business operators, drivers, and passengers were still obliged to pay bribes to pass. Observers noted prisoners paying money to guards in exchange for favors.
In April the general manager of the Ministry of Communications’ Guinean Advertising Office and the administrative and financial manager were convicted of the embezzlement of nearly 40 billion GNF ($4.3 million). The court sentenced them to five years in prison. They were also each ordered to reimburse the stolen money, pay a fine of 50 million GNF ($5,430) each, and pay GNF nine billion ($980,000) together as damages.
Business leaders asserted regulatory procedures were opaque and facilitated corruption.
Financial Disclosure: Public officials are not subject to public disclosure laws. Although they are required to file a nonpublic statement, this requirement was not universally respected. The electoral code bars persons from certain types of financial activity if they are members of or candidates for the National Assembly. They may not be paid by a foreign state; by the CEO, a deputy of a CEO, or the president of a company under state control; or by a shareholder in an enterprise under state control or reliant on state subsidies or other state benefits. Despite these rules, some National Assembly members took state revenues to support their businesses, such as operating schools funded by public tuition. Authorities threatened to cut the state subsidies of some National Assembly members if they did not support the ruling party.
Some domestic and international human rights groups monitored and attempted to disseminate information on human rights abuses. They generally operated without government restriction. NGOs are required to renew their permits with the government every three years.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Human Rights and Public Freedoms was disbanded with the reorganization of the government following the 2015 presidential election. In 2014 the government established INIDH to promote human rights awareness and fight impunity. The institution was controversial from its inception because it was set up in a different manner than that prescribed by the law. It continued efforts to establish its credibility.
The Provisional Commission for National Reconciliation, established in 2011 to promote reconciliation concerning human rights abuses committed since independence, presented its final report in 2016. The report recommended that the government establish a permanent truth and reconciliation commission. At year’s end there had been little progress toward the creation of the commission. According to INIDH, a select technical committee was drafting the law to define the profile, mandate, and qualifications for those who will constitute the commission.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
Although the law provides for the right of workers to organize and join independent unions, engage in strikes, and bargain collectively, the law also places restrictions on the free exercise of these rights. The labor code adopted in 2016 requires unions to obtain the support of 20 percent of the workers in a company, region, or trade that the union claims to represent in order to strike. The code mandates that unions provide a 10-day notice to the Ministry of Labor before striking, although it allows work slowdowns without notice. Strikes are permitted only for work-related issues; such permission does not extend to government workers, members of the armed forces, or temporary government workers, as these categories do not have the legal right to strike. Despite lacking the right to strike, public-school teachers, port workers, and other government employees have nevertheless gone on strike.
The labor code protects union officials from antiunion discrimination. The code prohibits employers from taking into consideration union membership and activities with regard to decisions about employee hiring, firing, and conduct. It also allows workers 30 days to appeal any labor decisions and provides for reinstatement of any employee fired for union activity.
The Office of the Inspector-General of Work within the Ministry of Labor manages consensus arbitration, as required by law. Employers often imposed binding arbitration, particularly in “essential services.”
Penalties for various labor violations ranged from fines to imprisonment. Included among labor violations in the penal code are forced labor, smuggling illegal workers, and preventing union meetings. The penal code also defines labor crimes to include punishment of workers and employers who subvert national interests or steal trade secrets. Penalties were insufficient to deter violations.
The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Resources and inspections were not adequate to ensure compliance, and penalties were not enforced. Information on delays of administrative and judicial procedures was not available.
Worker organizations generally operated independently of government or political party interference. Authorities did not always respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
According to the International Trade Union Confederation, authorities intensified their crackdown on unions and arbitrarily arrested several union officials while they were conducting union business. Both the general secretary of the Free Union of Teachers and Researchers of Guinea and the deputy general secretary of the General Union of Workers of Guinea were arrested. The general secretary of the port workers’ union was taken into custody during a police raid on the union office and later sentenced to 13 days in jail and a 500,000 GNF ($54) fine.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits some types of forced or compulsory labor, and the 2016 criminal code prohibits debt bondage. Prison labor, however, is legal, including for activities related to political and religious expression. The law provides penalties that are insufficient to deter violations. The government did not effectively enforce this law or obtain any convictions for adult forced labor.
Reports indicated adult forced labor was most common in the agricultural sector. Forced child labor occurred as well, and the majority of reported trafficking victims were children (see section 7.c.).
Migrant laborers represented a small proportion of forced labor victims.
See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits child labor in the formal sector and sets forth penalties of imprisonment and confiscation of resulting profits. The law does not protect children in the informal sector. The law does not prohibit the worst forms of child labor, specifically the law allows for minors to work below the minimum age for employment which is 16. Exceptions allow children to work at age 12 as apprentices for light work in such sectors as domestic service and agriculture and at age 14 for other work. The law, however, does not prescribe the number of hours per week for light work nor specify the conditions under which light work may be undertaken, as defined by international standards on child labor. The law does not permit workers and apprentices younger than 18 to work more than 10 consecutive hours, at night, or on Sundays.
