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HRW Report Pressures Conde to Do the Right Thing About Human Rights Abuses in Guinea. Yet, How Can One of the Perpetrators Lead the Effort to Bring Guinea Out of Darkness?

May 24, 2011


Kadiatou Barry, 22, holds a photograph of her missing husband Alpha Oumar Diallo in Conakry October 4, 2009. Barry says her husband has been missing since the September 28 crackdown on opposition protesters.

First, kudos go to Human Rights Watch (HRW) for being one of the few organizations to keep focus on human rights in Guinea and special apprectiation goes to Corinne Dufka for leading this effort to end impunity and help bring justice to the victims. While HRW must continue to press Conde to address human rights abuses, most know that he will not. As the primary cheerleader of the lie that Peuls poisoned Malinkes, in the lead up to the election, he is responsible for the ethnic violence and disenfranchisement that resulted. Further, Conde commanded post-election violence by ordering his state security forces to attack supporters of his former opponent, Cellou Dalein Diallo, at the airport in Conakry.

As we have seen with the interview of International Criminal Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, posted to this website yesterday, the ICC has “deemed” that Guinea is taking steps to address the human rights abuse issue. But, those in Guinea know that Conde’s truth commission is going nowhere and the three judges who are supposed to be interviewing victims and witnesses are more likely interviewing each other.

The treasure trove of victim and witness accounts that tells the story of pervasive impunity in Guinea can be found within comprehensive reports compiled by Human Rights Watch. This is the evidence that prosecutors, Moreno-Ocampo and Bensouda, should be reading. But, the plug was pulled on the ICC investigation of Guinea and it’s tough to know who did it. But, it was done to showcase a harmonious, stable, and peaceful country for mining investors. In actuality, Guinea is sitting on a powder keg.

NOTE: The following HRW press release as well as HRW’s 68 page report are available in English and French. Links are as follows:

Click here for link to Human Rights Watch press release on Guinea: A Nation at Crossroads
Click here for the link to Human Rights Watch’s 68 page report -“We Have Lived in Darkness” -Guinea: A Human Rights Agenda for Guinea’s New Government


Guinea: A Nation at the Crossroads

Guinea’s future hangs in the balance. President Condé’s actions – or inactions – will either create a positive new human rights trajectory or trap Guinea in the excesses and abuses of the past. (Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch)

Political Will Needed to Reverse Legacy of Abuse, Impunity
May 24, 2011

(Conakry) – President Alpha Condé, who took power in December 2010, should address the profound human rights and governance problems that have underscored decades of abuse in Guinea, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report identifies the main factors that have contributed to years of impunity and recommends steps Guinea should take to promote good governance and to end the history of abuse.

The 68-page report, “We Have Lived in Darkness: A Human Rights Agenda for Guinea’s New Government,” calls on the government to bring to justice those responsible for massacres in 2007 and 2009. It says that the government should strengthen the judiciary and provide it with adequate resources, rein in and reform the security sector, and ensure that Guinea’s population can benefit from the country’s abundant natural resources. Human Rights Watch also recommended establishing a truth commission to uncover the causes of Guinea’s violent past and an anti-corruption commission to end the misuse of its wealth.

“Guinea’s future hangs in the balance,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “President Condé’s actions – or inactions – will either create a positive new human rights trajectory or trap Guinea in the excesses and abuses of the past.”

The report is based on over 200 interviews with Guinean lawyers, judges, and Justice Ministry personnel; victims of and witnesses to human rights crimes; detained and convicted prisoners; members of the army, gendarmerie, and police force; Finance Ministry personnel and businesspeople; members of civil society and others. One man interviewed for the report summed up the urgency for improving human rights as follows:

For 52 long years, the people of Guinea have really suffered from the effects of impunity and corruption. We have lived in darkness – no electricity, no water, no opportunities for our children. Those in power have ruined the lives of generation after generation. The families who lost their sons and daughters during the Sékou Touré time, then in 2007, and again in 2009, have yet to finish crying. Those who have done this to us, to our country, must know that they can’t continue on as before.

A History of State-Sponsored Abuses
Since independence from France in 1958, Guinea’s rulers – Ahmed Sékou Touré (1958-1984), Lansana Conté (1984-2008), and Captain Moussa Dadis Camara (2008-2009) – have relied on ruling party militias and security forces to intimidate and violently repress independent voices. Thousands of Guineans who dared to oppose the government have been tortured, starved, beaten to death by state security forces, or executed in police custody and military barracks. All three leaders failed to investigate and bring to justice members of the security forces implicated in serious crimes.

