News / Africa

National Inquiry Wants Suspected Killers of Demonstrators Tried in Guinea

Guinea's national inquiry into September's killing of opposition demonstrators says all suspects should be tried before Guinean courts.  A U.N. investigation says they should be brought before the International Criminal Court.

Guinea's national commission of inquiry is recommending a general amnesty for opposition leaders who it says broke the law September 28 by holding an illegal demonstration against the expected presidential candidacy of military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara.

Demonstrators at the national stadium were attacked by members of Guinea's military.  Human-rights officials say at least 157 people were killed and dozens of women raped.

The national commission of inquiry has absolved Captain Camara of responsibility for that violence because he was not at the stadium.  It blames the former head of the presidential guard, who tried to assassinate Captain Camara in December because he says the captain was trying to blame him for the killing.

A U.N. investigation says there is sufficient evidence to presume direct criminal responsibility by Captain Camara, other members of the ruling military council and the former head of the presidential guard.  It recommends International Criminal Court action against those responsible.

Guinea's national commission of inquiry says those suspected of leading the violence should be tried in Guinean courts.

Commission Chairman Sirman Kouyate says considering the country's new transitional government, the commission recommends that those suspected of murder, rape, arson, and stealing weapons be identified and prosecuted under Guinean jurisdiction.

Corinne Dufka heads West Africa operations for Human Rights Watch.

"A country is obliged and responsible for holding accountable its citizens who would be responsible and implicated in the types of crimes that we saw in September," said Corinne Dufka. "So an international court is designed to be a court of last resort only if and when a country is incapable or refuses or there is a lack of political will to hold individuals responsible."

The U.N. recommendation for International Criminal Court action was made before Guinea's new interim authority, at a time when Dufka says it looked unlikely that Captain Camara would allow an unbiased trial, especially as he might be one of the suspects.

"The political situation has changed and the Guinean government has pledged to hold accountable those responsible," she said. "Now, if they refuse to do so, then in that case international options including the International Criminal Court can be considered."

The transitional authority led jointly by Captain Camara's defense minister and a new civilian prime minister has vowed to punish those responsible for the violence.  As neither the U.N. inquiry nor the national commission's findings have the force of law, Dufka says it is time for a thorough criminal investigation.

"The justice ministry, the Guinean police need to begin a proper investigation into what happened with a view to holding those most responsible accountable," said Dufka. "Their investigation should be open to the highest levels, that is including the criminal responsibility of erstwhile CNDD president Dadis Camara."

The French ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, says the were clearly crimes against humanity committed September 28.  He says the Security Council should express its political support for both Guinea's domestic prosecution of those crimes as well as the ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court. 

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