Guinea: Progress in Massacre Probe
Support Work of Judges; Ensure Witness Protection, Rights of Accused
Human Rights Watch
9 February 2012
The decision by investigative judges in Guinea to file charges against a high-level military official allegedly implicated in grave violations of human rights during a massacre of protesters in 2009 is an important step toward ensuring justice for the victims, Human Rights Watch said today. Security forces were implicated in the killings of more than 150 opposition members and the rape of over 100 women in the aftermath of a peaceful demonstration.
Col. Moussa Tiégboro Camara is the highest-level official to be questioned and charged in relation to the crimes. On February 8, 2012, Tiégboro Camara appeared before the investigative judges overseeing the investigations, following the filing of charges on February 1. Tiégboro Camara has been cooperative and was not taken into custody, sources in Guinea said.
“The courageous work of the judges and the charges against Colonel Moussa Tiégboro Camara are an encouraging and meaningful step forward for justice in Guinea,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Ensuring justice for the 2009 victims and their families would help break the cycle of violence, fear, and impunity that has blighted the lives and hopes of so many Guineans for so many years.”
Human Rights Watch called on the Guinean government to support the judges’ work by allowing them to proceed independently and to undertake efforts to protect witnesses and victims. The group also called on the Justice Ministry to ensure that Tiégboro Camara and others accused in the massacre are prosecuted in accordance with international fair trial standards.
Tiégboro Camara is charged for his alleged involvement in abuses on and around September 28, 2009, as the security forces, some allegedly under his command, responded to what had been a peaceful demonstration by tens of thousands of protesters gathered at the main stadium in the capital. The demonstrators were protesting continued military rule and the presumed candidacy in planned elections of then-junta leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara.
Members of the Presidential Guard and other security units opened fire on the crowds, leaving about 150 people dead. (…) Security forces subjected over 100 women at the rally to brutal forms of violence, including individual and gang rape, and sexual assault with sticks, batons, rifle butts, and bayonets.
A December 2009 report by Human Rights Watch and a 2009 report by a United Nations-led International Commission of Inquiry concluded that the abuses committed by security forces very likely constituted crimes against humanity. Both Human Rights Watch and the UN commission implicated Tiégboro Camara as among those most responsible for the serious crimes committed.
On February 8, 2010, three Guinean magistrates were tasked with establishing individual criminal responsibility for the September 28 events. (…)
In a May 2011 report, Human Rights Watch identified several key challenges to ensuring that domestic investigations and prosecutions are conducted fairly, impartially, and effectively. These include the absence of a witness protection program, inadequate material resources for the judiciary, and antiquated penal codes. Guinean authorities still have considerable work to do in credibly addressing these issues, Human Rights Watch said.
“For years, political interference and intimidation has undermined the independence of the judiciary and contributed to the widely held perception that the powerful are above the law,” Dufka said. “The efforts by the judges and Ministry of Justice to hold accountable those responsible for the 2009 stadium violence are playing an important role in reversing this trend.”
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