Report: UN investigators believe Guinea massacre was ‘crime against humanity’

By Edith M. Lederer, AP
Monday, December 21, 2009

Report: Guinea massacre ‘crime against humanity’

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. investigators say there is sufficient reason to believe that Guinea’s wounded junta leader is directly responsible for the mass killings and rapes of protesters in September, which they consider crimes against humanity, a U.N. diplomat said Monday.

The U.N. investigators also concluded that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that junta leader Capt. Moussa ‘Dadis’ Camara, the army officer who shot him in a dispute Dec. 3, and Guinea’s anti-drug chief bear “individual criminal responsibility” for the events of Sept. 28 and the following days, the diplomat said.

The 60-page report, in French, was transmitted to the U.N. Security Council, Guinea’s government, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States this weekend. Its contents were first reported by Le Monde, the French daily newspaper.

On Sept. 28, soldiers loyal to Camara sealed off the exits to the national soccer stadium where tens of thousands of protesters had gathered to demand an end to military rule. Troops entered and fired their assault rifles, spraying bullets into the unarmed crowd, survivors have said.

The three-member U.N. commission, which interviewed 700 people to reach its findings, recommended that the International Criminal Court investigate those believed responsible for the killings, the Security Council diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public.

The report said 156 people were killed or disappeared on Sept. 28 — 67 whose bodies have been returned to their families, 40 seen to be dead but whose bodies have disappeared, and 49 others who are missing and whose fate is unknown, the diplomat said.

The commission said at least 109 women or girls were victims of rape and sexual mutilation, others suffered “cruel and degrading treatment,” and dozens of people were arrested or arbitrarily detained in military camps, according to the diplomat.

The junta has insisted that only 57 people were killed and has denied all acts of rape or sexual violence.

The commission believes the authorities have been trying to erase the traces of all these violations and therefore believes the number of victims is much higher, the diplomat said.

It concluded that “there is sufficient reason to presume the direct criminal responsibility of president Moussa Dadis Camara” in the attack and violence the following day, the diplomat said.

Adding to the West African nation’s turmoil since the September massacre, the state of Camara’s health has been a mystery since he was shot at by his own presidential guard this month and airlifted to a Moroccan military hospital. Guinea’s vice president is now coordinating the government’s activities.

In Guinea, Frederic Kolie, a Cabinet minister and a spokesman for the military junta, said authorities did not yet have the report and had no immediate response.

The report singled out the junta leader, Lt. Abubakar “Toumba” Diakite, the man who shot him and has been in hiding since Dec. 3, and the anti-drug chief, Cmdr. Moussa Thegboro Camara, saying there are reasonable ground to suspect them of individual criminal responsibility in the Sept. 28 events, the diplomat said.

It said a judicial inquiry should examine the role and exact level of involvement of Minister of Presidential Security Capt. Claude Pivi and Minister of Health Col. Abdulaye Cherif Diaby, the diplomat said.

As well as these individuals, the commission said it has evidence of others suspected of involvement in the killings, the diplomat said.

The U.N. commission said it is “reasonable to conclude” that the violence constituted crimes against humanity, the diplomat said. That was the same conclusion reached by Human Rights Watch, which also carried out an on-the-ground investigation.

According to Le Monde, there were “indications of a premeditated intention” to kill as many people as possible.

Soldiers used real bullets, gave no warning, “fired until the bullets ran out and targeted parts of the body where vital organs are located,” the paper said, and “women were raped with objects, including bayonets, sticks, pieces of metal and clubs.”

The commission recommended that the Security Council keep the issue on its agenda and that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights establish an office in Guinea, the diplomat said.

It also called for reform of Guinea’s army and judicial system, establishment of a Truth Commission in the country to look into the events of Sept. 28, reparations for victims and sanctions against the perpetrators, the diplomat said. It also called on the government to provide information about the missing to their families.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who established the commission, reminded the government “of its obligation to protect victims and witnesses, including those who cooperated with the commission,” a statement from his office said Saturday.

Ban also urged Guinea’s government “to seize this opportunity to break definitively with the violence that characterized the tragic events” of Sept. 28.

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