The killings and abuses directed against pro-democracy campaigners in Guinea on September 28 amount to crimes against humanity that junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara could be held responsible for, Human Rights Watch said.
Camara, in hospital in Morocco recovering from a December 3 assassination attempt by a soldier also implicated in the security crackdown, has blamed rogue elements of the military for the incident that drew international condemnation.
A report released yesterday by HRW says the operation was premeditated, adding to pressure on the top bauxite exporter’s military rulers, who lost initial support at home and are being increasingly isolated by the international community.
Based on interviews with 240 people including victims, witnesses, military personnel, medical staff and diplomats HRW describes how the elite Presidential Guard, gendarmes and other security officials surrounded a stadium in Conakry before shooting, beating and raping pro-democracy protestors.
“The evidence gathered by HRW suggests that the killings, rapes and other abuses committed by the security forces on and after September 28 rise to the level of crimes against humanity,” HRW said in its 108-page report.
The New York-based rights group says some 150-200 people were killed, dozens of women were raped and 1400 were injured during the attack.
HRW said the circumstances of many of the killings and abuses, most of which were against peaceful and unarmed protesters, suggested they were carried out with consent or an explcit order coming from the junta, potentially Camara himself.
“Aside from any possible responsibility for giving orders to the troops who carried out the abuses, Dadis Camara is also implicated under the principle of command responsibility for his failure to prevent or prosecute the crimes,” HRW said.
Junta Information Minister Idriss Cherif rejected any early moves to apportion blame, saying Guinea’s government had established a national commission to look into the incident and a United Nations investigation was also being carried out.
“We must wait until they have completed their work.”
Lieutenant Abubakar “Toumba” Diakite, Camara’s former aide-de-camp, told French radio on Wednesday that he had shot Camara because the latter planned to pin the blame for the bloody operation on him.
The September 28 incident, followed by the botched assassination attempt, have further isolated the junta and deepened divisions between the soldiers who seized power in a December 2008 coup after the death of long-serving strongman Lansana Conte.
Initially welcomed by a population eager for change after years of misrule left the mineral-rich nation impoverished, increasingly erratic and abusive behaviour by the junta intensified calls for the military to step down so elections could be held.