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Security Forces in Guinea Accused of Excessive Force

The body of Abdulai Bah, 20, allegedly shot by Guinean soldiers, lays in an ambulance in the mostly Peul suburb of Bambeto in Conakry, Guinea, 17 Nov. 2010
The body of Abdulai Bah, 20, allegedly shot by Guinean soldiers, lays in an ambulance in the mostly Peul suburb of Bambeto in Conakry, Guinea, 17 Nov. 2010

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is accusing the security forces in Guinea of excessive force during demonstrations linked to last weekend's presidential election. The agency says it is deeply concerned by the actions of the security forces which it says led to at least four deaths and 300 injuries earlier this week.

The announcement of the provisional election results by the Electoral commission triggered three days of widespread violence in the Guinean capital, Conakry.

Security forces resort to live fire

The U.N. Human Rights Office says security forces resorted to live fire in trying to tame the crowd and it says that is where the deaths and injuries occurred.

UN Human Rights Spokesman, Rupert Colville, says two groups, agents of a special electoral security force known as FOSSEPEL and red beret troops fired on crowds with live ammunition in several parts of Conakry.

"OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) Human Rights Officers witnessed heavily armed red beret soldiers and FOSSEPEL police and gendarmes brutally beating, arresting and shooting at unarmed civilians in various locations," Colville said. "The FOSSEPEL agents, in particular, completely disregarded the presence of OHCHR and international journalists at the scene. Houses and businesses were burned down and a local hospital treated over 140 civilians, mostly for bullet wounds."

Colville says Human Rights staff in Guinea has documented numerous allegations of human rights violations and is continuing its investigations. Documented incidents include the deliberate shooting by security forces of a 32 and a 29-year old man.

State of emergency imposed

Earlier this week Guinea Army Chief Nouhou Thiam announced a state of emergency in the country and said the reason the government was taking that action was because of what he called "troublemakers" who he said were attacking security forces and other civilians. He said the state of emergency was to preserve peace and national unity.

In another incident, a red beret soldier shot a 16-year old boy in the back. The aid workers also documented the execution style killing of an 18-year old man who was first beaten by police officers with their rifle butts.

Colville says his office has received reports of ethnically motivated violence between Peuhl and Malinke youths in several neighborhoods. He says tensions are running very high.

"Clearly the next few days and weeks will be crucial and it is important that security forces are seen to be absolutely neutral, not siding with any group," Colville added. "And, clearly they have to act strongly to stop the violence, but the type of incidents we are describing today should not be repeated."

UN urges refrain

The Human Rights Office is urging the authorities and security forces, political leaders and their activists to refrain from violence and from inciting ethnic hatred.

The agency is calling on the Government to ensure that members of the security forces adhere to international standards governing the use of force and firearms.