Rights groups condemn police brutality in Guinea election violence

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[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website; press release] and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website; press release] on Tuesday condemned violence by Guinea’s security forces in response to recent opposition demonstrations. Rising tensions amid allegations of fraud and repeated delays leading up to the run-off presidential election erupted in violence last week. Police allegedly fired indiscriminately at unarmed civilians, beat protesters and ransacked homes. AI’s Guinea researcher Gaetan Mootoo lamented, “[t]his ruthless and reckless reaction to the protests is the latest example of violence by Guinea’s security forces, whose brutality habitually goes unpunished.” Separately, HRW called for an investigation into an alleged attack on noted human rights advocate, Dr. Mamadou Aliou Barry, who suffered a broken arm and numerous contusions. Barry, president of the National Observatory for Democracy and Human Rights, was allegedly apprehended and beaten by security forces after attempting to intervene on behalf of young men who were being attacked by gendarmes. HRW senior West Africa researcher Corrinne Dufka called on Guinean security forces to make good on their recent promises to instill more discipline in their ranks. Both candidates have called for calm from their supporters [BBC report]. A new date for the election has yet to be announced.

On Friday, the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed concern that security forces in Guinea “committed serious human rights violations” [JURIST report] in subduing demonstrations. This is the third time the runoff election has been postponed. The first election, scheduled for July 18, was canceled due to allegations of misconduct during balloting [BBC report]. The second election, scheduled for September 19, was canceled amid violence [BBC report] sparked by the election fraud conviction [JURIST report] of two senior election officials. The votes have divided primarily along ethnic lines, with all candidates running on a similar platform of economic expansion and the rule of law. The presidential election is seen as the first free election in Guinea since attaining independence in 1958. In May, the International Criminal Court [official website] sent a delegation from the Office of the Prosecutor [official website] to Guinea to further investigate the killing [JURIST report] of more than 150 pro-democracy protesters in Conakry [BBC backgrounder] in September 2009. The protesters had rallied against Guinean military leader Moussa Dadis Camara [BBC profile], who announced in October that he intended to push elections forward three months and stand for election, breaking a promise not to run made shortly after he took power. An assassination attempt on Camara two months later eventually drove him into exile.

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