October 4, 2016
Mr. Alpha Condé
President of the Republic of Guinea
RE: Request for accountability for human rights violations and abuses committed during the 2015 Guinean presidential elections
Dear Mr. President,
As the anniversary of Guinea’s October 11, 2015 presidential elections approaches, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International write to urge you and your government to urgently take concrete and meaningful steps to ensure accountability for the serious human rights violations and abuses committed in the run up to and aftermath of these elections.
As independent and impartial international non-governmental organizations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International monitor and report on human rights in over 160 countries. We have documented violations and abuses and advocated for redress for victims in Guinea for several decades.
During several research missions to Guinea in 2015, our organizations documented numerous serious human rights violations and abuses allegedly perpetrated by members of the security forces and mobs affiliated with both the ruling party and opposition groups. The violations and abuses were committed between April and October 2015.
Those involving the security forces included arbitrary and excessive use of lethal force, resulting in the deaths in 2015 of some 10 people during demonstrations; torture and other ill-treatment of detainees; one case of rape; numerous acts of extortion, theft; and the looting of several markets.
We also documented the following incidents: the deaths of two men and rape of one woman by mobs associated with members of the opposition; the sexual abuse of a child by several men believed to be ruling party supporters; and the extensive looting and destruction of property in markets by mobs associated with the ruling party, often in complicity with the security forces.
These violations and crimes have elicited next to no judicial response, neither when reported by our human rights organizations, local human rights groups or the press, nor when victims have filed judicial complaints. Indeed, despite threats and obstacles, including financial hardship, at least nine victims or their family members have filed complaints to the judiciary for the loss or injury of their loves ones. A collective of some 400 victims filed a judicial complaint for the loss of property during the looting and pillage of their businesses between April and October 2015.
Disturbingly, however, the victims and some members of the criminal justice system interviewed told us that none of these cases have been the subject of in-depth investigations, none of the suspected perpetrators have been brought to justice, and none of the victims have received effective remedies and reparations. The wives and family members of several men killed during demonstrations spoke to our researchers about facing not only the grief from their loss, but also a period of intense financial hardship as they struggled to care for their families without any state support.
Human rights abuses committed during the run-up to the 2013 parliamentary elections were similarly unaddressed, including some 60 deaths, of which the majority were allegedly caused by members of the security services. This fuels what we believe is a dangerous cycle of violations and abuses and impunity.
Under international and regional human rights law, victims of human rights violations and their families have a right to an effective remedy and full reparations. As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, “The failure of the State to properly investigate cases of death following the use of force is a violation of the right to life itself.”
We have sent to Guinea’s Prosecutor General an updated annex with details of several cases from the 2015 election period that we urged him to investigate, including several complaints filed by family members and their lawyers. We include below a brief description of several of these cases, all of which were investigated by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. These cases are by no means an exhaustive list of serious violations and abuses committed in 2015.
Excessive use of force and firearms by members of the security forces against protesters:
- On April 13, 2015, a gendarme armed with a pistol allegedly shot and killed 30-year-old Thierno Souleymane Bah in the Hamdallaye neighborhood of Conakry. Witnesses said there was neither an imminent threat to the gendarme nor a threat to others. The prosecutor sent the file to the Bureau des Investigations Judiciaires with the autopsy report in April 2016. Since then, there is no information available about the progress of the investigation.
- On May 7, 2015, Thierno Sadou Diallo, a 34 year-old welder, was allegedly killed by gendarmes patrolling near his home in Hamdallaye. On May 8, his family filed a complaint to the Tribunal de Dixinn. The prosecution referred the case to the Bureau des Investigations Judiciaires, but there is no information available about the progress of the investigation. His 25 year-old wife has had to care for her three young children on her own.
- On October 10, 2015, Boubacar Bah, a 24 year-old driver, was shot dead in Sonfonia Gare II on his way to his brother’s house by security forces removing blockades erected by demonstrators. Four other men were injured in the same incident. His family filed a complaint to the Tribunal de Dixinn on 16 October 2015. The case was referred to the Bureau des Investigations Judiciaires, but there is no information available about the progress of the investigation.
Killings by mobs:
- On October 8, 2015, Koumandjan Keita, 35, a refrigerator repair man, was pulled off his motorcycle and beaten to death by a mob of opposition supporters who were clashing with ruling party supporters near the Kankan-Coura Market in Conakry.
- On October 9, 2015, businessman Djibril Hassan Sylla, 61, was pulled from his car after mobs supporting the political opposition stopped him at the T-8 junction in the Cimenterie neighborhood of Conakry. He was brutally beaten and clubbed to death with rocks, wood spiked with nails and machetes.
- On April 14, 2015, a 26-year-old woman was detained by gendarmes, forced onto their vehicle, taken into a building, blindfolded, and raped by at least two men. She filed a judicial complaint shortly thereafter but has never been contacted by the judiciary or the police to provide additional evidence.
- On October 9, 2015, a young woman was raped after being stopped at a checkpoint manned by members of the political opposition armed with machetes in the Ansoumanya Plateau neighborhood of Conakry.
Looting and Pillage:
- In April and May 2015, during and after street protests, policemen and to a lesser extent gendarmes operating in Bambeto, Hamdallaye, Koloma, Matam, and Wanindara stole cell phones, cash, household items and merchandise; smashed windshields of cars in auto-repair shops; and set fire to or destroyed several market stalls and small businesses.
- On May 7, 2015, a mob of hundreds of opposition supporters destroyed, looted and burned the home, bar and video center owned by a man living in the Cimenterie-Sonfonia neighborhood.
- On October 8 and 9, 2015, mobs largely supporting the ruling party, and in numerous cases accompanied by members of the security forces, looted and in a few cases burned or destroyed scores of shops in Madina, Matoto, Anta, Kissosso, Dixinn and Centre Commerical Koumi. The losses impacting hundreds of primarily Peuhl businessmen is estimated to be in the billions of Guinean Francs. Some 400 victims filed a judicial complaint in December 2015 with the court of first instance of Mafanco.
- On 8 October, 2015, a mob of men many wearing tee-shirts from the opposition attacked and burned several shops, cars and motorcycles within the Marche de Casse, a market of spare auto parts.
We fully recognize the meaningful steps your administration has taken thus far to ensure better discipline within the security forces and break from Guinea’s history of violence and abuse, including giving instructions to ensure the army is not deployed to police demonstrations in Conakry. We also recognize the striking deficiencies within the judiciary that your administration has inherited and the numerous pressing challenges your government continues to face.
However, these challenges must not be used to justify inaction. We firmly believe that strengthening the criminal justice system and rule of law and ensuring justice for violations and abuses, including those committed in 2015, should be top of your government’s priorities as you enter into the second year of your mandate.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International therefore urge you and your government to ensure that these violations and crimes are promptly, thoroughly, transparently and impartially investigated, that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice in fair trials, and that victims have access to an effective remedy and receive full reparations.
Ensuring accountability for these human rights violations and abuses by all sides is vital not only for victims and their families, but also to reassure the population of Guinea that the cycle of violence, fear, and impunity can and will come to an end. All the victims and their families deserve nothing less.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International stand ready to support the efforts of your government to strengthen the criminal justice system, rule of law and ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses.
Associate Director, Africa Division
Human Rights Watch
Director, West and Central Africa Regional Office
Mamady Youla, Prime Minister
Cheick Sako, Minister of Justice
Kalifa Gassama Diaby, Minister of National Unity and Citizenship
Abdoul Kabele Camara, Minister of Security and Civilian Protection
Mamady Kaba, President of the National Independent Institution for Human Rights