By Akanimo Sampson
Families of victims of the September 2009 massacre by Guinea’s security forces are still awaiting justice 10 years later, 6 human rights groups said today. The groups released a video to mark the massacre’s tenth anniversary, featuring victims pleading for the trial to go ahead.
The security forces killed more than 150 people demonstrating in a stadium in the capital, Conakry, in the massacre, which began on September 28, 2009. Hundreds of people were wounded and more than a hundred women were victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence in the events of September 28 and their aftermath.
The organizations are the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of the September 28 Massacre (AVIPA), Equal Rights for All (MDT), the Guinean Human Rights Organization (OGDH), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.
“A decade has passed since the stadium massacre in Conakry, but for those who lost their sons, daughters, fathers or mothers, the horror of that day remains forever etched in their memory,” said Asmaou Diallo, president of AVIPA. “Ten years is already too long to wait when one has a thirst for justice. We have the right to see those responsible for these atrocities to be held to account.”
Shortly before noon on September 28, 2009, several hundred members of Guinea’s security forces opened fire on tens of thousands of people peacefully gathered at a stadium for a rally to oppose then-junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara’s presidential run. The security forces also individually or gang raped women, and sexually assaulted them with objects such as batons and bayonets.
The security forces then engaged in an organized cover-up to hide the extent of the killings by sealing off and removing bodies from the stadium and morgues and burying them in mass graves, many of which have yet to be identified.
The domestic investigation, which began in February 2010 and concluded in late 2017, progressed slowly amid political, financial, and logistical obstacles. But in a country in which impunity largely prevails when security forces are implicated in crimes, the closing of the investigation sent a strong signal and raised hopes for the opening of a trial that could bring justice to the victims.
In April 2018, former Justice Minister Cheick Sako set up a steering committee tasked with the practical organization of the trial. This committee has since identified Conakry’s Court of Appeal as the location.
However, almost two years since the investigation closed, a trial date has yet to be scheduled. The steering committee was supposed to meet once a week but it has met only intermittently.
Although Guinea’s Supreme Court in July dismissed all appeals relating to the end of the investigation, the judges presiding over the trial have yet to be appointed. Some survivors have died as progress in the case languished. A timeline of the events can be accessed here.
More than 13 suspects have been charged, including current and former high-level officials. Suspects include Dadis Camara, the former leader of the National Council of Democracy and Development junta which ruled Guinea in September 2009, and his vice president, Mamadouba Toto Camara. Some of the suspects facing charges continue to occupy positions of power, including Moussa Tiegboro Camara, who is in charge of fighting drug trafficking and organized crime in Guinea.
Abubakar “Toumba” Diakité, Dadis Camara’s aide-de-camp, has also been charged, and was extradited to Guinea in March 2017 after evading justice for more than five years. Four other individuals are in detention at the central prison of Conakry since 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2015, respectively, for the stadium massacre case. Their provisional detention exceeds the maximum legal limit under Guinea law of 18 to 24 months in criminal matters. They should be tried fairly without further delay.
On August 14, at a meeting of the steering committee, Mohammed Lamine Fofana, the new justice minister, reiterated President Alpha Condé’s commitment to the trial and said that “concrete preparations” for the organization of the trial would begin now.
The government and Guinea’s international partners, including the European Union and United States, have already set aside crucial funds for the trial to take place.
“The trial date should be set and judges appointed for the case,” said Frédéric Foromo Loua, president of MDT. “The steering committee should also address any outstanding construction needs, and logistical and security procedures for the trial. Appropriate measures should be taken for the participation of Dadis Camara in the trial, who is in exile in Burkina Faso.”
The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Guinea in October 2009. The ICC is designed as a court of last resort, and the ICC only steps in when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute cases under its authority.
“The September 28, 2009 trial requires political support at the highest level to go ahead,” said Abdoul Gadiry Diallo, president of OGDH. “President Condé has previously affirmed a commitment to end impunity. Our hopes lie with the president to stand up for victims by unequivocally backing the start of the trial and for Minister Fofana to efficiently herald in its commencement as soon as possible.”