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Testimonies from Sierra Leonean Refugees in Conakry, Guinea
Documented by Human Rights Watch, September 11 and 12, 2000


Cases of rape, sexual assault and humiliation

Woman, 19, raped and baby kidnaped

"Late on Saturday night, three armed camouflage and with red berets, and a lot of civilians broke into our house in two directions; some from the back and some through the front.. I lived there with my mother and 9 brothers and sister. I just had a little baby which I had on my back when the soldiers entered. One of the soldiers pushed me hard and I fell onto the TV then another soldiers grabbed my baby off my back. Then the first soldier pushed me down and raped me...I cried, but I'm a brand new mother. I've just had a baby. Then one of the civilians raped me. They roughed me up and scraped me on my arm. They called me a bastard child and kicked me hard after using me…they said you people only like your Sierra Leones for boyfriends, don't you? Then I heard one of the soldiers give a command to take they started taking the TV, clothes and as they were taking apart one of the beds they found my mother hiding they pushed her and forced her at gunpoint to give them money...she had about 250 US dollars hidden on her. They stayed there for about three hours…as they stole our things they loaded them onto carts that were waiting out front. But all I could think of was my baby. After they'd left I gave my uncle a picture of my baby and they went from place to place until they found him. The soldiers had left him at one of the detention centers. They even stole all his little clothes." (Testimony taken Monday, September 11, Conakry)

"Then the first soldier pushed me down and raped me...I cried, but I'm a brand new mother. I've just had a baby. Then one of the civilians raped me. They roughed me up and scraped me on my arm. They called me a bastard child and kicked me hard after using me..."

Sierra Leonean Woman, 19 years old

Woman, 45, witnessed rape of 14 year old daughter

"On Saturday at 5:00 am five soldiers and many civilians knocked at the door saying; police, police...if you don't open we'll shoot you all. When we heard them cock their guns we felt we had to open. Then they all rushed in and one of the soldiers says, you're all rebels, and you have dollars, pull out the dollars or we'll kill you all.. the soldiers had their guns pointed at us. The civilians were with iron bars, knives, sticks...they started looting, they took the fans, chairs, freezers, tape, clothes, they opened all the boxes looking for the best of everything. They took all the new clothes and the kids' good shoes and clothes and left a few rags for us. Then one of those civilians who knew my daughter from the neighborhood grabbed her saying ‘you're the rebels, you're bringing the fight to our country. We'll kill you.' Fearing they were going to rape her I fell down at the foot of one of the soldiers but he just kicked me and I fell at the feet of another one. Then they pulled my daughter away and started raping. One of them grabbed me by the hair and said I should watch..two soldiers and one civilians raped her. I struggled to stop them but they beat me and pushed my little 6 year old son in the process. He fell and broke his front tooth. We don't have anything. We're just trying to make ends meet here in Guinea. We're been here for five years..we fled the violence in Kambia district. After the rape my daughter was bleeding. They even stole 350,000 Guinea francs [about 200 US dollars]...all I had saved for along time. After they left our landlord came and said we had to leave..then we fled to the Sierra Leonean embassy." (Testimony taken Monday, September 11, Conakry)

Woman, 19, gang raped

"I've been living in Guinea since l998... I live with four other family members. We'd been able to avoid this trouble till last night (Monday) when at around l0 AM people came..some in uniforms with those green caps and one escuadron with a blue uniform and black cap. Our gate was locked so they jumped over the gate and came in. There were about l0 youths with them; they had sticks, axes and machetes and used them to break into our house. as I was trying to run a soldier grabbed hold of me and slapped me once, hard on the face..then a few civilian youths held me by my shirt at the neck. Then they started looking for the others…they found my two cousins and my sister and pushed them into a blue they were doing this others started loading our possessions into a van... they took our clothes, suitcases and other things. They left me saying it was the others they were after. Now alone in the house…they came back at 8:00 pm last night. They banged at the door... I went and hid under the bed but they got in and four of them--all in military dress--entered. They pulled me out from under the bed and then used me just there one after the other. I begged them but they said they'd kill me. one of them sat on a chair with his gun pointed at me while two others held my legs and the other one used me… Then they took their turn. After they left I waited till the morning and borrowed money for transport then ran to the embassy." (Testimony taken Tuesday September 12, Conakry)

