27 June 2007

Guinea: Soldiers Guilty of Torture, Rape and Executions - Report

Washington, D.C. — Guinea's security forces have illegally executed civilians and used deliberate and excessive force, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

The report, "Soldiers Were Shooting Everywhere", includes evidence of torture, rape and "extra-judicial executions" of children and adults in response to massive demonstrations earlier this year during which Guineans demanded political reforms from President Lansana Conté.

The Amnesty report is based on a three-week fact-finding mission to Guinea in April. In a statement released with the report, Amnesty made clear it believed the security forces remained a cause for concern.

"The Guinean security forces are a permanent threat to the people of Guinea," said Veronique Aubert, deputy director of Amnesty International's Africa program.

After February 12, the security forces were acting in terms of a state of siege, formally declared by Conté, which gave military forces powers ordinarily granted to civilian police and authorities.

Eyewitnesses said that during the demonstrations, the security forces shot at victims with the intent to kill. One doctor who inspected the dead and wounded concluded the "security forces aimed at…the vital organs of people they shot."

Other testimony claims security forces "entered private homes" and shot "indiscriminately" at inhabitants. Before the state of siege, on January 22, an 11-year-old child was fatally shot in the head by security forces. According to the report, Guinean authorities offered "about 400 euros" to the child's family to keep quiet, but the family refused the payment.

Rapes and torture of protesters and their families were common, according to the report.

On February 26, to end a nationwide general strike, Conté appointed Lansana Kouyaté as prime minister from a list of candidates approved by labor unions. On May 18, Kouyaté's new government established a Commission of Inquiry into the human rights abuses of the government and security forces in January and February.

In her statement, Aubert called for Kouyaté's new government to "set in place systems to ensure that the state violence seen earlier this year never happens again."

In an interview with AllAfrica in June, Kouyaté said national reconciliation is a priority of his government.

"There is a need to reconcile the army [with] the population; there is a need to reconcile those who are rich and those who are poor. The poor are getting poorer every day, so we have to bridge the gap. And you cannot do that without giving priority to justice - precisely, social justice - to give people [the knowledge] that they are not abandoned," he said.

He said a truth and reconciliation committee might be established, but that it would require a lot of psychological and legal preparation.

Kouyaté has said the new government is committed to "free and fair" elections in December 2007.


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