September 28, 2021
THE trial of those responsible for the killing of more than 150 people and the rape of dozens of women in a stadium in Guinea on September 28, 2009, should begin as soon as possible, six human rights groups have said.
In the wake of the coup that overthrew President Alpha Conde on September 5, the groups are saying that 12 years after the atrocities, victims and their families should not have to wait any longer for justice to finally be delivered.
The groups are the Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of September 28, 2009 (AVIPA), Equal Rights for All (MDT), the Guinean Human and Citizen Rights Organisation (OGDH), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.
They said that the opening of this trial would send a strong signal that the ruling National Committee for Reconciliation and Development (NCRD) was “willing to put respect for human rights and the fight against impunity at the centre of [its] priorities”.
“The wait has become unbearable for the survivors and victims’ families, given that the investigation phase concluded in late 2017,” the groups said in a statement.
“The Guinean government has promised several times to begin the trial as soon as possible, and no later than June 2020.
“The organisations remain concerned by an evident lack of will to complete preparations for this trial in Guinea.
In the past few months, the steering committee overseeing the preparations for the trial, made up of government officials and international partners, had resumed its work and adopted a road map.
However, no trial date has yet been set.
“Given the deteriorating health of the survivors, we, together with the Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of September 28, 2009, are calling for this year to be the last commemoration before justice is done,” said Aissatou Diallo, a survivor of the September 28 events.
“It is urgent for the trial to be held and reparations awarded before all the victims die.”
The investigation by Guinean judges began in February 2010 and more than 13 suspects were charged, 11 of whom were sent for trial.
Among them is Moussa Dadis Camara, the former leader of the National Council for Democracy and Development junta that ruled Guinea in September 2009, who is living in exile in Burkina Faso.
Some of the suspects who have been charged held influential positions until the recent coup, including Moussa Tiegboro Camara, who was in charge of fighting drug trafficking and organised crime.
The head of the NCRD, Mamady Doumbouya, has promised that “justice will be the compass guiding every Guinean citizen”.
The groups are saying that the fight against impunity should be at the heart of the military junta’s actions.
“It is more than urgent for Guinea to put an end to the cycle of impunity that has deeply marked the country’s history for more than 60 years,” the groups said.
“We remind the authorities that international law requires states to provide effective remedies to victims of human rights violations and that any lack of justice or the adoption of an amnesty for serious crimes is incompatible with these requirements.”
They added: “It is also essential for the new authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders and activists who have suffered numerous violations of their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for years.
“The new authorities should make justice a prerequisite of their actions.”
The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary examination of the situation in Guinea in October 2009.
Designed as a court of last resort for the most serious crimes, the ICC steps in when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute such cases.
In its latest report, the ICC expressed its disappointment that “the trial has not yet started and no timeline or action plan for the opening of the trial has been communicated by the government of Guinea”.
The ICC had indicated that “the Guinean authorities must demonstrate, in the coming months, their will and ability to combat impunity and to prevent renewed cycles of violence”.
Shortly before noon on September 28, 2009, several hundred members of Guinea’s security forces opened fire on tens of thousands of people who had gathered peacefully at the 28 September stadium in Conakry for a march against Dadis Camara’s intention to run for president.
More than 150 people were killed and hundreds wounded by the security forces who were then accused of a cover-up by closing the stadium and mortuaries before removing the bodies and burying them in mass graves.
Many of the graves have yet to be identified, according to activists.
After the investigation was completed, in April 2018, the then Justice Minister, Cheick Sako, set up a steering committee to organise the trial at Court of Appeal in Conakry.
In January 2020 Justice Minister Mohammed Lamine Fofana told the UN of his government’s “unequivocal” support for opening the trial.
Despite his announcement that proceedings would begin in June, following completion of construction on the courtroom facility, the trial has not moved forward during this past year.