Interim President Brigadier General Sékouba Konaté
Transitional Prime Minister Jean-Marie Doré
Conakry
Republic of Guinea

Dear Sirs,

We write today to urge you to use your time in office to take concrete steps to address the longstanding culture of impunity and violence which has in recent years blighted the lives of hundreds of Guinean citizens, and torn apart the lives of thousands more. In your respective capacities as Interim President and Transitional Prime Minister, the actions you both take - or indeed do not - will determine the extent to which Guinea can finally move beyond decades of human rights and governance failure.

The death of President Conté in 2008 gave rise to two crises which you have inherited and must take proactive steps to resolve: a constitutional crisis stemming from his failure to establish a clear roadmap for succession, and a longstanding crisis of impunity that has allowed members of the security forces and others to commit egregious crimes, including torture, murder, rape, and embezzlement, without any fear of being held accountable.

The human cost of this vicious cycle of bad governance, violence, and impunity has been profound. The 2006 and 2007 crackdowns on Guineans demonstrating against deteriorating economic conditions left some 150 dead and more than 1,700 wounded; the 2009 premeditated attack against opposition supporters gathered in a stadium on September 28 left between 150-200 dead, and scores of women were subjected to often brutal forms of sexual violence. Furthermore, rampant corruption and mismanagement of Guinea's vast natural resources has systematically impeded the realization of key rights like basic healthcare and education.

As Guinea's leaders, you have an opportunity to begin to resolve these mutually reinforcing crises. We urge you to act decisively. Dismantling the architecture of impunity and building a society based on the rule of law is today's job, not tomorrow's.

Justice for Human Rights Crimes Committed in September 2009

One of your first priorities must be to make tangible progress on establishing the truth about and holding accountable those responsible for the September 2009 violence. As you are well aware, in-depth research by Human Rights Watch, the United Nations-led International Commission of Inquiry, and other local and international human rights organizations concluded that Guinean security forces, notably elements of the Presidential Guard and, to a lesser extent, the gendarmes, were responsible for these crimes.

Both Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Inquiry concluded that the crimes committed very likely amounted to crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch identified several people whose alleged criminal responsibility for the September 28 massacre should be investigated, all of whom are subject to sanctions imposed in November on Guinea by the African Union:

  • Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, former head of the Republic of Guinea's National Council for Democracy and Development (Conseil national pour la démocratie et le développement, CNDD) and then-commander in chief of the Guinean armed forces;
  • Lieutenant Abubakar "Toumba" Diakité, then-aide de camp to Dadis Camara, who personally led the Presidential Guard into the stadium, was present when they fired directly into the crowds of demonstrators and raped scores of women, and failed to intervene to stop the violence;
  • Second-Lieutenant Marcel Kuvugi, then-aide de camp to Lieutenant Diakité, who was present during the stadium violence and personally involved in a targeted attack on the opposition leaders at the stadium;
  • Gendarme Lieutenant-Colonel Moussa Tiégboro Camara, who remains minister in the presidency charged with the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime (ministre à la présidence chargé de la lutte anti-drogue et du grand banditisme). Lt.-Col. Tiégboro personally commanded a unit of gendarmes that used lethal force against opposition supporters converging on the stadium, allegedly took an active part in the massacre, and, to a lesser degree, in the sexual violence that followed; and
  • Commander (Major) Claude "Coplan" Pivi, who remains the titular commander in charge of the Presidential Guard. Maj. Pivi was also allegedly involved in the crackdown that followed the massacre at the stadium, including in the attacks on the homes of political leaders on the evening of September 28.

While we welcome the government of Guinea's stated commitment to investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of the September violence, we are concerned that the so-called Independent National Commission of Inquiry - appointed by then-CNDD president Dadis Camara and active from November 2009 to February 2010 - might be used as a basis for a domestic judicial investigation. We are also concerned about the extent to which the CNDD and current minister of justice, Colonel Siba Lohalamou, can credibly deliver, and can be seen to deliver, impartial justice with respect to the September 2009 crimes. We are also concerned about current weaknesses within Guinea's judiciary, characterized by a lack of independence from the executive branch, inadequate resources, and corruption, which have played a key part in fueling the culture of impunity.

Human Rights Watch's research has shown that hundreds of men from the security services took part in the September violence. Yet to date, not one has been put on administrative leave pending investigation, much less held accountable in court. Guineans will find this unacceptable. The victims of September's violence have also endured the continued presence on official duty of red berets who took part in the bloodbath, and, disturbingly, seen several of those implicated in serious abuses promoted since the September events.

As indicated above, two alleged perpetrators remain in high-level government positions. We are gravely concerned about the inclusion in the Transitional Government under your leadership of both Lt.-Col. Moussa Tiégboro Camara and Maj. Claude Pivi, as announced in a February 16, 2010 decree. Both men were implicated in abuses before, during, and after the September 2009 violence.

Major Pivi has been credibly implicated in acts of torture committed in 2008, including of Guinean police officers, and criminal acts including theft and beatings. More recently, following the December assassination attempt against Dadis Camara, he has been implicated in the killing of at least two soldiers close to Lt. Diakité.

For his part, Lt.-Col. Tiégboro in June 2009 publicly called on youth groups to mete out vigilante justice and "burn all armed bandits who are caught red-handed committing an armed robbery." He has also been implicated in illegally detaining suspects, some of whom have been abused and in several cases tortured, in the ad hoc detention center within Alpha Yaya Diallo military camp under his direct command. Rather than face any inquiry, both of these individuals were in December 2009 promoted in rank.

