Guinean security forces planned the bloody crackdown on opposition protesters in which more than 150 people were killed and countless more wounded, Human Rights Watch said.
The incident on September 28 has drawn broad international condemnation of the ruling military junta led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, with the European Union yesterday saying it would impose an arms embargo.
“Security forces surrounded and blockaded the stadium, then stormed in and fired at protesters in cold blood until they ran out of bullets,” Georgette Gagnon, Africa director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“They carried out grisly gang rapes and murders of women in full sight of the commanders. That’s no accident.”
The United Nations said it was preparing for any and all eventualities in the world’s top bauxite supplier. It also said a deterioration of the situation risks destabilising the region even though there was no evidence to support reports of cross-border recruitment in Sierra Leone or Liberia.
Human Rights Watch said Camara and some of his closest military associates in the National Campaign for Democracy and Development (CNDD) junta should face criminal prosecution for the incident, characterised by rapes and ethnic abuses.
“Witnesses said that many of the killers and rapists made ethnically biased comments during the attacks, insulting and appearing to target the Peuhl, the majority ethnicity of the opposition supporters,” HRW said.
The Presidential Guard, commonly known as the “red berets”, were the main culprits, it said.
“Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed 27 victims of sexual violence, the majority of whom were raped by more than one person. Witnesses described seeing at least four women murdered by members of the Presidential Guard after being raped, including women who were shot or bayoneted in the vagina.”
Camara and the CNDD took control of the West African nation last December after the death of longstanding President Lansana Conte opened a power vacuum.
Even before September 28, initial popular support for the CNDD’s anti-corruption stance had been replaced by dissatisfaction over their unwillingness to commit to stepping away from power, and erratic style of governance.
Expatriate workers at Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG), the worlds biggest single bauxite exporter, have fled Guinea as a result of rising tensions.
After reports of the training and involvement of foreign militia, diplomats fear that any escalation in Guinea might destabilise neighbours Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast, all at various stages in recovering from their own civil wars.
The UN’s office for West Africa said Guinea constituted a “potential threat” and the world body was preparing for all eventualities but had faith a political solution would be found.
Ellen Margrethe Loj, the head of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Liberia, played down reports of the involvement of Liberians in the violence in Guinea.
“None of those reports have been substantiated to this day. We are of course keeping a very, very close eye on what is happening and up until now, we can only notice ordinary trading and traffic,” Loj said.