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Guinea-Bissau should increase access to justice: UN rights expert

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Mónica Pinto [official profile] on Monday urged [statement, in Spanish] officials in Guinea-Bissau to implement measures aimed at increasing residents' access to justice throughout the nation. Pinto released the statement just days after completing her first official visit [PRN Africa report] to the country last week, where she met with members of the legislature, law enforcement and academia among others. Pinto noted [press release] that legal fees are too expensive and proceedings are too long, which can keep many people from seeking justice. Many areas of the country do not have courts, which Pinto said leads to a concentration of justice only in some cities. Additionally, she criticized the lack of scientific and forensic evidence because it can hinder prosecuting crimes. However, Pinto commended the recent Supreme Court ruling barring the appointment of a new prime minister as it was unconstitutional.

Guinea-Bissau has struggled politically for several years. A presidential decree was released last week in Guinea-Bissau announcing [AFP report] the formation of a new government. The president and the prime minister will choose the members of the cabinet. The new structure includes 15 ministers and 14 secretaries of state headed by 81-year-old Premier Carlos Correia. In September, a new government was also announced, but it dissolved quickly when then Prime Minister Baciro Dja resigned from his position. Last year, UN Special Rapporteur Magdalena Sepulveda urged [JURIST report] Guinea-Bissau authorities to address the needs of those living in the country in extreme poverty and to "move the country's politics away from short-term power struggles." In 2012, the UN Security Council urged immediate restoration [JURIST report] of constitutional order in the country.

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