News / Africa

Prosecutions of Guinea Officials on Rights Violations on Track

Nancy Palus
Human rights groups say Guinea has made significant progress in efforts to prosecute officials responsible for rights violations against citizens but much delicate and complicated work lies ahead. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said it would take up the case if Guinean justice fails, but rights activists say the best outcome would be for the national process to succeed.

In recent months Guinean judges have charged several high-level officials over cases of grave human rights violations, including rapes and killings in the 2009 stadium massacre.

Judges have also made indictments and opened investigations in other cases, including a deadly military crackdown on demonstrators in 2007 and alleged torture of several men by soldiers in 2010.

The stadium attack - in which hundreds were killed, injured and raped by soldiers - threw Guinea into the spotlight, but it was just one of many cases of abuses by security forces in the country's 54 years of independence. Guineans say the charges and the opening of criminal investigations would have been unthinkable in past years.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) did a preliminary examination in the days following the 2009 stadium attack and has said it would prosecute perpetrators if Guinea fails to do so.

Florent Geel is with the International Federation for Human Rights, which is working with Guineans to bring perpetrators to justice. He says the best outcome for Guinea and the region would be to avoid the ICC stepping in.

Geel says after all the aim of the International Criminal Court is to not have to intervene, that national justice systems would function properly in order to prosecute those responsible for crimes. Geel says his organization's goal is not to see the ICC taking up cases everywhere - he says he wants the country to have the capacity to crack down on crimes such as the human rights violations in Guinea.

Geel said Guinea successfully bringing criminals to justice would have a positive impact for the entire region.

One woman, who did not want her name used, has scars all over her arms and legs where she says soldiers cut her when they raped her at the stadium in 2009. She does not have confidence in Guinea's judicial system on its own.

She says if it's up to the Guinean system alone, justice will not be done. Perhaps with the support of the International Federation for Human Rights and other international organizations, it can work, she says. We are really counting on these organizations to continue helping us in this fight for justice.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on September 28 that the United States calls on the Guinean government "to investigate and try those responsible for the 2009 massacre and engage in a dual process of national reconciliation and justice sector reform that will address and conclude Guinea's lengthy history of political violence and impunity."

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