Amnesty International Calls For Guinea Officials To Investigate Prison Deaths

Human Rights group Amnesty International published an article on 2 February calling on officials in Guinea to investigate the deaths of four individuals being held in detention in the Guinean capital, Conakry. These deaths come after the country’s president Alpha Condé controversially won the October 2020 election, sparking protests and violence that led to at least 30 deaths, as reported by the BBC. The election marked the beginning of 82-year-old Condé’s third term in office, which would prove to be a point of contention given a previous two-term limit on the presidency. Condé has said that his re-election is legal, made possible by a referendum held in March which approved changes in the constitution that exclude all previous terms served from the counting toward the two-term limit.

Condé’s political opposition, including his presidential rival Cellou Dalein Diallo, dispute both the legality of his running for a third term as well as the election results themselves, which they claim were fraudulent. The election has also brought out ethnic tensions in Guinea, as Condé is a member of the Malinke ethnic group whereas Diallo is part of the Peul ethnic group, which make up 35% and 40% of the population respectively.

Amnesty International reports protests that occurred in March in response to the controversial constitutional referendum that enabled Condé to run for a third term resulted in widespread arrests of opposition party members. Their sources indicate that around 400 individuals are now in detention across the country. Since December, four of these have died whilst in detention, three of which were supporters of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), led by Cellou Dalein Diallo. These deaths, as well as witness testimonies that Amnesty International has received, point to severely inadequate conditions in prisons that fail to meet minimum international standards.

In their reports, Amnesty International cites a lack of doctors as an example of the poor conditions, with only one doctor responsible for almost 2,000 inmates. In a statement, the Amnesty International West Africa researcher Fabien Offner said, “These people died while being held in prisons that are notorious for squalid, abusive conditions that often result in death, where the international rules of law on the treatment of detainees are ignored. By refusing to thoroughly investigate these deaths and authorizing the release or hospitalization of sick detainees only when their cases are desperate, the authorities show a deep contempt for human life. The Guinean authorities must shed light on the circumstances of these deaths in detention and urgently improve conditions of detention.”

Both the poor conditions of care in prisons as well as the legitimacy of the reasons cited for the arrest of these opposition members are under question in this case. Amnesty International is calling for arrests to end as well as for the release of individuals like Oumar Sylla, an executive of the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), another opposition alliance. Sylla has been sentenced to 11 months in prison for “participating in a prohibited assembly likely to disturb public order,” Amnesty International have labelled his detention as “arbitrary” and are therefore calling for his immediate release.

Fabien Offner said, “The Guinean authorities must also immediately and unconditionally release all those arrested and detained for simply exercising their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.” The Organization for World Peace will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds.

Clara Baltay