Guinea—under ICC preliminary examination—should strengthen its judiciary and pass laws for greater cooperation with the Court, the Coalition’s Africa coordinator Francis Dako reports following a recent visit to the West African country.
Calls for justice following stadium massacre
The ICC prosecutor has been assessing whether to open a full investigation into crimes allegedly committed during bouts of post-election violence in 2009.
Under examination in particular is a massacre that took place in and around a stadium in the capital city of Conakry on 28 September 2009.
On that day, Guineans gathered to protest the rule of Captain Moussa Tiegboro Camara, who took power in a bloodless coup in December 2008. He had broken a promise not to run in the 2010 presidential election.
According to human rights groups, as well as the United Nations, Guinean troops allegedly opened fire on the crowds killing 157 and injuring hundreds more.
Witnesses stated that troops also physically and sexually assaulted protesters, many of whom were also arrested.
The Guinean government has made some progress in prosecuting those allegedly responsible for violence. In May 2013 a Guinean gendarme was charged with rape.
However, much work remains to combat impunity.
At what stage is the ICC preliminary examination?
During a preliminary examination, the prosecutor determines whether or not a situation meets the Rome Statute’s legal criteria to warrant a full investigation.
Guinea is in the “admissibility assessment” phase of the prosecutor’s examination.
This means that the prosecutor determines whether the alleged crimes in question are grave enough to warrant ICC involvement and whether the state government is conducting its own investigations.
The admissibility assessment is the third of four phases. If the prosecutor decides that the alleged crimes committed in Guinea are admissible, she must then decide whether moving forward with a full investigation serves the interests of justice.
Government needs to support justice
During his visit in March, Dako spoke with a wide range of stakeholders, including government officials, judges and parliamentarians, many of whom were found to be deeply committed to and interested in ICC issues.
He urged the government to strengthen its capacity to prosecute the post-election violence cases, stressing it should address its lack of resources to investigate alleged crimes, ensure the security of judges and create stronger, more effective witness protection programs.
Also on the agenda were Guinea’s progress towards acceding to the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Court and legislation enabling greater cooperation with the ICC.
Civil society leading the way
Local and international civil society groups have already had a real impact in Guinea.
The International Federation for Human Rights, the Organisation guinéenne de défense des droits de l’Homme and other groups were successful in pushing for the indictment of the head of the president’s security service for his alleged role in the 28 September massacre.
Dako exchanged views with local groups on the role they can play in shaping government policies towards the ICC.
He emphasized the need for NGOs bring the ICC into the national debate and to mobilize and mount consistent pressure on state officials to pass legislation facilitating improved cooperation with the ICC.
Such legislation would empower local courts to exercise their primary jurisdiction over the alleged crimes committed in Guinea.
Victims want justice
Victims of the post-election violence made it clear that they are most intent on pursuing justice.
More than anything, they said that they want an end to the impunity surrounding the events of 28 September 2009.
With our support, the Guinean National Coalition for the ICC will continue working to end impunity and work towards justice in the country.
Read an interview (in French) with Francis Dako on his visit to Guinea