Remember that Int’l. Criminal Court Investigation of the State-Sponsored Massacre on Sept. 28, 2009? So Far, No Action.
Check in with the international community and you will find that the ICC investigation has gone nowhere because the international community didn’t want it to for fear of disrupting operations of mining companies and other international business projects. A prolonged investigation and trial of Guinean soldiers and those who ordered them to commit the massacre would have sent the country into upheaval. It probably would have revealed the complicity of Sekouba Konate whom the international community would anoint later as Guinea’s interim leader. Konate was the key element in stealing the election for Alpha Conde by committing massive fraud and ordering soldiers to repeatedly conduct ethnic-based attacks on supporters of Conde’s election opponent, Cellou Dalein Diallo, of the Peul ethnic group. Inclusion in an ICC investigation would hamper Konate’s ability to fix the election. The point is some of the bad guys were needed to pull off Conde’s fraudulent win and the international community feared that if Conde did not “win” the election, Guinea’s overwhelmingly Malinke army would tear the country apart.
So why did the international community encourage the International Criminal Court to investigate in the first place if there was no intention to see it through all the way? Starting an investigation of September 28 was the only way the international community could set aside the disgraceful atrocity and steer Guinea towards its new theme –a “democratic” election. And, of course, an election deemed “fair and transparent,” which it wasn’t, was the only way for Conde to become labelled as Guinea’s first, democratically-elected president thus allowing the opening of the flow of money from international financial institutions and giving the mining companies an opportunity to finally exhale in collective relief.
There is nothing in this story about human rights and state-sponsored repression which should be at the forefront of the ICC’s motivations.
A few months from now, Guineans will hold a sombre commemoration: on the 28th of September 2009, soldiers, militias and mercenaries went on the rampage in the capital’s main stadium.
By Bram Posthumus, Conakry
They killed 157 people and raped dozens of women. The victims and survivors of that mass crime are beginning to ask when justice will be their due.
Even for Guineans who are used to an army that is out-of-control, it was a scene they will never forget. They had seen the army opening fire on unarmed civilians before but the scene of women being raped in broad daylight in Conakry’s stadium was beyond shocking.
September 28, 1958 and 2009
September 28th is a significant date. In 1958, when Guinea rejected French colonial rule, it was the day they chose to live independently and with pride, recalling the famous phrase used by their first president Ahmed Sékou Touré, when he addressed visiting French president Charles de Gaulle, prior to the referendum: “we prefer poverty with freedom to a life of opulence in slavery.”
Ahmed Sékou Touré himself brought tyranny to the nation, keeping the population in a state of constant fear by referring to a “permanent conspiracy” to which Guinea was subjected. When he died in 1984, around 50,000 people had lost their lives in one of his concentration camps and up to three million had left the country.
His successor, Lansana Conté, allowed the army to disintegrate and lose its way. In January 2007, amid a nationwide strike, soldiers opened fire on a civilian demonstration, killing more than 150. One of the commanders of that massacre was the president’s son, Ousmane Conté, also a notorious cocaine dealer. He has served time in jail for his drugs trade – never for his more serious crimes. He is still in the army.
Impunity of main culprits
Running through all this is the thread of impunity. And the fear is that those who perpetrated the stadium massacre on September 28th, 2009, will remain unpunished as well. Two of the main culprits are outside the country.
First, captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who became Guinea’s third president when he took over after Lansana Conté died. At the time of the mass crime in the stadium, he was the head of state and politically responsible. He told French Africa magazine Matalana in January he was hoping that the real culprits would be named – if not, God would name them.
The other main suspect is Lieutenant Aboubacar ‘Toumba’ Diakité. It was he who shot Captain Camara in the head during an argument about who should take responsibility. He told French radio earlier this year that he was ready to face justice.
Constant ICC-visits, but no action
What sparked that argument was the announcement by the ICC that it was investigating the massacre. Since then, visits of ICC delegations have been multiplying, much to the chagrin of Boussouriou Diallo, a witness at the September 28 events and spokesman for Avipa09, the Association of the Victims, their Parents and Friends of September 28, set up in 2009.
“We want to see an end to these constant visits,’ he says, ‘and some concrete action taken.’ He is unhappy about the fact that when an ICC delegation visits, they talk separately with the victims, the government and the three Guinean judges appointed to treat the case. ‘We have made it clear from the start: we have no confidence in the judicial system here. The trial should take place in The Hague. Now the ICC keeps saying that it wants to give the Guinean judicial system a chance but our position is clear. No-one will dare testify if a trial is to be held in Guinea. The military is everywhere, there will be reprisals.”
No confidence in Guinean justice system
Past impunity does not inspire confidence in the Guinean justice system, as it requires a wholesale reform exercise. A brief report on a March conference about judicial reform gave a little insight into how rotten that system is. Its independence is non-existent. Magistrates work out of deserted warehouses and at times sessions are even held in open air, under a tree. The system is corrupt at all levels. If you have no money and connections, do not bother taking a case to court’” advises Diallo, adding, “the entire judicial system gets 0.2% of the national budget. So it cannot function. And there is another issue. The term “crime against humanity” does not exist in the Guinean Penal Code.’ In other words: there is no legal term for the type of crime for which Diallo and his fellow victims want to put individuals on trial. No wonder they want the trial outside Guinea.
List of demands
No more visits and a concrete date for a start of proceedings in The Hague. That is the very short list of demands of the victims of September 28. Diallo and his associates do not understand why it takes so long for the ICC to proceed. “We are beginning to believe there is no political will. The pressure must be kept up, especially through the European Union, so that we don’t have to wait too long for justice.”’
A disturbing parallel appears to emerge: a former head of state in exile, crimes committed on his watch, a long wait for justice… While in this case it is not a country but the ICC itself that seems to drag its feet, the case of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré begins to feel uneasily familiar. When confronting Diallo with the parallel he concurred: ‘Precisely. This is our fear. But we are not giving up.’