7 October 2009

Guinea: Violence a 'Vile Violation' of Human Rights, Clinton Says

Washington — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said an international investigation is needed into the killings and rapes by Guinean security forces against peaceful protesters and bystanders at a stadium in Guinea's capital, Conakry, saying "there should be no impunity" for the perpetrators.

"We were appalled and outraged by the recent violence in Guinea. The indiscriminate killing and raping that took place under government control by government troops was a vile violation of the rights of the people of that country," Clinton said October 6 in remarks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. (See "Remarks by Secretary Clinton, Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi.")

The State Department said September 30 that Guinea's Presidential Guard had killed at least 157 people and injured more than 1,200 in the September 28 incident. The United Nations Security Council also condemned the violence September 30 and called for "a prompt return to the rule of law, democracy and constitutional order through elections as scheduled in 2010."

Clinton said members of the ruling military junta in Guinea "owe a profound apology" to those who had gathered in the stadium to protest the December 23, 2008, coup d'état and the suspension of the country's constitution. "They owe not only that apology in words, but in a recognition that they cannot remain in power, that they must turn back to the people the right to choose their own leaders," she said.

The secretary, who is an outspoken advocate for women's rights, chaired the United Nations Security Council's September 30 passage of Resolution 1888, a measure outlining actions the United Nations and member states can take to prevent conflict-related sexual violence.

"It will not surprise you to hear that I was particularly appalled by the violence against women. In broad daylight in a stadium, it was a criminality of the greatest degree," she told reporters October 6.

"Those who committed such acts should not be given any reason to expect that they will escape justice. There should be no impunity, and there should be an effort to bring those who were the leaders and perpetrators of the murders and rapes to justice very shortly," she said.

The Obama administration has conveyed its outrage to Guinea's military rulers "in the strongest possible terms" and told them "we intend to pursue appropriate actions against the current administration in that country," the secretary said.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said October 6 that the U.S. condemnation of the massacre and rapes was conveyed to Guinea's rulers in conversations between Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Guinea's foreign minister, Alexandre Cece Loua, and between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State William Fitzgerald and junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara.

"They called on Captain Camara to restore order, ensure better command and control over the security forces, and permit an international investigation into these events," Kelly said.

The spokesman said, "It is precisely because of these horrific events of September 28 that Secretary Clinton went to the Security Council last week and called for urgent action to protect women and girls," whom he described as "war's most violated and vulnerable victims."

"The U.N. and the international community must act now to end this crisis," Kelly said. He described the Obama administration as being "very actively engaged" in efforts to resolve the situation, and cited both French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's call for an international investigation and the decision by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to send Burkina Faso's president, Blaise Compaoré, to the country as a mediator.

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