Woman, 24, gang raped at Seratay police station (one of two rape reports from this station)

"They came for us on Sunday night. Soldiers and gangs of youths came to our neighborhood and all started shouting... ‘all Sierra Leoneans must come out.' My husband was away that night so I came out with my two small children. Then they started looking; they carried out our fridge, suitcases clothes and other things and loaded them in a green military van. Then they took us to the Seratay police station where me and my kids were put into a cell with up to l00 people. After a few hours soldiers came and called a woman….they took her into a room and then she came back. She was limping and she said they'd raped her. Then they came for me. I said I can't go I have my children but one of the soldier men grabbed my l0 month baby out of my arms, flung him and ordered me inside a room. Then they used me on the ground. All for of them did it. They were all soldier men in uniforms and two had two they were the big men there. After they left me they took a few other women as well. I begged them but they said ‘Shut up...we'll kill you...our president has announced that all you people must leave. You're all rebels.'" (Testimony taken Tuesday September 12)

Woman, 18, gang raped at Seratay police station

"At ll pm on Sunday, several police in blue uniforms came..they all had guns and there were civilians among them...they had sticks and machetes. My brother had hidden money in our mattress and they started searching and found it. Then they pushed me and my neighbors into a blue was full up with people. Then they took us to Hamdalai police station and then on to Seratay police station. I saw them take one lady form our group and she came back limping…I knew what happened so when they came to get me I really fought them. But they slapped me and took me to a room. There were five police there...then one of them said, ‘If you have money, we'll leave you' but how could I pay them? They'd taken all the money we had from that mattress. So they told put me on the ground and one of them used me while the others watched. When he was done I got up but they said, ‘You think we're finished?' and one of them hit me hard on the hip with the but of his gun. I fell down and then the second and third and then other others used me. I said, ‘leave me, leave me now' but they threatened to kill me. One was an older pa with buttons on his uniform. ..they said if we didn't leave the country they'd kill me... I was finally released form the prison on Monday at 2 pm…then I came to the embassy." (Testimony taken, Tuesday September 12).

Woman, 26, sexually abused

"I was apprehended at 6 pm on Friday by three soldiers and carried to Hamdalai police station. From there many of us were taken to Rotoma commune. they called us out and wrote all our names down. Then around noon on Saturday, they called me to a small room. I had my little baby in my arms. There were 5 or 6 of them. Then they grabbed my baby (l0 months old) and flung him in the corner. He started screaming but they ordered me to strip off all my clothes. Then they told me to spread my legs and bend over and four of them put their fingers inside me saying they were looking for money....after the fourth one I couldn't bear it and I said no more so they kicked me with their soldier boots and hit me hard with the but of their rifle. What interrogation...they hardly asked me any questions. How can they do that. We're not rebels." (Testimony taken Tuesday September 12, Conakry)

Woman, 27 years old, beaten and witnessed attempted rape of 16 year old niece

"On late Saturday night the landlord came and said he'd heard the government announcement on the TV...and that we'd have leave. Then at 12:15 on Sunday morning a two soldiers and so many civilians, it was a huge gang, came to our place. The men in my family had jumped over the gate because we thought they were going to kill them. They screamed at us to show them our papers…we all have the proper papers. So we showed them and then they screamed..we don't care what papers you have just get out of our country. They said the chief of the section has authorized all of you to leave. Some of the civilians, who we recognized as being the street boys from our neighborhood started carrying our things out of the house. They took furniture and clothes and our money..after they were finished they'd taken more than what they left there. en two of the civilian from the gang grabbed my 16 year old niece and tried pulling her into the parlor. I think they were going to rape her. But I fought with them and said you'll have to kill me first. One of them bit me but I screamed ‘you're not taking her.' They said ‘The government has given us this order..go back to you're rebels.'" (Testimony taken Monday September 11, Conakry)

