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February 01, 2010

National Inquiry Finds Guinea's Military Leader Not Guilty of Killing Protesters

by Scott Stearns

A national inquiry into the killing of opposition demonstrators in Guinea says the country's military leader was not responsible. Those findings contradict a United Nations investigation into the deaths of at least 157 people and the rape of dozens of women.

Guinea's national commission of inquiry into the violence of September 28 says military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara was not responsible.

Commission Chairman Sirman Kouyate says it was the former head of the presidential guard, Lieutenant Aboubacar Sidiki Diakite Toumba and a team of the red beret guard who were responsible for homicide, sexual assault, and illegal arrest. The commission chair says these people must be brought to justice for their crimes.

Lieutenant Diakite shot Captain Camara in December because he says the captain was trying to blame him for the violence.

A U.N. inquiry into the killings found sufficient grounds for presuming direct criminal responsibility by both Captain Camara and Lieutenant Diakite as well as other members of the ruling military council.

Captain Camara denies responsibility for the violence because he was not at the stadium. He blames his political opponents and what he calls uncontrollable elements of the military.

The national commission of inquiry agrees, saying the demonstration was banned and opposition leaders broke the law in going ahead with the protest against Captain Camara's expected presidential candidacy.

Kouyate says Guinean authorities have the right to prohibit meetings that threaten public order. He says some opposition leaders arrested September 28 were only released on Captain Camara's orders.

The International Criminal Court has launched a preliminary inquiry to determine if that day's violence amount to crimes against humanity.

Kouyate says the commission is recommending a general amnesty for people who destroyed public property. But the group says all those responsible for murder, rape, arson, and the theft of weapons should be brought to justice in courts under Guinean jurisdiction.

Captain Camara has agreed to a transitional government led by his defense minister and a new civilian prime minister to organize elections by June.