(Conakry) – Guinea’s political leaders should put ending impunity and completing reform of the country’s judicial system at the center of their priorities, six international and national human rights groups said today, ahead of the sixth anniversary of the massacre of protesters in a Conakry stadium on September 28, 2009. Following the October 11, 2015 presidential elections, it is essential for the government to provide the judicial system with all the resources needed to try the crimes committed during the stadium massacre under the best possible conditions in 2016.
The six organizations are the International Federation on Human Rights (FIDH), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Guinean Organization for the Defense of Human and Citizens’ Rights (OGDH), the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of September 28 (AVIPA), Equal Rights for All (MDT), and the Coalition of Human Rights Defense Organizations (CODDH).
“In less than a year, the investigating judges have undertaken major actions that have completely transformed the stadium massacre case,” said Asmaou Diallo, president of the AVIPA. “We are moving toward a trial, which should be credible and satisfactory for all of the victims.”
He noted that six more people have been charged in the past year, including the former leader of the National Council of Democracy and Development junta Moussa Dadis Camara, and his vice president, Mamadouba Toto Camara. Both have now been formally questioned and will appear in court.
Much remains to be done, including the questioning of several key witnesses and the arrest of Moussa Dadis Camara's former aide, Toumba Diakité, who has not been found. But most of the requirements in order for a trial to begin at the earliest opportunity now appear to have been met.
“The victims, their lawyers from the FIDH and the OGDH, and our organizations cherish the hope of soon seeing these six years of investigations result in a trial that will finally enable justice to be done and reparations to be made,” said Souhayr Belhassen, honorary president of the FIDH. “The presidential candidates must make a public commitment to the trial for September 28 taking place in 2016 and that impunity will not win.”
The beginning of a fundamental reform of the justice system in 2014 has led to significant progress in the case and laid the foundations for comprehensive modernization of the system, the groups said. These changes are essential to reaffirm the authority of a judicial system long undermined in Guinea.
“The elections should absolutely not impede the work of the judicial system on the September 28 case or hold up the process of reform,” said Abdoul Gadiry Diallo, the OGDH spokesman. “On the contrary, a political consensus to make the fight against impunity an objective shared by all must emerge so that Guinea can proceed with building a law-abiding state.”
On her visit to Guinea in July 2015, Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Guinea in October 2009, reminded the Guinean government of its obligation to see this process through. The progress made in the September 28 case sets Guinea on the path to comply with its commitments to the ICC, and the Guinean government should ensure the process can be completed, the groups said.
The ICC is designed to be a court of last resort. Under what is known as the principle of complementarity, the ICC only steps in when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute cases under its authority.
“Guinea has the chance to show the world that those responsible for grave crimes can be successfully held to account before their national courts,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The conclusion of the case would be a shining example of the ICC’s principle of complementarity. The government of Guinea should seize this opportunity by giving strong political support to the case to ensure justice for the tragic events of September 2009.”