GUINEA: Probe into abuses by security forces fizzles
Guineans denouncing President Lansana Conte flee shooting by soldiers in the capital, Conakry
DAKAR, 22 November 2007 (IRIN) - A planned investigation into alleged civilian killings by Guinean security forces is faltering as lawyers have suspended their participation and rights groups are looking elsewhere for a means to seek justice for victims.
Citizens and international observers are worried that if people's grievances are not addressed then the upcoming anniversary of January's deadly military crackdown could trigger more protests and violence.
At least 137 civilians were allegedly killed by the army and police during unprecedented citizen uprisings in January and February, international rights advocates say. One Guinean human rights group puts the number of civilians killed at at least 230.
A commission to look into the violence was created in May by a unanimous vote in parliament but members have yet to be sworn in and begin their work.
“We do not have much hope that this commission will produce any positive result,” Thierno Maadjou Sow, president of Guinea’s Organisation of Human Rights (OGDH), told IRIN on 22 November.
“There are people who are implicated who are close to those in power so it is difficult for the justice system here to function properly,” he added.
OGDH is to meet with other rights groups and non-governmental organisations on 25 November “to set up an alternative structure to fight impunity”, Sow said. “If we cannot get redress here we will see what we can do with our international partners to bring [offenders] to justice,” he said.
The commission of inquiry was to examine the deaths of early this year as well as similar clashes in June 2006. Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate just named the members of the commission in October and nothing has happened since then, sources following the process told IRIN.
Speaking to the National Assembly on 11 October, Kouyate said the commission of inquiry was “in the preparation stage”. Government officials could not be reached for comment on the current status of the panel. Lawyers out
Now the lawyers who are supposed to be commission members have suspended their participation, protesting what they call a pattern of abuses by police and military against judicial officials. Six of the 19 members named are lawyers.
“In Guinea, the military and police are above the judicial system,” Boubakar Sow, president of the Guinean Bar Association, told IRIN.
“Lawyers and judges are utterly disregarded… We must put an end to this culture.”
All lawyers have been on strike since early October when police roughed up one of them and detained him while he was trying to see a client in detention.
“We are constantly threatened and abused [by members of the security forces],” the Bar Association's Sow said. “If we cannot bring these individuals to justice then surely this commission of inquiry cannot be effective in bringing to justice those of even higher rank who are responsible for killing civilians."Mamadou Dian Diallo, whose 16-year-old brother was killed in the march
in January, told IRIN, “Things will turn ugly again if we don’t achieve what we fought for.”