Guinean authorities must rein in security forces ahead of October’s presidential elections and ensure there is no repeat of excessive use of force during clashes with protesters, Amnesty International said in a briefing published today. Six people died and more than 100 were injured in demonstrations earlier this year.
“Guinea: Preventing the excessive use of force and respecting freedom of peaceful assembly in the 2015 presidential elections and beyond”, examines protests which took place between April and May and warns that, without concerted action by the authorities, there could be more deaths and injuries during demonstrations ahead of October’s vote. It also calls for legal reform after the election to prevent such violence reoccurring in the future, as well as to facilitate peaceful assembly, and ensure accountability for any violation.
On 4 April a four-year-old boy was hit in the head by a tear gas canister outside his house. The canister caused a serious head-injury and breathing difficulties. His family did not file a complaint for fear of reprisals.Amnesty International
“The killing and injury of demonstrators earlier this year by security forces using excessive and arbitrary force shows how crucial it is for steps to be taken to respect and protect human rights during the election period,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International regional director for West and Central Africa.
“The challenge for authorities, candidates and security forces is to break the cycle of mistrust and violence. They must create the conditions where everyone in Guinea feels safe to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression and citizens can safely participate in the electoral process.”
Evidence collected by Amnesty International found at least six people were killed and more than one hundred people, including children, were injured during clashes with the security forces, who in many instances used arbitrary and excessive force. Hundreds of protesters were arrested often in circumstances amounting to arbitrary arrest.
On 4 April a four-year-old boy was hit in the head by a tear gas canister outside his house. The canister caused a serious head-injury and breathing difficulties. His family did not file a complaint for fear of reprisals.
On 14 April, a 12 year-old girl, was shot in her left foot by passing security forces whilst sitting in a courtyard by her house.
Thierno Sadou Diallo, 34, was shot dead on 7 May by the security forces. “A group of five men wearing uniforms from the gendarmerie walked towards us. One was carrying a rifle and started aiming at us,” one of his friends told Amnesty International. “We heard two shots. The first bullet hit the wall just in front of us and the second hit Thierno.” His family filed a complaint to the general prosecutor on 8 May but no one has yet been charged in connection with his death.
The challenge for authorities, candidates and security forces is to break the cycle of mistrust and violence. They must create the conditions where everyone in Guinea feels safe to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression and citizens can safely participate in the electoral process.Alioune Tine, Amnesty International Regional Director for West and Central Africa
There are also reports that the security forces used arbitrary force against journalists covering demonstrations. Amnesty International heard of several instances where reporters were insulted or beaten by security forces whilst reporting on the demonstrations.
“Journalists and human rights defenders must be free to carry out their work without unwarranted interference,” said Alioune Tine.
“Those people gathering in demonstrations must be able to do so secure in the knowledge that security forces will not only respect and protect their right to protest but also their right to life. All instances of arbitrary or abusive use of force must be investigated.”
Presidential elections are due to be held on 11 October in Guinea with the campaign starting one month earlier.
Over the last decade Amnesty International has documented over 350 deaths, and over 1750 people injured, during demonstrations in the country. Most of these have been protestors, and in some cases bystanders, killed or injured at the hands of security forces.
They include the killing of 135 protestors calling for the departure of the late President Lansana Conté in January and February 2007, the stadium massacre in Conakry on 28 September 2009 when security forces opened fire on opposition protestors killing over 150 people and injuring at least 1,500; and the killing of at least nine people and wounding of 40 others during opposition protests ahead of the 2013 legislative elections.
There has been little accountability for these human rights violations, and although there have been some reforms to the security sector, there remain clear risks of further violations in 2015 unless action is taken to facilitate peaceful protest, ensure freedom of assembly and prevent the excessive use of force.