Guinea: 8 years later, justice for massacre needed
Guinea should move ahead to deliver justice, truth, and reparation for the grave crimes committed on September 28, 2009, at a Conakry stadium, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of the September 28 Massacre said in advance of the massacre’s eighth anniversary. On that day, security forces massacred more than 150 peaceful protesters, and more than 100 women were raped. Hundreds of injuries and widespread looting were also documented.
An investigation into the crimes by a panel of Guinean investigating judges, opened in February 2010, has yet to be completed – eight years after the crimes were committed.
“The judges investigating the September 28, 2009 massacre have made impressive progress,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “But the investigation needs to be completed so that those responsible for the stadium massacre can be tried without further delay.”
The investigation has made progress, overcoming 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 in September 2009, and his vice president, Mamadouba Toto Camara. Abubakar “Toumba” Diakité, Moussa Dadis Camara’s aide-de-camp, has also been charged and was extradited to Guinea in March after being at large for more than five years. However, several people who face charges still hold influential official positions in Guinea.
“That people suspected of criminal responsibility for the stadium massacre continue to hold senior official positions of power is an affront to victims and their families and sends the negative message that impunity is tolerated in Guinea,” said François Patuel, West Africa researcher at Amnesty International. “Anyone facing charges should be put on administrative leave until a final judicial determination of guilt or innocence is made, to ensure they don’t use their position and influence to undermine proceedings.”
Judges have heard the testimony of more than 400 victims and their family members and have also questioned witnesses, including members of the security services.
Some aspects of the investigation are outstanding, such as locating mass graves believed to contain the bodies of about 100 victims who remain unaccounted for. Several people who held senior official positions at the time have not been heard or charged. But this should not be a basis for Guinean judicial authorities to delay the completion of the investigation.
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 to trial.
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.
The International Commission of Inquiry, created by the United Nations secretary-general with a mandate to investigate the events in Conakry concluded that the massacres and other violent acts committed on September 28 and the following days constitute “crimes against humanity.”
“I am not getting through grief,” one of the rape victims told Amnesty International. “My life was thrown up in the air. The day after the soldiers raped me, my husband abandoned me and my daughter. Justice must be done and victims must get reparations.”
“The victims of the September 28 events suffered the worst forms of brutality and have been pressing for prosecutions for eight years,” said Asmaou Diallo of the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of September 28 Massacre. “The victims deserve to see the wheels of justice turn forward.”