“Guinea’s history of impunity for very serious crimes has emboldened successive generations of human rights abusers,” Dufka said. “Dismantling this architecture and culture of impunity and building a society based on the rule of law is the single biggest and most important challenge facing President Condé’s new administration.”

Strengthen the Judiciary
President Condé’s new administration should take immediate steps to reform Guinea’s chronically underfunded judiciary and to give it the support it needs, Human Rights Watch said. The marginalization, neglect, and manipulation of the judiciary have led to striking deficiencies in the sector.

Judges, lawyers, legal clerks, and correction workers interviewed for this report said the funding they have to conduct judicial investigations, or even to staff, supply, and run their offices is grossly inadequate. Some said they did not have enough funding to feed and provide basic care for prisoners, or to transport them to court. An estimated 80 to 90 percent of inmates in detention in Guinea’s largest prison have not been brought before a judge or convicted. Many have been held for more than five years without trial.

Create a Truth-Telling Mechanism
Human Rights Watch urges the government to establish a truth-telling mechanism to illuminate underexposed atrocities, notably those committed during the reign of Sékou Touré, to explore the dynamics that gave rise to and sustained successive repressive regimes, and to make recommendations to prevent their recurrence.

Reform the Security System
Condé has inherited a security sector steeped in a culture of unprofessionalism and indiscipline. Soldiers and policemen implicated in extortion, banditry, theft, kidnapping, racketeering, and excessive use of lethal force have enjoyed near-complete impunity. The rapid growth of the army in combination with the lack of political will to ensure discipline and accountability have contributed to the years of abuses by the security forces

“Behaving more as predators than protectors, men in uniform have been allowed to get away with abuses ranging from isolated criminal acts to crimes against humanity,” said Dufka.

Human Rights Watch calls on the government to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for abuses; to investigate, prosecute, and punish abusers; and to implement a credible road map to reform formulated by the UN and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Root Out Corruption
Human Rights Watch also calls on the new government to combat endemic corruption, which has for decades impeded Guineans’ rights to basic health care, education, and other socio-economic rights. Despite hosting one of the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, and other valuable minerals, Guinea remains one of the world’s poorest countries – ranked 156th out of 169 on the UN Human Development Index. Guineans also suffer some of the world’s worst quality-of-life indicators, including adult literacy and infant mortality.

To remedy these deficiencies, Human Rights Watch urges the government, with strong donor agency support, to provide stringent, transparent oversight over the state budgetary process and natural resource contracts, and establish an independent anti-corruption commission empowered to investigate, subpoena, and indict those who siphon off public resources.

Sustaining Legitimacy
Lastly, in order to ensure effective oversight of the executive and provide for political representation of the Guinean people, Human Rights Watch pressed Condé to set out a concrete timetable for legislative elections and ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair, and transparent manner. He must also take concrete steps to address the lack of political neutrality and unprofessional conduct demonstrated by the security forces during the elections which brought him to power.

“Guinea’s profound human rights problems – endemic corruption, a culture of impunity, weak rule of law and crushing poverty – have blighted the lives and livelihoods of countless Guineans,” Dufka said. “In order to break this cycle of abuse and sustain the momentum generated by the elections, the government must take immediate, practical steps to confront these challenges.”
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Guinea’s Conde must address legacy of abuse: HRW

(AFP) – 1 hour ago

DAKAR — Human Rights Watch urged Guinean President Alpha Conde to address rights abuses and governance problems which set in during 52 years of dictatorships and military rule, in a report published Tuesday.

“Guinea?s future hangs in the balance,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“President Conde?s actions — or inactions — will either create a positive new human rights trajectory or trap Guinea in the excesses and abuses of the past.”

The HRW report, entitled “We Have Lived in Darkness: A Human Rights Agenda for Guinea?s New Government” said all the country’s leaders had “relied on ruling party militias and security forces to intimidate and violently repress independent voices.”

“Thousands of Guineans who dared to oppose the government have been tortured, starved, beaten to death by state security forces, or executed in police custody and military barracks.”

Conde became the first democratically elected president of the west African country in 2010 elections since independence from France in 1958.

The country’s first president Ahmed Sekou Toure ruled with an iron fist until his death in 1984 when Lansana Conte seized power in a coup, ruling until his death in 2008.

After another coup, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized control, and on 28 September 2009, his soldiers crushed an opposition rally in a stadium massacre, killing over 150 and raping women publically.

When he was shot in the head by a close aide, a transition government was set up to lead the first democratic polls.

The 78-page report calls on government to bring those responsible for the massacres in 2007 and 2009 to justice, strengthen the judiciary, reform the security sector and ensure the population benefits from the country’s abundant natural resources.

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