U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that those responsible for the murder and rape of political protesters in Guinea late last month should be brought to justice, and that the military leadership owes the country an apology. Human rights groups say the September 28 attack on demonstrators killed more than 150 people and included numerous incidents of rape.
U.S. outrage over the September 28 violence in Guinea continues to grow as news accounts make even clearer the degree of misconduct by the country's security forces.
At a news conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Secretary of State Clinton said she is appalled and outraged by what she said was indiscriminate killing and rape by government troops of demonstrators at the main stadium in the Guinean capital, Conakry.
She said U.S. concern has been conveyed directly to the military government's top leadership by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, who she said made it clear that the United States intends to pursue "appropriate actions" against the military leadership that took control of the west African country last December.
"The leadership of Guinea owe a profound apology to the people who had gathered in peaceful protest against the military takeover," said Hillary Clinton. "They owe not only that apology in words, but in a but in a recognition that they cannot remain in power, that they must turn back to the people the right to choose their own leaders."
The September 28 protest was driven by public concern that Captain Moussa Dadis Carmara would renege on a pledge not to run for president in elections planned for January.
Local human rights advocates say troops - including members of Mr. Camara's own presidential guard - shot and killed at least 157 people. The government says the death toll was less than a third of that number.
Protesters say that the violence included rape, beatings and other acts of humiliation. They have been producing cell phone pictures that appear to show brutal attacks on women by government troops.
Secretary Clinton, who last week led a drive in the U.N. Security Council to condemn conflict-related violence against women and girls, said the reports of sexual violence in Guinea are particularly troubling.
"It will not surprise you to hear that I was particularly appalled by the violence against women, in broad daylight, in a stadium," she said. "It was criminality of the greatest degree. And those who committed such acts should not be given any reason to expect the they will escape justice. There should be no impunity and there should be an effort to bring those who were the leaders and perpetrators of the murders and rapes to justice very shortly."
The State Department is calling for a return to civilian rule in Guinea as soon as possible and insists that the country's military rulers respect their stated commitments not to contest the upcoming elections.
A State Department spokesman said earlier Tuesday that the United States is deeply engaged with international partners on the Guinean situation - including the West African grouping ECOWAS, which has sent the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Campaore, to Conakry to try to mediate between Guinea's rulers and the political opposition.