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Prosecution Seeks Crimes against Humanity Charges in Guinea Massacre Trial

Proceedings Suspended Pending Defense’s Response

Eleven men accused of responsibility for the 2009 massacre and mass rape of pro-democracy protesters by forces linked to a former military junta, stand during their trial in Conakry, Guinea, September 28, 2022. © 2022 Souleymane Camara/Reuters

Earlier this month, in the landmark trial of Guinea’s former president and 10 others, including former ministers, who are accused of responsibility for a massacre and rapes in a stadium, the prosecution team requested the reclassification of charges to crimes against humanity. The trial is currently suspended until March 18, 2024, to allow for the defense’s response.

The trial examines one of the most brutal events in Guinea’s history. On September 28, 2009, Guinean security forces opened fire on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators who had gathered in a stadium in the country’s capital, Conakry. At least 150 people died and many more were injured. Security forces raped more than 100 women.

Security forces later engaged in an organized cover-up, disposing of the bodies in mass graves.

So far, judges have heard from each of the 11 accused, more than 100 victims, and just over a dozen witnesses, including high-level government officials, called by all parties in the trial. Judges have also considered video and audio evidence captured around the 2009 events.

It was in response to the video and audio evidence that the prosecutor’s representative, El Hadj Sidiki Camara, took the floor and requested reclassification of the charges. He has now made a formal submission to the court in writing. Though shared with the parties in the trial, this submission is not publicly available.

According to trial monitoring organized by Human Rights Watch and media reports, when making the reclassification request, the prosecutor invoked Guinean criminal procedure law, arguing that reclassification is permitted, and relied on crimes against humanity provisions incorporated in Guinea’s 2016 criminal code.

The civil parties, that is, victims who have joined the case as formal parties to the proceedings, supported the prosecution’s request in court.

After hearing from the defense, the judges will decide whether the reclassification of the charges is appropriate. If they allow the reclassification, it would be the first time that crimes against humanity are prosecuted in Guinea.

A Human Rights Watch investigation into the event indicated that the abuses surrounding the event rose to the level of crimes against humanity. An international commission of inquiry and the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court reached similar conclusions. However, it will be up to the judges to rule on the reclassification request, addressing the specific allegations concerning the individuals on trial.

Reclassifying the charges could mean that the justice process will have greater impact, particularly in being seen to be responsive to the experience of victims, survivors, and the communities most affected by these crimes.

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