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Guinea: Witnesses describe security force excesses
Published in Bikya Masr on 30 - 11 - 2010

DAKAR: Security forces in Guinea used excessive force and displayed a lack of political neutrality when responding to election-related violence, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. The violence, between supporters of presidential candidates Alpha Condé and Cellou Dalein Diallo, and between protesters and security services, took place in Conakry, the capital, and other cities between November 15 and 19, 2010. At least seven people died, and 220 were wounded.
Human Rights Watch conducted interviews in Guinea with over 80 victims and witnesses. The interviews confirmed that the security forces, dominated by ethnic groups that largely supported Condé's party, used lethal force to suppress violence by members of the Peuhl ethnic group, who were protesting electoral irregularities against Diallo, their candidate. Guinea's Supreme Court is expected to announce this week the final results of the contested, second-round election, which, despite some irregularities, was considered by international observers to be the freest in Guinea in 50 years. On November 15, election officials declared Condé the winner of the November 7 runoff election.
“The grim accounts regarding how security forces acted and the rising inter-communal violence show just how challenging the new president's job will be,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “To end Guinea's long history of violence, the incoming government will need to rein in and ensure the neutrality of the security forces, and urgently address the causes of lingering ethnic tensions.”
The Human Rights Watch investigation in Guinea showed that members of the security forces used ethnic slurs against members of the Peuhl ethnic group, collaborated with civilian mobs from ethnic groups that largely supported Condé, and in several cases looted and stole property from people who were perceived to have supported Diallo. Although the security forces may have sought to quell the violence that seized the cities of Conakry, Dalaba, and Labé, they failed to provide equal protection to all Guineans, Human Rights Watch said.
Behaving more as predators than protectors, security force members in Guinea have for decades been allowed to get away with abuses including extortion, banditry, theft, kidnapping, racketeering, and excessive use of lethal force, with no apparent fear of being held accountable. Successive authoritarian heads of state have used the security services for partisan ends to repress political opponents, influence the outcome of elections, and intimidate the judiciary.
To end this cycle of state-sponsored abuse, Human Rights Watch urged Guinea's new government to:
* Issue clear rules to the security forces to ensure the equal protection of all Guineans, and to adhere to international standards governing the use of force and firearms when dealing with protests and unrest.Bring to justice those responsible for the gross abuses, both in connection with election-related violence, and the killings of more than 150 opposition supporters and rapes of 100 women by security forces in September 2009.
* Rein in, professionalize, and reform the security forces and ensure that the disciplinary structures to investigate, prosecute, and punish abusers are properly staffed, secured, and supported.
To address growing ethnic tension, the new president should:
* Take concrete steps to ensure members of the security forces desist from targeting Guineans on the basis of their ethnicity.
* Establish a truth-telling mechanism to uncover the roots of ethnic violence, investigate the historical persecution of particular ethnic groups, explore the dynamics that gave rise to and sustained cycles of successive authoritarian and abusive regimes, and make recommendations to ensure better governance and prevent a repetition of past violations.
* Urge all political party leaders to call on their supporters to end violent attacks against others on the basis of their ethnicity or political affiliation.
* Ensure that those responsible for inciting and carrying out violence are investigated and held accountable, including members of both political parties.
“Dismantling the architecture of impunity that has characterized Guinea's history and building a society based on the rule of law should be at the top of the agenda for both the incoming administration and Guinea's international partners,” said Dufka. “Failure to ensure accountability will only embolden those who might contemplate using violence and intimidation in the future.”

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