Guinea: Appalling human rights “red flags” ahead of presidential election
At least 70 protestors and bystanders killed since January 2015
109 deaths in custody
The Guinean authorities must address mounting human rights violations, including the killing of protesters, bans on peaceful assemblies and attacks on dissenting voices, which threaten to get worse ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Amnesty International said in a new report today.
Guinea: Red flags ahead of the 2020 presidential election documents the deteriorating human rights situation between January 2015 and October 2019, including the killing of 70 protesters and bystanders and at least three members of the security forces. The report warns of rising political tensions amidst growing public concerns President Alpha Condé will amend the constitution to run for a third term.
“Nine protestors were killed last month alone during demonstrations against a potential revision of the constitution. Leaders of pro-democracy movements and scores of protestors were arrested. This is an affront to human rights and a brutal attempt by the Guinean authorities to silence dissent,” said Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Director.
“The authorities must do everything in their power to defuse tensions, protect human rights and save lives before, during and after the next elections. We call on President Condé’s government to end its rule of fear and repression by amending the legislation on the use of force to deal with public assemblies and removing military armed forces from protest areas.”
Amnesty International releases its report ahead of Guinea’s UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in January 2020. The report assesses the human rights situation since the UPR in January 2015. In that time, Guinea has abolished the death penalty which is a significant and positive human rights development.
However, there are many other areas, where it is still falling short.
Amnesty International found that 70 protesters and bystanders were killed in the context of protests between January 2015 and October 2019. While the organisation could not confirm the circumstances of all the deaths, testimonies from medical staff, witnesses and the type of ammunition used indicate that at least 59 of them appear to have been killed by the police and gendarmerie. These victims include a 7-year-old child who, according to medical sources, was hit by a stray bullet in October 2015.
Amnesty International also documented the killing of Amadou Boukariou Baldé a student who was beaten to death by gendarmes deployed to disperse a demonstration at the University of Labé in central Guinea on 31 May 2019.
The report also revealed that hundreds of people, including children as young as four years old, have been injured by security forces using live ammunition, batons and tear gas canisters.
One of the victims is 10-year-old Mamadou Hady Barry, who was hit in the back by a bullet as he was returning home from Koranic school in Conakry on 13 November 2018. He suffered severe injuries which have left him unable to walk.
A large number of protests have been arbitrarily banned by the government in recent years. Human rights defenders, including journalists, continue to be summoned, detained or arrested by the police, solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
In the latest example, at least 60 members of the pro-democracy group National Front for the Defense of the Constitution were arrested since 12 October 2019. A court sentenced five of their leaders to up to one year in prison for calling the peaceful protest. Dozens of those who participated were sentenced to a year in prison for attending an “illegal assembly”.
The report also highlights how journalists have been targeted, had their media houses’ licences suspended or been assaulted by members of the security forces.
For example, Aboubacar Algassimou Diallo, a radio presenter at Lynx FM, and Souleymane Diallo, the general administrator, were summoned by police on 19 and 20 August 2019 after airing an interview with a woman, who accused the Minister of Defence of embezzling funds earmarked for Guinean UN peacekeepers.
Amnesty International found overcrowding to be rife across Guinean prisons. For example, at Conakry Central Prison, which has capacity for 500 prisoners, 1,468 people were detained. At least 109 individuals have died in detention in the period covered by the report.
The report also documented cases of torture and other ill-treatment, particularly in police custody. This includes beatings, rapes, the use of stress positions, burns and sleep deprivation.
Impunity continues to rule
Impunity continues to rule in Guinea. The relatives of people killed during protests have filed dozens of police complaints, sometimes with specific information on the units of the security forces deployed, including names, and number plates.
Yet only one of these cases led to judicial proceedings. In February 2019, the conviction of a police captain for the 2016 killing of a bystander during protests was the first time since 2010 that a member of the security forces has been brought to justice.
There has been limited progress in the trial proceedings relating to the killing of over 150 peaceful demonstrators and the rape of and sexual violence against at least 100 women in the Conakry Stadium in 2009.
“To put an end to the cycle of violence in Guinea ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the authorities must send a clear message that human rights violations will not be tolerated,” said Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry.
“The authorities must stop muzzling and suppressing dissenting voices.”