By Melanie Nathan, Oct 7, 222
Thirteen years ago, Guinea’s security forces stormed a stadium filled with tens of thousands of peaceful protesters. More than 150 people were slaughtered, bodies strewn across the field. Scores of women were raped. Now, a long-delayed effort to bring the perpetrators of the massacre to justice is finally underway. When the trial opened roughly a week ago, exactly 13 years after the massacre, surviving witnesses and their families waited in a long line to enter the courthouse where those accused of committing the atrocities, including former President Moussa Dadis Camara and other government officials, would be standing trial.
It was mostly women in the packed courtroom’s second-floor victim observation area; mothers of the dead and survivors of the sexual assaults among them. The mood was one of anticipation.
On September 28, 2009, thousands of people gathered peacefully in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, to protest the intention of Camara, then a military leader, to run for president. Shortly before noon, security forces opened fire into the crowd. Witnesses described to Human Rights Watch how bodies were strewn across the field, crushed against gates, draped over walls, and piled outside locker rooms.
Documenting 'Bloody Monday'
Shortly after the attack, a team of HRW experts arrived in Guinea. After speaking with hundreds of victims and witnesses, the team produced a seminal report on the crimes, Bloody Monday.
The team documented the killings and investigated how scores of bodies were removed from hospital morgues and buried in mass graves in a government cover-up. They interviewed dozens of rape survivors and witnesses to sexual assault, documenting how more than 100 women were raped in the stadium, with several women murdered after the assault. For days after the massacre, security forces raped, murdered, and pillaged in neighborhoods where opposition supporters lived.
Many obstacles kept justice out of reach until the government finally opened its own investigation and handed down indictments. It took a few more years of concerted pressure before the suspected perpetrators – including Camara – would face their victims in court.
For victims and those who have worked for years to get here, the occasion is momentous. All eyes are now on Guinea-Conakry and its justice system. The same system that continues to criminalize SOGIESC.
From Melanie Nathan, a country conditions expert witness for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers from African countries, on conditions Guinea-Conakry: Guinea-Conakry is a country that is still fraught with serious human rights infractions. LGBTQI+ people are particularly vulnerable under such circumstances.
It is a coastal country in West Africa distinguished from Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea. Today it can be described as a Unitary Republic under a military junta. In 1849, the French claimed the area as a protectorate. First called Rivières du Sud, the protectorate was renamed French Guinea. In 1895, it became part of French West Africa. French-Guinea received independence from France in 1958.
Over 30 out of the 54 African countries criminalize homosexuality, mostly introduced through Colonial-era penal codes, and some countries through amendments and post-Colonial legislation.
Information about Guinea-Conakry is scant for several reasons. Due to the extreme nature of taboo, ostracization and the impact of criminalization, giving license to discrimination and violence at the hands of state and non-state actors, LGBTI people are forced to hide their sexuality, do not report crimes to authorities and avoid medical attention for fear of being outed.
In Guinea-Conakry, a predominantly Muslim country, same-sex sexual acts by male and females is criminal and the rights of LGBTI people are severely oppressed. According to the Annual Report on State-Sponsored Homophobia by ILGA, 2020: “Per Article 274 of the Penal Code (2016), any “indecent or unnatural acts committed with an individual of the same sex” is punishable by a prison sentence of 6 months to 3 years and/or a fine of 500 000 to 1 000 000 Francs. Additionally, Article 275 criminalizes public outrages of modesty with up to 2 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Enforcement: Several arrests for alleged “homosexuality” and for “promoting homosexuality” have taken place in the country over the past few years, especially in the Conakry area.”
At AHRC we deal with people from the country seeking ways to flee the country. There is nowhere to turn in a country when both state and non state persecutors operate under license of criminalizing laws.
According to the Afrobaromètre March 2016 survey conducted from 2014 to 2015 on tolerance in Africa, that Guinea-Conakry is among the most intolerant countries towards homosexuals of all the countries consulted. In that survey, conducted through in-person interviews with 1,200 to 2,400 respondents who represented a national representative sample and who ensured a 95 percent confidence level, 94 percent of the Guineans consulted responded that they [translation] "strongly hate" homosexuals and 3 percent of them stated that they "would strongly like" or "somewhat like" to have homosexual neighbors. Country Conditions information can be obtained via info@AfricanHRC.org