Covering events from January-December 2001

Republic of Guinea
Head of state: Lansana Conté
Head of government: Lamine Sidimé
Capital: Conakry
Population: 8.3 million
Official language: French
Death penalty: retentionist

Hundreds of refugees and internally displaced Guinean civilians were killed, beaten, raped and abducted in attacks on refugee camps by armed political groups. Refugees were also extrajudicially executed, arrested and tortured by the Guinean security forces. After more than 17 years without executions, at least seven people were executed and 22 others were sentenced to death. Prisoners of conscience were released, including one opposition leader.


Armed clashes between the security forces and armed groups from neighbouring countries, which had intensified from September 2000, decreased after April.

A new Constitution was approved after a referendum in November which was boycotted by the opposition. It removed the limitation of a presidential mandate to two terms in office, which will allow President Conté, who came to power in a coup in 1984, to stand for re-election. The new Constitution extended the presidential term from five to seven years. It also lifted an age limit of 70 for presidential candidates, which would have barred President Conté from standing for re-election when his term expires in 2003.

Legislative elections, postponed from June 1999 and due to be held in December, were again postponed. The government said that this was to allow further consultation with political parties.

Attacks on refugees

Following an upsurge of violence against Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in Guinea in September 2000, hundreds were killed, beaten, raped and abducted in early 2001 in continued attacks on refugee camps, as well as on refugees living in rural areas and towns. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and Guineans remained displaced within the country in the early months of the year. Most refugees were subsequently relocated to new camps.

Abuses by armed political groups

Alleged perpetrators of abuses were armed political groups, including the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) from Sierra Leone and others from Guinea and Liberia.

  • On 9 March RUF forces and other armed political groups attacked refugee camps in the Nongoa area, about 30km from Guékédou. Nabie Sillah was shot and killed after he fled with his wife and baby from the attack. His family survived.
  • Mabinte Bangura fled from Koundo Lengo Bengo Camp with nine children following the attacks in Nongoa. An unidentified armed group severely beat her 17-year-old son, Sorie Bangura, and abducted her 15-year-old daughter, Salaymatu Bangura.
Violations by government forces

Refugees were killed, tortured and arbitrarily detained by Guinean soldiers, the local Guinean civilian population and Guinean civil defence groups, apparently in an effort to drive them out of the country. Many refugees detained at military checkpoints were forced to pay bribes to gain their freedom.
  • On 11 March, in the aftermath of the attacks on refugee camps in Nongoa, medical worker Fayia Johnson was accused of being a member of the RUF. Soldiers arrested him and took him to Nongoa prison. The following day his family received a message that the body should be retrieved, and found him on the ground outside the prison with his throat cut.
Abuses against civilians

In sporadic attacks on villages and towns by armed political groups from Sierra Leone and Liberia in the early part of the year, particularly in southern Guinea, an unknown number of civilians were reported to have been killed, raped, beaten and abducted. Many areas were occupied by armed political groups or were the sites of protracted fighting between various forces. Thousands of villagers lost their property and belongings, which were looted or destroyed.

Excessive use of force

Shortly before the constitutional referendum, the security forces routinely used excessive force against peaceful demonstrators. Leaders of opposition parties were briefly detained, and tear gas was used to disperse protesters in Conakry. In November demonstrators were reportedly arrested and beaten in the northeastern town of Kankan.

In December, three people were reportedly shot and several injured when the security forces fired on students protesting about study conditions in Koundara in the northwest and Mali in the north. A legal complaint was filed against a police officer who allegedly ordered the beating of photographer Mamadou Cellou Diallo during a strike by students in Conakry in December.

Release of prisoners of conscience

Three prisoners of conscience – Alpha Condé, an opposition leader, and two others – were released from prison in May after being granted a presidential pardon. They had been sentenced to prison terms after their conviction in September 2000, with seven others, on charges of threatening the security of the state. Their trial before the State Security Court did not meet international standards for fair trial. Alpha Condé was officially banned from all political activity in Guinea because of his criminal record.

Death penalty

Executions resumed for the first time since 1984. Four people were executed in February and three others in April. Twenty-two people were sentenced to death in July. They had been convicted of murder after 33 people died in clashes over a land dispute in Konissérédou in April 2000.

International initiatives

The international community was slow to react to the deteriorating situation in Guinea or to protect civilians from widespread human rights abuses. In particular, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Guinea was not provided with the financial or political support necessary to effectively implement its protection mandate. The UNHCR and other agencies struggled to arrange the transfer of refugees from volatile border areas to safer locations. The report in March of a UN inter-agency mission of representatives from 13 UN departments and agencies, including the UNHCR and the World Food Programme, noted insecurity, instability and a potential for further deterioration of the situation in the region.

AI country reports/visits

  • West Africa: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – A human rights crisis for refugees and the internally displaced (AI Index: AFR 05/005/2001)
  • West Africa: Guinea and Sierra Leone – No place of refuge (AI Index: AFR 05/006/2001)

AI delegates visited Guinea in February and March to interview refugees and internally displaced people. They also met the Minister of Territorial Administration.

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