The fifth anniversary on September 28, 2014, of the Conakry stadium massacre should be the last before justice is done, seven Guinean and international organizations, in unity with the victims, said today. More than 150 people were killed, some 100 women were raped and several hundred people were injured on September 28, 2009, as government troops attacked peaceful demonstrators.
“Five years on from the events, we are still calling for justice,” said Asmaou Diallo, president of the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of September 28, 2009 (Association des victimes, parents et amis du 28 septembre 2009, AVIPA). “Many of us have been heard by the investigating judges, but more than ever we are waiting for strong legal actions that would see the investigation concluded and a trial held as soon as possible.”
Since legal proceedings began in February 2010, close to 400 victims have been interviewed by the judges leading the case. But only eight people have been charged, though offenses were committed by scores of members of the armed forces, particularly the Red Berets. The military junta in power at the time of the massacre was headed by Moussa Dadis Camara.
“The new impetus given by Justice Minister Cheick Sako, since his appointment in January 2014, is encouraging, and something we welcome,” said Abdoul Gadiry Diallo of the Guinean Organization for Human Rights (Organisation guinéene de défense des droits de l’homme et du citoyen, OGDH). “However, this now needs to be translated into action, so that the victims’ wait for justice is not in vain and impunity is finally brought to an end in Guinea.”
There has been real progress in justice in recent months, the groups said. The establishment of a High Judicial Council in July, the ongoing improvement in the status of judges and the start of justice reform are all likely to help the judges complete their work.
There has been some progress in the legal case in recent weeks, including questioning of the director of Conakry stadium, the former Minister for Youth and Sport and, through an international rogatory commission, Dadis Camara, who has taken refuge in Burkina Faso. These new developments are in contrast to the slow pace that long characterized the proceedings.
“A lot still needs to be done on this case,” said Souhayr Belhassan, honorary president of FIDH. “The recent progress is a positive sign, but the judges must now pick up the pace to ensure that those suspected of crimes at all levels of state can be questioned. Only then can a trial be held within a reasonable time frame and the truth about these events finally come out.”
Administering justice for the victims is all the more urgent because scores of victims have died in the past five years from their injuries or disease without being vindicated, the groups said.
Despite the government’s stated commitments, a lack of financial and political support has been a major obstacle to the progress of the investigation. The government needs to guarantee that all of the people summoned for questioning, including members of the security forces, regardless of their rank, answer the summonses issued by the judges. On several occasions, despite repeated summonses, the judges have not been able to interview people summoned for questioning about the events of September 28, 2009.
The International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened a preliminary examination on October 14, 2009, and which is continuing to monitor this case closely, has already alerted the national authorities to the need to conduct these proceedings within a reasonable time frame.
“Given the time that has elapsed, unless there are tangible results soon, the ICC prosecutor could be asked to open an investigation,” said Corinne Dufka, associate West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “That would be bad news for Guinea, which has the opportunity to show it can bring justice for serious crimes.”
The organizations that issued this statement are:
Association of Family and Friends of Disappeared on September 28, 2009 (Association des Familles et Amis de Disparus du 28 septembre 2009, AFADIS)
Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of September 28, 2009 (Association des victimes, parents et amis du 28 septembre 2009, AVIPA)
Equal Rights for All (Mêmes droits pour tous, MDT)
Guinean League of Human Rights (Ligue Guinéenne des Droits de l’Homme, LIGUIDHO)
Guinean Organization for Human Rights (Organisation guinéenne de défense des droits de l’homme et du citoyen, OGDH)
Human Rights Watch