Guinea: Stop Violent Attacks on Demonstrators

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Guinea: Stop Violent Attacks on Demonstrators

Security Forces Unlawfully Kill Dozens of Protesters

NEW YORK - Guinean security forces should immediately cease violent attacks on
demonstrators protesting against the military government, Human Rights
Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch called upon the government to hold accountable
security forces responsible for firing upon and killing dozens of
generally peaceful demonstrators in the Guinean capital, Conakry, on
September 28, 2009. They were among tens of thousands of people
protesting the rule of Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, who had seized power
in a bloodless coup in December.

"The killing of dozens of unarmed protesters is shocking even by the
abusive standards of Guinea’s coup government," said Corinne Dufka,
senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Guinea’s leaders
should order an immediate end to attacks on demonstrators and bring to
justice those responsible for the bloodshed."

The protesters, demonstrating against Camara’s presumed candidacy in
Guinea’s January 2010 presidential elections, took to the streets of
Conakry on September 28 and marched to a 25,000-seat stadium to attend
a political rally. Backed by security forces, the minister responsible
for combating drug trafficking and serious crime, Capt. Moussa Tiegboro
Camara (no relation to the president), told the protesters not to enter
the stadium. However, his troops were unable to stop the demonstrators
from forcing open the doors and flooding inside.

Police allegedly responded first by firing into the air, and then into the crowd. One witness told Human Rights Watch:

 

"At around noon, our [opposition] political leaders
came to address the rally. Shortly after they arrived, the military
started shooting. Our leaders didn’t even have a chance to speak. I saw
the armed men shooting directly into the crowds and shooting in the air
– there was tear gas and gunshots and total panic; we ran for our
lives."

Eyewitnesses and medical personnel told Human Rights Watch that many of
the bodies of protesters were riddled with bullet holes. Others had
stab wounds from knives and bayonets. A number of women taking part in
the demonstration were stripped naked and sexually assaulted by
security forces, victims and witnesses said.

A second witness to the violence said:

 

"I saw the Red Berets [an elite unit within the
military] catch some of the women who were trying to flee, rip off
their clothes, and stick their hands in their private parts. Others
beat the women, including on their genitals. It was pathetic – the
women were crying out."

Another eyewitness said: "I saw several women stripped and then put
inside the military trucks and taken away. I don’t know what happened
to them."

Victims of the violence reported that there were so many people in
the local hospital that they waited for hours without being treated.
One young man who had been shot in the leg described the scene in the
hospital: "I waited for treatment from just after 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.,
but there were so many other wounded, they didn’t even have time to
treat me. I saw people dying in front of me."

Witnesses also spoke of widespread looting by members of the
security forces; a few described how vehicles were stolen and
possessions looted, including from the homes of opposition leaders.

The government on September 27 prohibited protests until after national
independence celebrations planned for October 2, but a coalition of
opposition activists decided to proceed with the demonstration they had
planned for the following day. Some of the protesters reportedly
engaged in violence against the police.

Security forces in Guinea have a history of using excessive and often unnecessary deadly force against demonstrators.

Guinea, resource-rich and desperately poor, has been plagued since
independence in 1958 by authoritarian, brutal, and corrupt regimes. In
December 2008, a group of Guinean military officers calling themselves
the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) seized power
hours after the death of Lansana Conté, Guinea’s president for 24
years. The coup government’s nine months in power have been
characterized by arbitrary arrests and detentions, restrictions on
peaceful political activity, unpunished criminal acts by the military,
and calls for vigilante justice.

Shortly after taking power, Camara pledged to hold elections in 2009
and promised that neither he nor anyone in the CNDD would run for
president. After months of delay in organizing elections, and under
mounting pressure from key foreign governments, Camara on August 17 set
January 31, 2010 as the presidential election date. Shortly thereafter,
he reversed his pledge not to run for office, a decision that added to
his declining popularity.

"The coup government pledged to break with Guinea’s abusive past,
but these deadly acts of repression and excessive use of force show how
empty those promises were," Dufka said.

 

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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

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