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Guinean Lawyers, Activists Say Military, Police Continue to Abuse Position


Lawyers in Guinea are on strike, protesting the arrest and rough treatment of a lawyer last month. Lawyers and human rights activists in Guinea say the military and police continue to abuse their position, despite pledges from the country's prime minister that they would be held accountable. A planned investigation into the involvement of security forces in more than 100 civilian deaths during protests earlier this year has stalled. Naomi Schwarz has more from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

When lawyer Mohamed Lamine Doumbia visited Guinea's central prison in the capital, Conakry, for a routine meeting with a client, he says was treated like a criminal.

He says he was arbitrarily arrested and incarcerated. He says his cell phone was taken, and police began interrogating him.

Doumbia says his case is a mild one compared to many serious incidents. He says one of his colleagues was seized in the middle of the night with no warrant and money was taken from his house.

Doumbia says none of the people responsible for these acts has faced consequences. He says all of Guinea's lawyers are on strike, and will not return to work until real steps are taken to address the problem of impunity in Guinea.

He says the men who are charged with protecting Guinea's citizens are committing terrible crimes and the justice system can do nothing about it.

Mass protests against the government in January and February were brutally put down. More than 100 civilians were killed.

The protests ended when Guinea's president, Lansana Conté, agreed to appoint a new prime minister and hand over some powers to him.

Prime Minister Lansana Kouyaté pledged he would bring about reform. He said protecting human rights through a fair justice system is central to Guinea's development. He vowed to make the judicial system independent, but Doumbia and others say the changes have not taken place.

In May, parliament established a commission to investigate the security forces' involvement in January and February's violence. But the members of the commission were named only last month, and they have yet to get funding or even a meeting space.

Thierno Maadjou Sow, president of Guinea's Organization for the Defense of Human Rights, says he does not believe the commission will be allowed to function.

He says some people in Guinea are untouchable.

Government officials could not be reached for comment.

The position of prime minister does not exist in Guinea's constitution. Previous reform-minded prime ministers have been fired by President Conté, and there was no prime minister for nearly a year before Mr. Kouyate was appointed. Mr. Conté has ruled in Guinea since 1984 when he seized power in a coup.

During the January and February protests, he said "It is God who gives power, and when he gives it to someone, everyone must stand behind him."

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