Elderly grandmother forced to strip in front of soldiers

A 25 year old woman told Human Rights Watch how the local district officer accompanied by civilians searched the house where she lives with her elderly grandmother and 6 other family members early Saturday morning. At 1am on Sunday, 15 heavily armed soldiers came back to the house. They demanded money. When they didn't find any they accused the grandmother of hiding money and of lying. They asked her, "what would you prefer – your money or your life?", she replied – "my life". Then they forced her to undress in front of them and under her clothes she was hiding 300,000 francs guinea [about 175 US dollars]. The soldiers threatened to rape the other women in the house, but the landlord pleaded on their behalf. After this the gang handcuffed the landlord and beat the nine year old boy in the house. The family escaped to the Sierra Leonean embassy." (Testimony taken Monday September 11, Conakry)

Death in detention

Man, 27, arrested, witnessed death of refugee in detention

"I live in Rotoma…on Saturday night after the speech we're sitting with friends around my house when we heard a knock and five soldiers with AK-47's in blue police uniforms came in asking for our papers. They said we're refugees and they have to search our place. They started searching but in the process took my watch, 300 US dollars and other valuables...I didn't see them searching for any arms. I don't have guns hidden in my pocket. Then they loaded three of my brother and a friend to Rotoma commune. At the station we saw about 35 more Sierra Leones. We were put in a tiny, tiny little cubicle. Then on Sunday at around 3:00 am they took us to a place called Hamdalai Station…there were hundreds of us in there. Some were inside the cells and others were being kept outside but we were everywhere and packed in like sardines. Then sometime later from inside one of the rooms I heard people shouting...'someone's dying, someone is dying.' They were screaming for minutes…they they yelled... ‘oh my god, he's died, he's dead.' Then around 4:00, about an hour or a little less after they'd been yelling, two police in civilian dress (I knew they were police because they'd been interrogating us), went in and came out carrying the body of a young 18 year old boy…as they passed in front of us people started crying and a few shouted, ‘we're dying in here.'" (Testimony taken Monday September 11, Conakry)

Denial of medical care

Woman, 21, forced to leave hospital. HRW researcher found her lying on Sierra Leonean Embassy grounds.

"I'd been in hospital for over two weeks. I'm from Rotoma area of Conakry... On Saturday night about 8 soldiers in combat and many youths – I don't know how many – came into the hospital and said, ‘ all those Sierra Leoneans should go die in your own land.' This was about 9:00. They stayed for about half an hour. The nurses and doctor came to me and said they couldn't guarantee my protection so I had to go. Then they removed my drip and by this time my brother had arrived so he carried me away. We couldn't go home because my brother told me another group were attacking our house, so we spent the night on the ground in an unfinished house. Then he carried me to the Sierra Leonean embassy. I feel very weak…I haven't had any medicine since I left." (Testimony taken Monday September 11, Conakry)

House raids, round-ups, looting and beating following government announcement to halt attacks

Man, 26, family robbed and forced from home

"My whole family, all of us 27 in number, headed back to our house in the Hamdalai neighborhood. When we arrived, by car, we were met by two soldier men – one in combats and the other in a black suit, and about 20 civilians armed with sticks with nails in them, and iron clubs. Even our landlord was there among them. They said ‘you go no, you're not coming here, all Sierra Leoneans are rebels…they physically stopped our car from proceeding. My auntie, she's the eldest among us, got out to try to talk with them but they pushed her and grabbed her purse. One of them cut the strap and then grabbed it from her..and hit her. She had $450 in her purse. We'd heard it was safe to go back and didn't expect this." (Testimony taken Tuesday September 12, Conakry)

50 year old victim, forced from home

"At around 7:15 this morning, my cousin and I went to our house at Petit Simbaya...we were walking towards our house, almost at the entrance by our gate when we were approached by 4 civilians and two soldiers in combats and red berets. They said we aren't allowed of the civilians threatened us with on of those sticks with nails in it. One of the soldiers told us to halt; pointing his weapon at us. He said he'd kill us if we moved. But I took off running and was able to get away. I didn't look back. I don't know where my cousin is. I ran straight back to the Sierra Leonean embassy. They said it was ok to go now; that they weren't going to harass us anymore but it's not true." (Testimony taken Tuesday September 12, Conakry)