With regards to justice for the crimes committed on and after September 28, 2009, we therefore urge you to:

  • Facilitate the exhumation, identification, and return to family members of the bodies disposed of by the security forces in the immediate aftermath of the stadium violence, including those bodies taken from the stadium and morgues at Donka and Ignace Deen Hospitals to be buried in mass graves. If Guinea lacks the capacity to do this work, it should request immediate assistance from its international partners.
  • Instruct the Ministry of Defense to make a list of all those who were involved in security force operations in Conakry on September 28, 2009, and hand it to the three investigating judges charged with establishing the facts around the September stadium massacre and crimes.
  • Immediately suspend from their duties Maj. Claude Pivi and Lt.-Col. Tiégboro, pending independent judicial investigation into their roles in the September 2009 crimes.
  • Investigate, prosecute, and punish in accordance with international fair trial standards members of the security forces against whom there is evidence of criminal responsibility for these crimes-which include murder, rape, assault, and torture-including those liable under command responsibility for their failure to prevent or prosecute these crimes. If Guinea lacks the capacity to deliver this required level of justice, international assistance should be sought.
  • Should Lt. Abubakar "Toumba" Diakité, who went into hiding immediately after his December 3, 2009 assassination attempt against Dadis Camara, be found and detained, Guinea's military, police, and judicial authorities must ensure that his rights to life, safe detention, and a fair trial are respected.

As you know, Guinea is currently a situation under analysis by the International Criminal Court following the violence in September. One consideration as to whether the court moves forward with opening an investigation into crimes committed in Guinea is whether the national courts are both willing and able to investigate and prosecute the crimes.

Parliamentary and Presidential Elections

Human Rights Watch welcomes your collective commitment to hold elections in June 2010, and urges you and your government to take concrete steps to ensure that the campaigns and polls are free, fair, and transparent. For example, the right of all Guineans to take part in the conduct of public affairs and freely elect their representatives is guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Guinea on January 24, 1978.

You will be aware that national and international elections observers have consistently expressed concern over the conduct of past polls in Guinea, noting that the elections of 1993, 1998, and 2003 were marred by postponements, boycotts by opposition parties, accusations of fraud, intimidation, and state-sponsored violence.

The last several decades of political life in Guinea have been characterized by an inappropriate level of influence, indeed intrusion, by the security forces into matters of the state, including elections. This pattern was equally pronounced during the CNDD period, when it took control of all key administrative offices country-wide. It also systematically undermined civil and political rights through the imposition of bans on political activity, mobile phone text-messaging, and political content on radio phone-in shows. It further restricted freedoms of political expression and assembly and violently repressed opposition candidates and voices.

Your interim government's credibility among Guineans and international partners and observers depends on your taking concrete steps to ensure that any upcoming elections mark an unequivocal departure from the past. As first steps, we urge you to:

  • Adhere to the January 15, 2010 Ouagadougou Agreement's provision that no member of the CNDD; the National Transitional Council; the Government of National Unity, including the prime minister; or person active in the defense or security forces shall participate in the forthcoming presidential election.
  • Ensure Guineans' enjoyment of the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.
  • Ensure that the army remains neutral, focused on its task of helping ensure security during the elections, and does not play a role in campaigning for any candidate or supervising the electoral process.
  • Ensure that any attempt by members of the security forces to intimidate or manipulate voters or political candidates, or otherwise influence the outcome of the elections, is promptly investigated and that those found responsible are held accountable.
  • Accept full and unimpeded international monitoring of the polls, including the period of registration.

Ensuring Rights for Guinea's People

The Guinean government has legal obligations under several international and African human rights treaties - including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. These require it to respect the rights to life, bodily integrity, and liberty and security of the person, and freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. In order to support these general objectives, Human Rights Watch further recommends that you:

  • Ensure that the National Observatory for Democracy and Human Rights (Observatoire national de la démocratie et des droits de l'homme, ONDH) - mandated to investigate human rights abuses and conduct human rights education - is made fully operational without further delay, is fully funded, and is allowed to function independently.
  • Ensure that the Independent Commission of Inquiry, created to investigate the killing of at least 137 unarmed protesters by security forces during the January and February 2007 strike, is funded and made operational with immediate effect.
  • Adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding criminal acts and other human rights abuses committed by members of the security forces, and ensure that any such acts are investigated and that those found responsible are held accountable.

Conclusion

Members of Guinea's security forces and others have for decades engaged in a panoply abuses against the Guinean people. These have included extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence, armed robbery, and economic crimes that have denied the population key rights like basic healthcare and education. While the victims have been repeatedly left to pick up the pieces of their lives from these abuses, the perpetrators have slept well, knowing that they would never face investigation, let alone a judge.

That has to change. Guinean citizens have already paid too high a price for inaction. Your interim administration can be a champion of the rule of law and remembered for drawing a line in the sand from Guinea's abusive past if it works to establish the rule of law in Guinea and finally ensure accountability for human rights abuses.

Sincerely,

Georgette Gagnon
Executive Director, Africa Division

Corinne Dufka
Senior West Africa Researcher

CC:

  • Mr. Blaise Compoaré, President of Burkina Faso and ECOWAS Mediator on Guinea
  • Mr. James Victor Gbeho, President of the Economic Community of West African States
  • Mr. Edward Aina, ECOWAS Ambassador to Guinea
  • Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, Peace and Security Commissioner of the African Union
  • Mr. El-Ghassim Wane, Director of Conflict Management, Peace and Security, African Union
  • Mr. Emile Ognimba, Director of Political Affairs, African Union
  • Mr. Said Djinnit, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa
  • Mr. Sammy Buo, Africa Director, United Nations Department of Political Affairs
  • Mr. Mamahane Cisse-Gouro, OHCHR Regional Representative for West Africa
  • Mr. William Fitzgerald, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, US Department of State
  • Mr. Stéphane Gompertz, Africa Director, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Mr. Mamadou Aliou Barry, President, ONDH