Guinea has failed to hold security forces accountable for the lethal crackdown on anti-government protests since last year, Amnesty International said yesterday, ahead of this month’s presidential poll.
At least 50 people were killed during protests against Guinean President Alpha Conde from October last year to July, the rights group said in a report.
At least another 70 were arrested over the same period, or held in detention incommunicado, “for only exercising their right to freedom of expression or peaceful assembly and denouncing authoritarian excesses of power,” it added.
The report comes ahead of the Oct. 18 presidential election in Guinea, where Conde is running for a controversial third presidential term.
Mass protests against that possibility began in October last year, but the president defied opposition and pushed through a new constitution in March, allowing him to reset the two-term presidential limit to zero.
Pushback against a Conde third term was met with a violent crackdown, leaving victims reluctant to seek justice for fear of reprisal, according to Amnesty’s 63-page report.
“We spoke to devastated families who described how their children lost their lives, shot in the back, chest, head or neck,” Amnesty International regional director for West and Central Africa Samira Daoud said in a statement.
Based on interviews with more than 100 people, the report also pointed to the military’s involvement in policing the protests, “in violation of national legislation.”
Among other alleged abuses, mortuaries refused to receive the bodies of people killed during protests, resulting in few official reports on demonstration deaths, the report said.
“All these human rights violations went unpunished,” Amnesty said, adding that the government failed to investigate the killings and hold the perpetrators to account.
The Guinean Ministry of Security and Civil Protection, in response to the Amnesty report, said that the non-governmental organization had not presented a “neutral” view of events.
The government had “amply demonstrated its commitment to respect fundamental freedoms,” particularly on behalf of opposition activists, it added.
Protests deaths remain a regular occurrence.
On Wednesday, a young man was shot dead in central Guinea during an anti-government protest, a police officer and a family member of the victim said.
Hopes of a new political dawn flowered when Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010.
Critics say he has increasingly veered toward authoritarianism in his second term.
Amnesty urged Guinea to end impunity for its security forces, and to cover the medical costs for injured protesters.
It also called on the international community to “continue to denounce these human rights violations and remind Guinea of its international obligations.”
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