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Guinea Bissau Military Cracks Down on Critics


The human rights organization, Amnesty International, says the military of Guinea Bissau is taking extreme measures against any criticism.

The human rights group says former Prime Minister Francisco José Fadul was beaten in his home by members of the armed forces early Wednesday morning. He sustained injuries to his head and body and remains in intensive care at the Simao Mendes national hospital.

Muluka-Anne Miti is a Guinea Bissau researcher for Amnesty International.

"On Monday, Francisco had held a press conference in which he criticized the army and stated that the government should hold them accountable for corruption and other crimes in the country," said Muluka-Anne Miti. "Following that, about four or five soldiers went to his home and beat him using the butts of their guns. Apparently the soldiers while beating him told him he was too talkative."

The attack on Fadul comes only a week after Amnesty International says prominent lawyer, Pedro Infanda, was arrested, severely beaten and tortured by the military for four days before being handed over to the police. Infanda was taken to a military facility in Bissau just hours after stating in a press conference that the new Chief of Staff of Guinea's armed forces was not fit for the job.

"Amnesty is concerned that the military is being permitted to arrest and detain civilians as well as to beat and ill-treat them in violation of national laws and Guinea Bissau's international human rights obligations," said Miti.

The crackdown has come less than a month after both the Chief of Staff of the armed forces, General Batista Tagme Na Waie, and President Joao Bernardo Vieira were assassinated. The speaker of the national assembly was appointed interim president with a mandate to organize new elections within 60 days.

Guinean university professor Fafali Kudawo says the struggle between political and military legitimacy is rooted in a sense of ownership by soldiers who fought Portuguese colonialism.

"The armed forces has been inherited from the liberation struggle, and the armed forces are seen as the owners of this country since they have done the liberation war," said Fafali Kudawo.

Kudawo says the military has traditionally considered the legitimacy it draws from the fight for independence as superior to the political legitimacy gained through elections. He says the long-running power struggle between President Vieira and General Waie was part of a "chaotic curse" of a small circle of former freedom fighters bringing personal battles into the public sphere and resolving them through state power.

Amnesty International is calling for military authorities in Guinea Bissau to bring an end to assaults against civilians and for the government to prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses.

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