Opposition supporters flee Conakry’s main stadium on September 28, 2009, after security forces stormed and opened fire on rally participants.

(Johannesburg, September 27, 2013) – Those responsible for the 2009 stadium massacre, rapes, and other abuses by security forces in Guinea have yet to be brought to account four years after the crimes were committed, Human Rights Watch said today.

A domestic investigation has been stymied by insufficient support by the Guinean government. In particular, the government should contact the Burkina Faso authorities to resolve the judges’ outstanding request to interview the former Guinean president, who is living there. The Guinean government should place high-level suspects on leave from government posts pending investigation.

“Four years on, the victims and their families are still waiting for justice for the heinous abuses committed on and around September 28, 2009,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “The investigation is stymied largely, it seems, because the government simply is not providing the backing it needs to get the job done.”

On September 28, 2009, several hundred members of Guinea’s security forces burst into a stadium in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, and opened fire on tens of thousands of opposition supporters peacefully gathered there. By late afternoon, at least 150 Guineans lay dead or dying, and dozens of women had suffered brutal sexual violence, including individual and gang rape.

In February 2010, a domestic panel of judges was appointed to investigate the September 28, 2009 crimes. The panel has made a number of important strides, including interviewing more than 300 victims, Human Rights Watch said. Charges also have been filed against several high-ranking officials. They include Captain Claude “Coplan” Pivi, who was at the time and remains the minister of presidential security; Colonel Abdoulaye Cherif Diaby, the health minister at the time; and Moussa Tiégboro Camara, who was then and remains the minister in charge of fighting drug trafficking and organized crimes.

But, four years after the crimes, the investigation has yet to be concluded, and lack of political and financial support is a major challenge. Some suspects have been in pretrial detention longer than the two years Guinean law permits.

A request from the judges to interview the former president, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara – who is living in Burkina Faso – has been pending for more than two years. Tiégboro Camara and Pivi have not been placed on leave even though they may be in a position to influence the criminal investigations given their high-level influential positions in government.

The investigation has also been plagued by lack of material support, and concerns about security for the judges and witnesses. In 2011 and 2012, the Justice Ministry took more than a year to begin to address the investigative panel’s lack of supplies as basic as pens and paper, and of other equipment.

In July 2013, questioning of Pivi by the judges was canceled as his supporters held protests in Conakry, and has still not taken place.

“The sensitive nature of the investigation brings increased risk for those involved,” Keppler said. “The Guinean authorities need to demonstrate their commitment to this case by giving the investigation adequate support and seeing to it that judges, witnesses, and victims are protected against threats.” 

A Human Rights Watch investigation in 2009 suggested that the killings, rapes, and other abuses committed by the security forces on and after September 28 rise to the level of crimes against humanity, given their widespread and systematic nature. A commission of inquiry established by the United Nations secretary-general also found that it was reasonable to conclude that crimes against humanity were committed.

In October 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor placed the situation in Guinea – which joined the ICC in 2003 – under preliminary examination. Whether the ICC may open an investigation in Guinea is an open question. Under the ICC’s complementarity principle, the ICC only acts if national authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute.