27 September 2016

Guinea: 7 Years On, Justice for Massacre Needed

Photo: © Nancy Palus/IRIN
In 2009, hundreds of people were killed or wounded inside this stadium. Hundreds of women were also raped on the morning of September 28.

Conakry — Guinea has yet to deliver justice for the grave crimes committed on September 28, 2009, at a Conakry stadium, six international and national human rights groups said today, in advance of the massacre's seventh anniversary. That day, more than 150 peaceful protesters were massacred by security forces and more than 100 women were raped. Hundreds of injuries and widespread looting were also documented.

"How much longer will we have to wait for justice to be done?" said Asmaou Diallo, president of the Association of Victims, Parents, and Friends of September 28. "We recognize the progress made, but we anxiously await the day those responsible for the murder and rape of our loved ones will have their day in court."

The six organizations are the International Federation on Human Rights (FIDH), Human Rights Watch, the Guinean Organization for the Defense of Human and Citizens' Rights (OGDH), the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of September 28 (AVIPA), Equal Rights for All (MDT), and the Coalition of Human Rights Defense Organizations (CODDH).

The investigation, which is being conducted by a pool of Guinean investigating judges, was opened in February 2010 but has not yet been completed. Nevertheless, the investigation has made major progress despite political, financial, and logistical obstacles.

Current and former high-level officials have been charged, including Moussa Dadis Camara, the former leader of the National Council of Democracy and Development junta, which ruled Guinea at the time, and his vice president, Mamadouba Toto Camara. Judges have heard the testimony of more than 400 victims and their family members, and they have also questioned witnesses, including members of the security services.

Some investigative aspects remain outstanding, including the questioning of at least one key witness, locating at least one suspect, and locating mass graves believed to contain the bodies of about 100 victims who remain unaccounted for. Witnesses allege that the security forces engaged tried to hide the evidence of their crimes and misrepresented the number of people killed. But these outstanding elements should not cause Guinean judicial authorities to delay the completion of the investigation, the groups said.

"The victims, their lawyers from the FIDH and the OGDH, and our organizations now want to see the conclusion of the investigation and a trial that will finally enable truth, justice, and reparations for the victims," said Dimitris Christopoulos, president of FIDH.

The beginning of a major reorganization of the justice system in 2014 has led to significant progress in the case and laid the foundations for an awaited modernization of the system, the organizations said. These changes are essential to overcome striking gaps in the Guinean judicial system and strengthen its independence, impartiality, and efficiency.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Guinea in October 2009, has regularly reminded the Guinean government of its obligation to deliver justice for the 2009 crimes. The Guinean government should ensure that the investigations phase of the case moves ahead with no further delay to organize the trial, the organizations said.

The ICC is designed as a court of last resort. Under the principle of complementarity, the ICC only steps in when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute cases under its authority.

"Guinea could become, with this long-awaited trial, a real leader on justice for grave crimes in Africa," said Corinne Dufka, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The government of Guinea should give its strongest support to the investigative panel to complete its work so that those responsible for the stadium massacre can be tried without delay."

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