Guinea’s Thug-Soldiers Jailing Children: HRW Demands Fair Trials for Detainees
Of the several photos and video circulating which show the Guinean military detaining people after the November 15 vote announcement, a startling number of the detainees appear to be children under the age of 16. Hopefully, the International Criminal Court will take a look at the military’s incarceration of minors and add this violation to the growing list of crimes committed by the transitional government and its state security forces.
Guinean police detain a young supporter of UFDG presidential candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo suspected of throwing stones and looting in Conakry, 15 Nov., 2010.
Corinne Dufka, HRW’s Director for West Africa, says there are concerns that some of those detained in post-presidential election violence in Guinea were arrested for ethnic or political reasons.
“We understand that the vast majority of those detained were from the Peuhl ethnicity,” Dufka said, “which concerns us because the violence as far as we are able to determine was between mobs of youth representing both parties and on both sides of the political ethic divide so we are concerned that there has been a disproportionate response on the part of the security forces against members of one community, that is the Peuhl.”
Guineans went to the polls earlier this month to vote in the second round of presidential elections. The candidates, former prime minister Cellou Diallo and long-time opposition leader Alpha Conde, are members of the country’s two largest ethnic groups, Peuhl and Malinke. And violent clashes between their supporters have delayed this vote several times over the past few months.
Dufka said that in many cases security forces were indeed reacting to these violent clashes and at times trying to protect citizens from this violence.
“Following the declaration of a the election results there were indeed violent protests, and there were indeed attacks against civilians based on their political affiliation or ethnicity so the security forces had a reason to be engaged to be able to protect civilians and to control this unrest,” Dufka said.
According to Dufka, the 125 men arrested are being held in Guinea’s central prison, the population of which has recently swelled to more than 1,200 men in a facility that was built to hold 350.
Dufka added many men claimed that security forces demanded money in exchange for releasing them from detention.
“In many cases in Guinea, detention has become a money-making venture,” Dufka said. “We documented numerous cases of young men being picked up and then being asked for money to secure their release and if they could not pay that money, then they were told that they would be detained in the prison, charged with a crime and detained in the prison, so that also suggests that there is a financial criminal motive on the part of the security forces.”
The 125 men in detention have all been charged with a crime and are awaiting trial, but there are serious backlogs in Guinea’s judicial system due to resource shortages, and the men may have very long waits ahead of them.