Press briefing notes on Guinea
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 5 March 2013
We are very concerned by the violent unrest which has been taking place in Guinea over the past week, which has led to several deaths and many injuries, although our staff in Conakry report that the situation was calmer first thing this morning.
Following an opposition-led protest march over upcoming legislative elections last Wednesday 27 February, and a general strike the next day, inter-communal clashes reportedly erupted among Peuhl and Malinke communities. The clashes started in the neighborhood of Hamdallaye, a suburb of the capital Conakry and then spread to other parts of the city on Friday and Saturday, resulting in casualties and considerable material damage.
As of last night, at least five people, including one police officer, had been killed and 172 people had been treated in hospitals, after being injured by stones hurled by protesters, or by live fire from security forces. Three of the deaths, and at least 12 injuries, were caused by the use of live ammunition.
The worst violence was in Hamdallaye, where stone-throwing protestors clashed with security forces who responded with tear gas and live fire. At least 128 people were injured there, including a police officer who later died.
According to our sources, some demonstrators were attacking people based on their ethnicity, while others looted shops as overstretched security forces struggled to maintain order. Private homes, vehicles and other property were also attacked, and in some cases destroyed.
According to several sources, young ethnic Peuhls and Malinkes allegedly formed into groups and attacked each other’s homes in Hamdallaye. Violence also occurred in the Koloma, Cosa and Bambeto neighborhoods, where youths erected barricades, and attacked passers-by, beating them up and seizing their personal property.
We condemn the violence and destruction of property by some demonstrators and urge them to refrain from resorting to such methods. We also strongly condemn targeting of people and property on the basis of their ethnicity. We are also concerned by the reported disproportionate use of force by security forces in some cases, resulting in loss of life.
We call on national authorities to ensure the strict application of law and remind them of their responsibility to protect civilians. We also call for a prompt, impartial and effective investigation to ensure that those responsible for the human rights violations which have been committed are held accountable.
We welcome the calls for calm by the President of Guinea and several political and religious leaders, and call on all parties to use non-violent means to resolve disputes.