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Rights Advocacy Group Expresses Concern over Human Rights in Guinea

A U.S.-based human rights group says arbitrary arrests and vigilantism in Guinea has raised concerns about the human rights situation in the West African nation.

Corinne Dufka, a senior West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, says the experience of a Guinean man typifies the concerns the U.S.-based rights group has about the situation in Guinea.

Witnesses in the Guinean capital, Conakry, say the man had been passed over with a hot iron, cut with razor blades, and beaten. Dufka says the man had been caught trying to break into a home, and local residents had physically punished him in response to a recent call to vigilante justice by a government security official.

"Then there's the problem of the call to vigilante violence by the head of the ministry in charge of fighting serious crime and drug trafficking," she said. "Captain Tiegboro Camara. In response to rising crime, he met with community leaders, and he told them that they should, if they find an individual in the process of committing a crime, he should be burned alive."

Dufka says the man who was caught and beaten died shortly after the attack. She adds that Human Rights Watch has only encountered this one example of someone being killed due to the call to vigilante justice. But she says her organization wants Captain Tiegboro Camara to retract the statement. So far, he has not done so.

Dufka visited Conakry this June to conduct a fact-finding mission on the country's current human rights situation. She said Human Rights Watch came away with new concerns about the country.

"The last time I was in Conakry was about two months ago, and in between April and June I noted a marked difference in the attitude of normal Guineans," said Dufka.

Besides the call for vigilante justice, Dufka says the country's ruling military government, the National Council for Democracy and Development, which is known by its French acronym, CNDD, has arbitrarily arrested some members of the military and held them unlawfully.

"There's the case of twelve military, who were primarily very close to late president Conte, who have been detained since December, January in Camp Alpha Yaya," she said. "Charges have not been brought against them. These twelve military officers were questioned on one occasion by the gendarme. They were told they found nothing against them, and yet they still remain in camp Alpha Yaya without access to their lawyers. They do have access to their families."

Dufka adds that the shift in local attitudes toward the military government and its leader, Moussa Dadis Camara, is also a response to a lack of progress in elections that are supposed to take place this year.

"For over a month, funds to the electoral body have been withheld, so the progress in registering votes has essentially been stopped," she said. "The citizenry are very concerned about the delays in the electorate. So they're getting fed up, and they're clamoring for the election process to take form."

The CNDD seized power in Guinea, the world's biggest bauxite producer, last December after longtime president Lansana Conte died. When the military government appointed Dadis Camara as its de facto president, he promised to hold presidential elections in 2009. Dufka adds that the CNDD has allowed the press to continue to operate freely, though there is a certain amount of self-censorship.