(Dakar) - Guinea's military government should immediately release or bring specific charges against the human rights defender Mouctar Diallo, Human Rights Watch said today. He has been held by the military since November 26, 2009, on what appear to be politically motivated charges. Arbitrary and prolonged pretrial detentions violate Guinea's obligations under both international and Guinean law.
Diallo, 58, is the director of promotion and protection for the National Observatory for Democracy and Human Rights (ONDH), an independent national institution. He was detained by gendarmes of the elite Anti-Drug and Anti-Organized Crime Unit, which is headed by Captain Moussa Tiégboro Camara, an influential government official. Military sources told journalists that Diallo had been detained for having given an interview to Voice of America radio the day after the September 28 massacre in Conakry, when more than 150 opposition supporters were gunned down in the city's main stadium and dozens of women were raped by security forces.
"There seems to be no legitimate reason for Diallo's detention, much less by the unit in charge of serious crime and drug trafficking," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "This appears to be yet another attempt by the Guinean military government to silence opposition voices."
The National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) took power in a bloodless coup in December 2008, following the death of long-time authoritarian president Lansana Conté. Since then, it has consolidated control of the country's political affairs, failed to hold the free and fair elections it promised, and steadily and violently suppressed the opposition. The perpetrators of these abuses have enjoyed near-complete impunity.
At various times throughout the year, the coup leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, has lifted and then reinstated a ban on political and union activity. He also imposed a ban on mobile phone text-messaging and political discussions on radio talk shows. Immediately following the September 28 violence at the stadium, the security forces rounded up and detained dozens of demonstrators in military camps around Conakry, seriously mistreating, and even torturing, many of them.
Not one of those detained since the September violence, including Diallo, has been taken before the courts to bring formal charges, in violation of international and Guinean law. Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Guinea has signed and ratified, states that anyone arrested must be informed at the time of the arrest of any charges and also must be brought promptly before the courts. Absent any charges, Guinea's Code of Penal Procedure, 1998, article 60, limits the time a detainee may be held before being brought before judicial authorities to 48 hours. An extension of 48 hours - for a total of 96 hours or four days - is allowable only with the intervention of a public prosecutor or investigating magistrate. Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, also ratified by Guinea, equally prohibits arbitrary detention.
It is unclear whether Diallo, who suffers from hypertension and diabetes, has received medical care while in detention. His wife, Djenabou Diallo, has been allowed to visit him only to deliver food.
"It seems Diallo has done nothing wrong except to speak candidly to the press about a grave episode in Guinea's history," Dufka said. "If the authorities have evidence he has committed a crime, they should charge him with it; otherwise, they should let him go immediately."