Guinean soldiers accused of human rights abuses

Guinea’s new military junta must rein in soldiers who have carried out armed robbery, extortion and rape since the new government took power in a December coup, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on Monday.

According to witnesses quoted in the report, heavily armed soldiers haved raided offices, shops, clinics and homes in broad daylight. At night they have stolen cars, computers, cash and jewellery—and threatened judges to try to influence rulings.

Guinean army captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in the world’s biggest bauxite exporter in December after the death of long-standing leader Lansana Conte.

Camara’s National Council for Development and Democracy (CNDD) junta, which vowed to end corruption and restore the rule of law, was broadly welcomed at first but increasingly erratic behaviour by its leaders have fomented concerns of instability.

“The coup seems to have opened up a rash of abuses by the military; the impunity enjoyed by these soldiers must come to an end,” said Corinne Dufka, HRW’s senior West Africa researcher.

“The coup leaders need to bring the rank and file under control, and ensure those responsible for these abuses are promptly investigated and prosecuted,” she said.

HRW said most of the abuses were carried out under the pretext of a crackdown on drug trafficking, counterfeit medicines and corruption. Soldiers targeted neighbours of suspected criminals and Guinean and foreign businessmen.

HRW said military personnel it had interviewed suggested individuals posing as soldiers had carried out the crimes.

Victims said they saw stolen goods on sale in a store just outside the main Alpha Yaha military camp and that army personnel had been seen driving seized vehicles round Conakry.

“I was in my pharmacy when 10 Red Berets burst into the place saying they wanted to check if the medicines in my pharmacy were fake.
They pretended to look at the medicines, but then went straight for the small safe,” said a businessman.

The Guinean said the soldiers stole $10 000, bundled him into a car and then dumped him a few kilometres down the road.

HRW said it had documented the case of a 15-year-old girl being raped by a soldier—and this was the only time the military had responded.

HRW said the soldier responsible was detained for several days and the family dropped the case after the military paid the girl’s medical costs.

“The military’s duty is to protect and safeguard the Guinean people, not take advantage of them. The lawlessness seen in these abuses is without excuse,” said Dufka.

“The military should end the abuses and allow the police, gendarmerie, and judiciary to uphold the rule of law.”—Reuters

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