16 June 2009 A credible commission of inquiry is essential for ending the cycles of violence and impunity in Guinea-Bissau, which has witnessed a spate of political killings over the past several months, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in his latest report on the West African nation.
The country, which has been rocked by a series of civil conflicts, coups d’état and uprisings in recent decades, suffered another setback in early March with the assassinations of President Joao Bernardo Vieira and Chief of Staff Tagme Na Waie.
That was followed by last week’s killings of Baciro Dabo, a candidate in the 28 June presidential elections, and Helder Proenca, a Member of Parliament and former Minister of Defense.
“Guinea-Bissau and its international partners need to work together to ensure that the ongoing inquiry does not suffer the same fate as others in the past, which had failed to bring perpetrators to justice, undermined faith in the legal system and encouraged impunity,” Mr. Ban wrote in the report, which covers recent developments, as well as the activities of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (UNOGBIS).
“Justice is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy,” he noted, adding that the UN and the international community stand ready to assist the Government in providing resources and conditions to ensure “a sound and transparent national inquiry that serves the cause of justice.”
He voiced concern about the arrests of critics of the military leadership and attacks against them, and that the parallel military investigation breaches the rights of those detained. “Truth and justice cannot be served through human rights violations,” he stated, appealing to the Government to work to ensure respect for the rule of law and for human rights.
Mr. Ban said he was encouraged that the State institutions and political and civil society actors were able to find a consensual solution to the constitutional dilemma that confronted the country in the aftermath of the President’s assassination.
“I hope that this heralds a new page in the political life of the country, one that favours national dialogue to resolve the critical challenges that face the country and that require solutions based on national consensus.”
As the country prepares for the 28 June presidential elections, he urged the people of Guinea-Bissau to “meet their civic responsibilities.” He also called on the presidential candidates and their supporters to ensure that they show “a corresponding high degree of civic responsibility and respect for the rights of their fellow citizens to freedom of expression and association and to contribute to a peaceful environment before, during and after the elections.”
In particular, he encouraged the candidates and their supporters to respect the decision of the electorate, to pursue any appeals through the appropriate legal channels, and to accept the final outcome of the elections.
“The elections are a key requirement for the restoration of full democratic order and the creation of an environment conducive to the reforms necessary for the sustainable recovery of the economy and development,” he noted.
The report also includes recommendations for an integrated peacebuilding office in Guinea-Bissau and its proposed mandate, structure and staffing requirements. The proposed office would succeed UNOGBIS in January 2010 and have an initial mandate for one year.
Headed by a Special Representative, the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) would be tasked with, among others, strengthening the capacity of national institutions, supporting the establishment of efficient law enforcement and helping to mobilize international assistance.
In the meantime, Mr. Ban recommends the Council extend the current mandate of UNOGBIS for a final period of six months, until 31 December, so the world body can provide critical support to the country in the post-electoral period and ensure a smooth transition to an integrated UN presence.
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