The former head of the Guinean military junta, Moussa Dadis Camara, and ten former collaborators appeared in court for the first time in a Conakry court at the start of the trial over the massacre of protesters at a stadium on September 28, 2009.
The long-awaited day finally arrived in Guinea on Wednesday.
The trial of the September 28 massacre opened in the afternoon of Wednesday, September 28 in the new court of the capital, built specially for this historic event in the West African country.
But as soon as it began, the hearing was postponed to 4 October over questions of form.
The eleven defendants accused of the deadly violence committed at the Conakry stadium thirteen years ago were all present in the packed courtroom.
The main defendant in this case, former President Moussa Dadis Camara, freshly returned from exile in Burkina Faso, was placed in pre-trial detention on Tuesday with his ten co-accused, most of whom are former strongmen of his regime.
Like his former aide-de-camp Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité, known as "Toumba", the former head of presidential security Claude Pivi, the former Minister of Health Abdoulaye Cherif Diaby, or Moussa Tiegboro Camara who was responsible for the fight against drug trafficking.
They are allegedly responsible for the deaths of 156 people, the rape of at least 109 women and the injury of hundreds, according to a UN-mandated investigation.
Victims and their relatives had been demanding a trial of those responsible for years.
This long-standing demand was made by the current head of the Guinean military junta, Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya, who also came to power in a coup on 5 September 2021 after eleven years of civilian rule by Alpha Conde.
He had requested in July that the trial take place this year before the anniversary of the massacre.
At the opening of the hearing, the court read out the order of reference, which recalls in detail the violence committed on September 28, 2009: the murders by firearms and knives of peaceful demonstrators, rapes, abductions, torture, the refusal to provide care to the wounded.
In the room, the silence was heavy.
In front of the civil parties and dozens of television cameras, the defendants are called one after the other to the stand to state their identity.
When it was Moussa Dadis Camara's turn, several dozen people in the audience spontaneously stood up as one man to watch him.
Dressed in a traditional white outfit, the accused stood up and walked slowly towards the varnished wooden courtroom.
He answers in a small voice to state his identity, his address, his profession etc.
The president reminds him of the facts that he has committed.
The president reminded him of the facts of which he was accused: assault, injury and voluntary violence at the stadium, looting of merchandise, burning of shops, kidnapping, torture, sequestration of demonstrators, etc.
The former leader remained unfazed at least in appearance.
The lawyers of the accused denounced the media coverage of the hearing in the name of respect for the presumption of innocence.
But the court rejected their request and authorised the presence of cameras in the courtroom to feed the collective memory.
On the eve of the trial, the human rights organisation Amnesty International presented a report calling for better care for rape victims in Guinea and the “urgent adoption of a general law on gender-based violence.”