Human Rights Watch has urged the government of Guinea to set up a special task force of judges to investigate the deadly crackdown by security forces during last year's protests.
The government’s failure to adequately investigate a dozen alleged killings in 2018 by the security forces and several alleged killings by protesters risks fueling future abuses, HRW said in a statement on Wednesday.
Guinea witnessed violent street protests in 2018 when opposition parties and activists spearheaded demonstrations over disputed local elections, rising fuel prices, and protracted teachers’ strike over pay.
HRW warned that with tensions mounting over whether President Alpha Condé will seek to amend the constitution and run for a third term, further street protests are likely as a baclkash.
"The failure to adequately investigate alleged misconduct by the security forces and violence by demonstrators risks fueling future cycles of political violence,” said Corinne Dufka, HRW's West Africa director.
“The Guinean government should take concrete steps to reverse the longstanding impunity for these kinds of violations. Families and victims deserve nothing less” the HRW official added.
Human Rights Watch said it had interviewed 55 people in January and February 2019 about the conduct of the security forces during protests, violence by demonstrators, and the justice system’s response.
"Witnesses and journalists covering the protests said they were often violent, with large groups of protesters and security forces clashing along main streets of Conakry, the capital. A projectile thrown by a demonstrator killed a gendarme, Mohamed Chérif Soumah, on February 19, 2018. On November 8, protesters in Wanindara fatally stabbed a police officer, Bakary Camara, who had become separated from his unit" HRW reported.
The HRW quoted the leadership of Guinea’s police and gendarmerie as saying that the security forces are only permitted to use non-lethal weapons in responding to protests, such as teargas and water cannons.
But witnesses to eight of the dozen fatal shootings during protests in 2018 alleged that members of the security forces fired automatic weapons while trying to disperse demonstrators or while pursuing them through local neighborhoods, HRW said.