Guinea Military Trying to Avoid International Prosecution for Killing Civilians

With the United Nations calling for International Criminal Court action against Guinea's ruling military council, the country's acting leader, General Sekouba Konate, says he is addressing the issue internally.

Guinea's military government is trying to avoid international prosecution of security forces responsible for killing opposition demonstrators by vowing to purge the army of soldiers guilty of human rights abuses. 

With the United Nations calling for International Criminal Court action against Guinea's ruling military council, the country's acting leader says he is addressing the issue internally.

General Sekouba Konate says the killing of opposition demonstrators September 28 has tarnished the uniform of Guinea's army, sowing hatred and suspicion within  its ranks.

Konate says the vast majority of defense and security forces have remained faithful to their oath to protect people and property.  But he told soldiers that some among them are undermining their prestige. For many Guineans, Konate says, the army today is a problem.

So he says the military must pull out of its ranks those who soil the uniform, who betray their oaths, and who disgrace the army in national and international opinion.

Konate says the strength and the authority of the army are based on order and discipline.  It cannot be abandoned to itself without morality or professionalism.  He says it is still possible to put things right with the support and assistance of the international community if soldiers begin to be conscious about their duties. 

But much of the international community believes Guinea's military is unable to protect its citizens or hold itself accountable for abuses.  No one has been arrested since September's killing, violence the United Nations says amounts to a crime against humanity that is directly attributable to the military government, including its leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.

Pushing for international prosecution of those responsible, the European Union is freezing the assets of members of the ruling council.  The United States has suspended Guinea from economic assistance under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

"The United States is outraged by the atrocities that have been committed in Guinea.  We think there absolutely has to be accountability," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Rice says the International Criminal Court need not wait for Security Council approval to begin action against Guinea's military leaders.

"Because Guinea is a signatory to the ICC, it could be subject to the inquiries of the prosecutor irrespective of what the Council does or does not do," she said.

France says Captain Camara must be among those prosecuted for crimes against humanity. 

"We hope that the perpetrators of this crime will be brought to justice swiftly, including Dadis Camara," said Nicolas de Riviere, the French deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.

Captain Camara is recovering in a Moroccan military hospital after being shot by the former head of the presidential guard. 

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says he hopes the captain does not return to Guinea because that could trigger civil war.

Guinean Foreign Minister Alexandre Cece Loua says such a declaration from a foreign minister about a sovereign head of state is unacceptable.

Loua asks if Kouchner's statement is evidence that France is calling for a civil war, saying it is meant to deprive Captain Camara and the Guinean people of their dignity.

Because Guineans believe in God, Loua said, they are staying calm in the face of the French Foreign Minister's verbal attack.  He says the catastrophe that Kouchner predicts will be rejected by a Guinean people united in preserving their territorial integrity.  

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