The government of Guinea should ensure a speedy and independent investigation after three people were allegedly shot dead this week in clashes with security forces. The alleged killings occurred during a funeral procession on November 4 to mourn those killed during an earlier round of anti-government protests. A coalition of civil society groups and opposition parties said that three people were killed while a police spokesman acknowledged at least two dead. The coalition is planning another major protest on November 7.
Over the past month, the Guinean government has intensified a crackdown on opposition to a new constitution that could allow President Alpha Condé to run for a third term in the 2020 presidential elections. Authorities have arrested and imprisoned six civil society leaders spearheading anti-constitution protests.
After violently dispersing several anti-constitution protests earlier in the year, the government finally authorized an opposition protest on October 24. The protest – the first public demonstration authorized by the government since July 2018 – was largely peaceful. Pro-government supporters organized their own demonstration on October 31.
The events of November 4 highlight the risk of more clashes between the security forces and protesters. Journalists and witnesses described participants in the funeral procession throwing stones and other projectiles, and security forces firing tear gas and, at times, live bullets. A journalist said he heard a gendarme saying, “we are going to kill you all,” as security forces chased protesters into neighborhoods.
The funeral procession itself commemorated 11 protesters allegedly shot dead by security forces, during three days of protest against a new constitution that began on October 14. A gendarme was also killed by protesters on October 14.
Human Rights Watch has documented at length the police and gendarmes’ use of firearms and excessive use of lethal force when policing protests, as well as the beating of protesters, corruption, and other forms of criminality. Members of the security forces are virtually never investigated or prosecuted for their alleged role in protest deaths.
Human Rights Watch urges the government to release the six civil society leaders, ensure the security forces’ response to protests abides by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, and establish a special judicial unit to investigate deaths during protests.