Next year, Guinea’s human rights record will come under scrutiny in a review carried out by the Human Rights Council. Human Rights Watch yesterday gave the Council a report that looks at the state of human rights in the country and where progress is still needed.
Guinea’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) comes at a pivotal moment. Since President Alpha Condé came to power in 2010 – ending five decades of authoritarian rule – Guinea has made significant progress in strengthening the rule of law, particularly by improving oversight of security forces and limiting the role of the army in law enforcement.
Now though, with presidential elections set to take place in late 2020, a rights crisis may return. The government has, since July 2018, banned virtually all demonstrations, but opposition supporters are likely to take to the streets if Condé tries to change the constitution so he can stand for a third term.
Political protests in Guinea are often violent. Scores of demonstrators, as well as several members of the security forces, have been killed in the past decade, and Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of alleged fatal shootings by the police and gendarmerie.
Condé’s government has done too little to deter state-sponsored violence by investigating and prosecuting alleged unlawful killings. He came to power in 2010, but the first conviction of a member of the security forces for shooting a protester dead didn’t happen until February 2019.
Human Rights Watch’s report ahead of the UPR repeats the recommendation first made in April, that the government revive a special judicial unit to more effectively investigate protest deaths.
Guinea’s UPR is a critical occasion for United Nations member states to push the government to make progress on human rights issues, particularly ahead of the 2020 elections. They should, as a priority, urge the government to ensure security forces use force only when absolutely necessary, to address long-standing impunity for state-sponsored violence, and to respect freedom of assembly.