Dear Prime Minister,
Our organizations, Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture, ACAT-France), Act Together for Human Rights (Agir ensemble pour les droits humains, AEDH) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), are deeply concerned about the deterioration of the current political climate in the Republic of Guinea and the choice made by the National Rally Committee for Development (Comité national du rassemblement pour le développement, CNRD), on 13 May 2022, to preemptively block all demonstrations by the opposition and civil society by prohibiting “all protests on public thoroughfare, likely to undermine social peace and the proper implementation of the activities contained in the chronogram until the periods of the electoral campaign”.
These measures restricting the right to protest risk generating more tension in the country and, in the case of public rallies, possible violent action by law enforcement officials, along with the disproportionate use of force and firearms.
The CNRD’s announcement caused deep concern among many human rights organizations and led to public statements – including one by Amnesty International on 18 May 2022 and seven international organizations on 25 May 2022 – calling on the CNRD “to reverse its decision to ban demonstrations.” On 30 May 2022, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the CNRD to reinstate the right to protest.
On 31 May 2022, the CNRD publicly confirmed that “no march will be authorized as long as security guarantees are not met”.
The decision to ban all demonstrations for an indefinite period of time throughout Guinea, without any specific justification, is a violation of the right to protest, a right which is recognized and guaranteed to all persons in the Republic of Guinea in accordance with national law and international texts ratified by the State. The argument that proper safeguards for protests in Guinea are missing cannot be raised, since it is the responsibility of the Guinean authorities to guarantee security while respecting the freedoms and rights of protesters.
Guinean law, which protects the right to protest, does not provide for a blanket ban on all demonstrations for an indefinite period of time. Instead, it requires that protests are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It states that protest organizers must notify local authorities ahead of any gathering, and that local authorities can only ban a planned demonstration if there is “a proven threat to public order”.
Guinea is a party to international instruments such as Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), which protect the right to peaceful assembly.
Lastly, the decision to ban demonstrations contradicts the speech made by the President of the Transition on 5 September 2002, in which he called for the establishment of democracy and respect for fundamental freedoms in the country, as well as the Charter of the Transition, signed on 27 September 2021 by the President of the Transition, Article 34 of which stipulates that “the freedoms of association, assembly, the press and publication are guaranteed”, adding in Article 8, paragraph 2 that “no situation of exception or emergency shall justify violations of human rights”. The decision to ban protests is not in line with the Charter of the Transition.
Our organizations believe that the measures announced to restrict public gatherings and demonstrations are likely to cause a rise in tensions in the country and increase the risk of a disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officers, but also possible violence by those who are denied the right to demonstrate, at a time when Guinea has been experiencing a cycle of protests and repression that has resulted in the death of more than 50 people, most of them victims of law enforcement forces, between October 2019 and July 2020.
To date, the perpetrators and those responsible for these human rights violations have not been punished or brought to justice. The same is true for those responsible for earlier crackdowns, notably in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
Our organizations believe that recent measures taken by the CNRD constitute a step backwards for the rule of law and are only intended to suppress all public protest in the coming months, in a context where several political and civil society actors are dissatisfied with the current transition and the decision to extend it to 36 months.
In this context of rising popular discontent and impunity for perpetrators and those responsible for human rights violations, our organizations, alarmed by the risks that this situation generates, urge the Guinean authorities in place to:
Respect, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;
Reverse their blanket ban on all public demonstrations and restore, without delay, the right to peaceful assembly;
Ensure that all Guineans can express themselves and demonstrate peacefully in all circumstances, including before and during election periods;
Ensure that peaceful gatherings and demonstrations are regulated in accordance with international human rights norms and standards in line with the Guidelines for the Policing of
Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.