September 28th Massacre: 8th Commemoration, No Trial!

On September 28, Guineans will commemorate the 8thanniversary of the killings and rape that took place during a peaceful rally at the Conakry stadium. These atrocities, declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations, have left victims to date still pleading for justice. AVIPA, the Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of 28 September, 2009, will commemorate the massacre by performing a skit retracing the September 28 massacre and prayers in memory of the victims.

On September 28, 2009, security forces stormed into the stadium during an opposition rally killing 157 civilians, raping over 100 women and wounding several hundred with dozens reported missing according to a UN report. The massacre has been widely condemned across the world, with calls for a full investigation and the prosecution of the presumed perpetrators.

In Guinea’s capital, Conakry, family members cry after identifying the body of a relative killed on September 28, 2009, when security forces fired on opposition supporters as they marched to and later held a rally in the September 28 Stadium. The body of their relative was one of 57 dead displayed at the Grand Fayçal Mosque on October 2, 2009. © 2009 Reuters

Despite the indictment of 14 officers including the former head of the military junta Captain Moussa Dadis Camara and the extradition of Camara’s former Aide, Aboubacar Diakite by Senegalese authorities in March 2017, a trial date is yet to be set. Cheick Sako, the Minister of Justice, recently announced that investigations will be concluded before September 28, 2017 to enable the trial to start before the end of the year. However this seems to be mere rhetoric that the victims are familiar with and they continue to express doubt over his sincerity. The same promises have been made year after year and the trial seems to have fallen out of Government’s urgent priorities. For them, a credible alternative is the international Criminal Court (ICC) or the ECOWAS Court of Justice. The ICC Prosecutor has visited Conakry a couple of times and met the victims, human rights organizations, and the Minister of Justice.

Moreover, authorities have shown a blatant disregard for the victims’ call to relieve indicted persons from official duty. An indicted officer remains the head of the State’s Anti-Crimes Unit and last year, another indicted officer was appointed governor of Conakry. The presence of these officials in the state apparatus could enhance the judges’ bias and partiality but also contribute to silencing the victims with fear.

Nevertheless, some of the significant developments include the appointment of a panel of judges by Guinean authorities to investigate the crimes, while the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a preliminary investigation and is following the matter very closely. In addition, last month President Conde’s Personal Advisor Tibou Kamara was summoned to give testimony as a key witness. However, Dadis Camara’s prolonged exile in Ouagadougou and the challenge of getting a testimony from Guinea’s former Interim President Sekouba Konate could delay bringing the alleged perpetrators of the September 28 massacre to justice.

For some observers, the political struggles over electoral processes between the ruling coalition and opposition has overshadowed the investigation process and calls for rapidly holding the trial.   Since 2010, Guinea has been going through a cycle of elections, street protests and unending political dialogue which has become a major global focus. There is a risk that the deteriorating political climate over local elections could overshadow this year’s commemoration of the September 28 massacre. The opposition has announced series of protests over the delayed local elections to take place starting September 20th.

Asmao Diallo, President of AVIPA

Asmao Diallo, President of AVIPA (Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of 28 September, 2009) outside the Stade du 28 Septembre. © Jeune Afrique

To help bring alleged perpetrators of the September 28 crimes to account for their actions, OSIWA is supporting the victim’s association AVIPA to file a lawsuit against presumed perpetrators to the ECOWAS Court of Justice. In addition, the grant also includes the production of a documentary and institutional support to enhance AVIPA’s operational capacity ahead of the trial. AVIPA’s President, Asmaou Diallo and Victims’ Lawyer, Hamidou Barry met judges at the ECOWAS Court of Justice and Nigerian human rights organizations in February 2017, sending a strong message to the Guinean government that if the alleged perpetrators are not brought to court, AVIPA will take the case to the ECOWAS Court of Justice.

This year again, AVIPA will seize this opportunity to urge the Guinean authorities to bring alleged perpetrators of the September 28 crimes to court. For the victims and their families, September 28th will be a flashback to the horrors endured 8 years ago, as they continue to mourn their loved ones while contemplating if justice will ever be rendered. As Guinea marches towards national reconciliation, holding the trial now will send a strong signal to ending impunity.

The trial must start before the end of 2017 as the Guinean Presidential and Parliamentary election season begins in 2018 through to 2020. Holding such a very sensitive trial in such a tense political climate could threaten Guinea’s stability. Guinean authorities should ensure that the trial is fair and that the court’s independence and the rights of accused persons are respected. This is a critical time for Guinea and would test the country’s justice system. A fair trial will usher in a new era where impunity has no place and human rights are respected.

By Abdoul Rahamane Diallo, OSIWA’s Guinea Program Coordinator

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