The Ministry of Labor maintained an outdated list of hazardous occupations or activities that may not employ children, but enforcement was limited to large firms in the formal sector. The law does not prohibit hazardous occupations and activities in all relevant child labor sectors, including agriculture. The penal code increases penalties for forced labor if minors are involved, but penalties did not meet international standards, and enforcement was not sufficient to deter child labor violations. Although the child code provides that the laws respect treaty obligations and be regarded as law by the justice system, ambiguity about the code’s validity continued due to the government’s failure to pass implementing legislation.
The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, and it conducted occasional inspections. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and inspections were not adequate. OPROGEM, under the Ministry of Security, is responsible for investigating child trafficking and child labor violations. After making an arrest, police transfer all information to the Ministry of Justice. In 2012 the Ministry of Security set up a new unit specifically focused on child trafficking and child labor. The unit had 30 members and brought five cases to trial in 2012, one in 2013, and four during the first half of 2014. In 2014 the court sentenced three traffickers to four months in prison for trafficking 22 minors to Senegal. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.
Boys frequently worked in the informal sectors of subsistence farming, small-scale commerce, forced begging, street vending, shining shoes, and mining. Smaller numbers of girls, mostly migrants from neighboring countries, were subjected to domestic servitude. Forced child labor occurred primarily in the cashew, cocoa, coffee, gold, and diamond sectors of the economy. Many children between ages five and 16 worked 10 to 15 hours a day in the diamond and gold mines for minimal compensation and little food. Child laborers extracted, transported, and cleaned the minerals. They operated in extreme conditions, lacked protective gear, did not have access to water or electricity, and faced a constant threat of disease. Many children did not attend school and could not contact their parents, which may indicate forced labor.
According to a 2011 government study conducted with the International Labor Organization (ILO), 43 percent of all children between ages five and 17 worked, including 33 percent of children ages five to 11, 56 percent between ages 12 and 15, and 61 percent between ages 16 and 17. Of working children, 93 percent were employed in what the ILO defines as hazardous conditions–indicating 40 percent of all children in the country worked in hazardous conditions.
Many parents sent their children to live with relatives or Quranic teachers while the children attended school. Host families often required such children to perform domestic or agricultural labor, or to sell water or shine shoes on the streets. Some children were subjected to forced begging. There was documented evidence of child labor in the production of cashews, cocoa, coffee, diamonds, and gold.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred (see section 6).
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law does not address discrimination based on race, color, national origin or citizenship, social origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, or HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.
Discrimination in employment occurred. Although the law requires equal pay for equal work, women received lower pay for similar work (see section 6). Few persons with disabilities had access to work in the formal sector, although some worked in small family businesses; many survived by begging on the streets.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The labor code allows the government to set a minimum monthly wage, enforced by the Ministry of Labor. In 2013 the government exercised this provision for the first time, setting the minimum wage for domestic workers at a rate below the poverty level determined by the World Bank. No minimum wage for other sectors was established.
The law mandates that regular work should not exceed 10-hour days or 48-hour weeks, and it mandates a period of at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week, usually on Sunday. Every salaried worker has the legal right to an annual paid vacation, accumulated at the rate of at least two workdays per month of work. There also are provisions in the law for overtime and night wages, which are a fixed percentage of the regular wage. The law stipulates a maximum of 100 hours of compulsory overtime a year.
The law contains general provisions regarding occupational safety and health, but the government did not establish a set of practical workplace health and safety standards. Moreover, it did not issue any orders laying out the appropriate safety requirements for certain occupations or for certain methods of work called for in the labor code. All workers, foreign and migrant included, have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions without penalty.
The government did not effectively enforce the law. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor standards, and its inspectors are empowered to suspend work immediately in situations deemed hazardous to workers’ health. Inspection and enforcement efforts were insufficient to deter violations. According to the ILO, inspectors received inadequate training and had limited resources. The reported number of employed labor inspectors, however, was sufficient to enforce compliance with labor laws. Retired labor inspector vacancies went unfilled. Inspectors lacked computers and transportation to carry out their duties. Penalties for violation of the labor law were not sufficient to deter violations.
Authorities rarely monitored work practices or enforced workweek standards or overtime rules. Teachers’ wages were extremely low, and teachers sometimes went six months or more without pay. Salary arrears were not paid, and some teachers lived in abject poverty. The informal sector was estimated to include 60-70 percent of workers. The law applies to the informal sector, but it was seldom enforced.
Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational health and safety standards were common across sectors. There were, for example, reports of unsafe working conditions in the artisanal (small-scale) gold mining communities in the northern section of the country, where inspectors found occupational health and environmental hazards.
Despite legal protection against working in unsafe conditions, many workers feared retaliation and did not exercise their right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions. Data was not available on workplace fatalities and accidents, but accidents in unsafe working conditions were common. The government banned wildcat gold and other mining during the rainy season to prevent deaths from mudslides. The practice, however, continued near the border with Mali, resulting in recurring accidents.