Guinea: Stadium Massacre Victims Await Justice

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In Guinea’s capital, Conakry, family members cry after identifying the body of a relative killed on September 28, 2009, when security forces fired on opposition supporters as they marched to and later held a rally in the September 28 Stadium. The body of their relative was one of 57 dead displayed at the Grand Fayçal Mosque on October 2, 2009.
© 2009 Reuters

(Conakry) – Victims and their family members are demanding justice for the killings of more than 150 demonstrators, rapes, and other crimes committed by the Guinean security forces on September 28, 2009 in a stadium in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, 6 human rights groups said today. The groups are the Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of September 28, 2009 (AVIPA), Equal Rights for All (MDT), the Guinean Human Rights Organization (OGDH), the International Federation for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.

The Guinean authorities should immediately act to ensure that the long-delayed trial of the crimes can start as soon as possible, the organizations said. Guinea’s international and regional partners should press for the trial to take place without further delay. The Guinean government and the European Union, France, and United States have previously pledged support for the trial.

“The trial was at last scheduled to open in June, but nothing has moved ahead,” said Asmaou Diallo, president of AVIPA. “The Covid-19 pandemic may have created new challenges, but the government should ensure that the trial’s opening gets back on track, for the sake of the victims.”

The domestic investigation, which began in February 2010 and concluded in late 2017, progressed slowly amid political, financial, and logistical obstacles. But in a country in which impunity largely prevails when security forces are implicated in crimes, the completion of a credible investigation sent a strong signal and raised hopes for the opening of a trial that could bring justice to the victims.

Some survivors have died while progress in the case languished. The surviving victims continue to demand justice. “Since that day we cry and then we dry our tears and hope that we will have justice,” said one victim in a video that the groups issued last year on the need for the trial to begin.

More than 13 suspects were charged – 11 of them sent for trial, including current and former high-level officials. Suspects include Moussa Dadis Camara, the former leader of the National Council of Democracy and Development junta, which ruled Guinea in September 2009, who is living in exile in Burkina Faso, and his vice president, Mamadouba Toto Camara. Some of the suspects continue to occupy influential positions, including Moussa Tiegboro Camara, who is in charge of fighting drug trafficking and organized crime.

Abubakar “Toumba” Diakité, Dadis Camara’s aide de camp, has also been charged, and was extradited from Senegal to Guinea in March 2017 after evading justice for more than five years.

Four other people who have been charged are in detention at the central prison of Conakry, respectively since 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2015. Their provisional detention is illegal given that it exceeds the maximum limit under Guinea law, which is 18 to 24 months in criminal matters.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Guinea in October 2009. The ICC, designed as a court of last resort for the most serious crimes, steps in when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute such cases.

Concerns over an evident lack of will to organize this trial in Guinea are increasing, the organizations said. The current government’s own involvement in numerous human rights violations could hinder its willingness to bring to trial individuals accused of crimes that took place before it came to power.

In recent months, the Guinean authorities have harassed, intimidated, and arbitrarily arrested opposition members and human rights defenders in an atmosphere of insecurity linked to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. This follows a violent crackdown on opposition members and supporters by security forces in the lead up to and during the controversial March 22 constitutional referendum and legislative elections.

In this context, the six organizations are concerned that the current authorities could further delay the stadium trial. The authorities need to take steps to protect witnesses, victims, and lawyers involved in the 2009 case, the organizations said. An attempted break-in at the AVIPA office during the March 22 elections illustrates the security risks for participants in this trial.

The victims and their beneficiaries also are living in deplorably precarious conditions and need to receive adequate, efficient, and swift assistance from the Guinean authorities, the organizations said.

In April 2018, the then-justice minister, Cheick Sako, set up a steering committee to organize the trial. It set Conakry’s Court of Appeal as the location.

In January 2020, Justice Minister Mohammed Lamine Fofana announced to the United Nations his government’s “unequivocal” support for opening the trial. Despite his announcement that the proceedings would begin in June, following completion of construction on the courtroom facility, the trial has not moved forward.

In June, Mory Doumbouya was appointed justice minister. He said that he supports the trial, but that the judiciary is responsible for organizing it.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC should urge the Guinean authorities to organize the trial as soon as possible to give surviving victims an opportunity to participate in a trial that would be a key step in the fight against impunity in Guinea. Eleven years provide ample time to prepare a trial of this scale, the organizations said.

“The September 28, 2009 trial requires political support at the highest level to go ahead,” said Abdoul Gadiry Diallo, president of OGDH. “Our hopes lie with President Condé and Minister Doumbouya to herald in its commencement as soon as possible. Appropriate measures to ensure the participation of Dadis Camara and the safety of victims and witnesses will be crucial.”

Background

Shortly before noon on September 28, 2009, several hundred members of Guinea’s security forces opened fire on tens of thousands of people who had gathered peacefully at the 28 September stadium in Conakry for a march against Dadis Camara’s intention to run for president. The security forces also individually or gang raped more than 100 women and sexually assaulted some of them with objects such as batons or bayonets, during or soon after the events. The security forces killed more than 150 people and wounded hundreds of others.

The security forces then organized a cover-up operation, sealing off all the entrances to the stadium and morgues and removing the bodies to bury them in mass graves, many of which have yet to be identified.