Global Centre for R2P--The International Response to 28 September 2009 Massacre in Guinea and the Responsibility to Protect
On 17 December, Human Rights Watch published evidence that the killings, rapes and other abuses committed by Guinea’s security forces on September 28 were widespread and systematic, amounting to crimes against humanity. On 21 December, a UN Commission of Inquiry also found that crimes against humanity had been committed and called upon the Prosecutor of the ICC to investigate the abuses committed by members of the government, specifically by the leader of the ruling junta, Captain Dadis Camara, chief of the Presidential Guard, Lt. Aboubacar Chérif Diakité, and Moussa Thegboro Camara, an officer in charge of special services.
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect in its latest Policy Brief writes how evidence of the junta’s role in the attack on protestors demonstrates its failure to uphold its responsibility to protect. International and regional actors, recognizing their responsibility to protect, responded quickly to the crisis, increasing the pressure on the junta with a variety of tools such as condemnation, mediation, arms embargoes, sanctions and threats of more coercive measures. The Brief calls on all actors to sustain attention to a situation which remains unstable and volatile, where there exists a continued risk of mass atrocities.
1. The International Response to 28 September 2009 Massacre in Guinea and the Responsibility to Protect
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
13 January 2010
On 28 September 2009, government forces opened fire on opposition supporters peacefully protesting in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea. (…) The crimes against humanity perpetrated on 28 September were atrocities that states committed to no longer tolerate by adopting the norm of the responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocities at the 2005 World Summit. (…)
The primary responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing lies with the state. (…) This includes the responsibility to prevent the massacre before it was perpetrated, halt it once it began, and avert future atrocities. This responsibility includes ensuring that its armed forces exercise restraint, respect international human rights and international humanitarian law, and that individuals who commit crimes against humanity and other responsibility to protect crimes are held accountable. Camara and his cabinet, the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), failed to uphold this responsibility. (…)
If the situation deteriorates further there is a risk that crimes against humanity will occur on an even greater scale. The recent attempt on Camara’s life by his personal aide Aboubacar Diakité—who was implicated in orchestrating and carrying out the massacre—suggests a lack of unity within the junta and the military more broadly. (…)
As the International Crisis Group has noted, this risk is exacerbated by reports, which indicate that individual junta members are amassing their own private militias around ethnic lines, stoking fears that ethnicity might be mobilized to incite violence. (…) The junta’s failure to protect Guinea’s population, and the country’s rapid militarization calls into question the junta’s ability and commitment to averting future atrocities.(…)
Regional and international actors recognized their responsibility to protect in the wake of 28 September and acted. The response has been swift, coordinated and, when compared to past responses to similar situations, firm. (…)
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led the way, immediately condemning the acts of repression, calling for an International Committee of Inquiry into the events of 28 September, enacting an arms embargo against Conakry, and appointing a regionally recognized arbitrator to mediate disputes between the junta and its opposition. (…)
The African Union (AU), while slower to act, fulfilled its pledge to levy sanctions against the junta as well. Nearly a month after the violence of 28 September, the AU’s Peace and Security Council implemented targeted sanctions against individual members of the regime, freezing assets, denying travel visas, and restricting freedom of movement within the union. (…)
International organizations were also quick to speak out against the violence. The International Contact Group—established in January 2009 and boasting a broad membership that includes representatives of ECOWAS, the AU, the EU, the Mano River Union, the OIC and permanent members of the UN Security Council—has been especially strident in supporting intervention for the protection of civilians. It endorsed the establishment of an UN-sponsored international commission of inquiry into the events of 28 September, and exhorted ECOWAS to deploy an international observation and security mission to Guinea to “help provide security to the population” against further “gross human rights violations.” (…)
Secretary-General exercised his Charter powers to create an International Commission of Inquiry, under the direction of Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios. The junta agreed to participate in the inquiry while also carrying out their own investigation. On 20 December, the Secretary-General received the report which recommended that the situation be referred to the International Criminal Court. The Secretary-General has shared the report with ECOWAS, the AU and the Security Council. (…)
Yet the threat of mass atrocities and conflict persists. Thus, in keeping with the responsibility to protect, member states and multilateral organizations should continue pressuring the junta and strengthen their response to ongoing threats to Guinea’s population. Pressure should most immediately be placed on the regime to fulfill Konate’s promise to form a unity government, to refrain from resorting to violence and to uphold theresponsibility to protect. In addition, more robust measures should be fashioned to deter future conflict and atrocities. In the event that the junta, or breakaway elements employ violence against civilians or that upcoming elections ignite conflict, regional peacekeeping forces must also be prepared to respond to prevent and halt atrocities. (…)
Read full policy brief.