“France must call for the release of militants arbitrarily detained in Guinea”

Police clash with protesters in Conakry on October 23, 2020. JOHN WESSELS / AFP

Tribune. Since 2019 and the announcement of a constitutional reform that allowed President Alpha Condé to run for a third term, our organizations have continued to denounce the degradation of human rights in Guinea. Faced with this situation, the lack of a strong reaction from the international community, in particular from France and the European Union (EU), was received by Conakry as a carte blanche given to the repetition of violations. The appeal launched at the end of January by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to “Shed all the light” on the situation of opponents in prison, has also remained a dead letter.

Before and during the holding of the constitutional referendum and the legislative elections of March 22, 2020, a brutal repression fell on the country. Demonstrations have been abusively banned. Security forces fired live ammunition at protesters, killing and injuring dozens. Political activists, including the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), and members of civil society have been arbitrarily arrested.

Read also In Guinea, a journalist fined for “insulting” President Condé and released

Hate speech by political candidates and clashes between government and opposition supporters also rekindled ethnic tensions, spawning intercommunal violence in the town of Nzérékoré. The vast majority of complaints filed by relatives of people injured or killed during protests have not resulted in legal proceedings. Many families have not dared to do so, for fear of reprisals, lack of resources or lack of confidence in the authorities.

Overcrowded prisons

The disputed presidential poll on October 18, 2020 also took place against a backdrop of serious human rights violations. Our organizations have recorded at least sixteen people shot dead between October 18 and 24, not to mention the many injured. Internet connections and telephone connections have been disrupted or cut. While some demonstrators engaged in violence, as alleged by the government in a report on the events, this cannot justify the bloody crackdown on the movement.

Our organizations have collected testimonies from victims and their families and documented their stories, in order to challenge the Guinean authorities, alert Guinea’s partners, and raise public awareness. But that did not end the abuse. After the election, the authorities tracked down opponents and members of civil society. Several hundred people were arrested. Today, opposition figures and activists – including members of some of our organizations – are being held in inhumane conditions of detention. In overcrowded prisons, access to health care is virtually impossible.

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