The Guinean judiciary is prosecuting 27 former high officials including former head of state Alpha Conde for crackdown on demonstrators. In an interview with APA, Fabien Offner, a French researcher and Guinea specialist at Amnesty International, welcomed this decision even if he remains vigilant with the junta which is completing its eighth month in charge of the country.
Amnesty has denounced the bloody repression of demonstrators against Alpha Conde’s third bid. Today, the courts have decided to prosecute him and other former dignitaries of his regime for “assassinations.” How do you appreciate this move?
Indeed, we have learned of the initiation of legal proceedings against a number of dignitaries of the former regime including former President Alpha Conde, but also the former Prime Minister, the former Speaker of the National Assembly, senior police and gendarmerie, members of parliament, among others. Let’s simply recall that AI has repeatedly called for such prosecutions to be initiated on all cases of human rights violations committed since October 2019. That is, since the first demonstrations against the constitutional change. It should be recalled that there were dozens of deaths, specifically people killed as a result of illegal use of force by the defense and security forces. There were also dozens of people who were arbitrarily detained. Some died in prison. Demonstrations have been banned on numerous occasions contrary to international law in a number of cases. So indeed, we are waiting for these legal proceedings to be launched and to be carried out as soon as possible. We also reiterate the call for the suspects to be tried in fair trials before impartial courts.
On the political front, the head of the junta has proposed 39 months of transition, which the opposition has rejected. Do you fear new demonstrations that could lead to human rights violations?
It is difficult to say whether political decisions can lead to human rights violations. What we do know is that under Alpha Conde’s regime and even before that, there is one essential issue in Guinea that remains unchanged for the moment. This is the issue of the fight against impunity, and in particular the issue of the excessive use of force. On many occasions, people have been killed or injured by defense and security forces using firearms and live ammunition to suppress certain demonstrations. We can only hope for a real change in policing practices in Guinea. And more broadly, we hope that the fight against impunity will return to the center of the concerns and priorities of the Guinean government. This is what the new authorities have explained, stating that justice must be the compass of Guineans and the new government. For the moment, we are still waiting to see. There have been announcements about the trials of the September 28, 2009 massacre. For now, unfortunately, nothing has yet moved in a concrete way. So, the stakes and expectations remain the same for the moment in Guinea, regardless of the current government.
The current government is the result of a putsch. But does it differ from other regimes in its respect for human rights?
The coup d’état took place on September 5, 2021. Thereafter, there was obviously a much calmer period than the more eventful last years of the Alpha Conde regime. They were characterized by arbitrary detentions, a large number of people who died in the streets of Conakry as a result of alleged excessive use of force, and a number of seriously injured people who are still in Conakry. Some of them are paraplegics, in wheelchairs. This situation is far from being resolved for the victims of the shooting.
So far, what have seen the creation of the Court of Repression of Economic and Financial Offenses (CRIEF). It has led to a number of arrests. We can only hope that this is done within a legal framework, in full compliance with international standards, and that justice is not used as an instrument.
We also hope that the trial of the September 28, 2009 massacre will finally begin. And from this point of view, it is disappointing for the moment. We also note that, until proven otherwise, demonstrations are still prohibited in Guinea. This remains a concern. It will be necessary to analyze how the COVID-19 pandemic remains an obstacle to the authorization of new demonstrations. And if this situation were to continue, it would be necessary to justify the ban, which could become a source of tension between the government and certain political actors. So, the situation remains quite fragile. It is difficult to see which way the wind will blow, especially after the announcement of the transition timetable. But obviously, Amnesty International, like all Guinean human rights organizations, will maintain the same vigilance with the current government as it has in previous years.