Guinea: Excessive Force Used Against Demonstrators
Saturday, 23 October 2010, 12:32 pm
Press Release: United Nations
Guinea: Excessive Force Used Against Demonstrators, UN Rights Office Says
New York, Oct 22 2010 6:10PM The United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today expressed its deep concern over excessive use of force by Guinea’s security forces against demonstrators ahead of this weekend’s long-delayed presidential run-off poll.
One man was killed and more than 60 others injured when Government forces used live fire in their effort to quell demonstrations earlier this week in the capital, Conakry.
The Office said that while it appreciated that authorities had a difficult task in dealing with the demonstrations, which in some cases degenerated into violence, including stone-throwing.
But it said that it believes Government forces committed serious rights violations by indiscriminately shooting at unarmed civilians, sometimes at point-blank range; breaking into and ransacking private homes; and severely beating young men who put up no resistance.
Some of the security forces’ operations appeared to target entire areas indiscriminately and little effort was made to distinguish between violent protestors and those who had taken no part in the demonstrations, OHCHR said.
They also illegally and arbitrarily detained an unknown number of people, preventing them from accessing lawyers. Further, the Office said, human rights officers were not allowed into a gendarmerie detention cell in the commune of Hamdallaye, where several protestors are believed to be held.
OHCHR in Guinea said it is particularly concerned that members of the Force Spéciale de Securisation du Processus Electoral, a special unit that was formed and trained to secure the electoral process, took part in these police operations.
Among the victims of alleged violations documented so far by OHCHR staff in Conakry include a 22-year-old man who was reportedly hit in the head by a tear gas bomb thrown by a police officer in Hamdallaye and is still in a coma.
Others include a 7-year-old boy who took a stray bullet in the head, also still comatose, and a family in the Afnia Minière neighbourhood whose house was broken into by several gendarmes, who reportedly beat an elderly man with their fists, truncheons and rifle butts. The same group of gendarmes also reportedly shot three men between the ages of 18 and 25 at point-blank range, wounding two in the arm and one in the leg.
The Office recorded several other extremely violent incidents seemingly aimed at young men, expressing concern that some members of the security forces appear to be making threats, and even carrying out assaults, based on people’s ethnicity or political affiliation.
It called on political leaders in Guinea to restrain their supporters in the run-up to the elections and urged the transitional Government to ensure that security forces scrupulously adhere to international standards governing the use of force and firearms.
Guinea’s independent electoral authority, known as CENI, had cited technical difficulties when it postponed the ballot between Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Condé, the two candidates with the highest number of votes in the first round of voting in June.
Said Djinnit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for West Africa, has warned that further delays could seriously undermine the transition process in Guinea, which has been plagued by misrule, dictatorships and coups since it gained independence in 1958.
The election is the final stage of the interim Government’s efforts to set up a democracy after the forces of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara – who seized power in a coup in 2008 after the death of long-time president Lansana Conté – shot, raped and attacked hundreds of civilian demonstrators attending a rally in Conakry in September 2009, killing at least 150.