Camp Boiro Memorial

Amnesty International
Annual Report - 1984

Amnesty International's main concerns were the detention without trial of suspected political opponents of the govern meet, the government's continued failure to account for a large number of political detainees who "disappeared" from custody in previous years, the torture of detainees and harsh prison conditions.
There were many reports in 1983 of detentions for political reasons but Amnesty International was often unable to verify them or to estimate the number of political detainees held at any given time because of the high level of official censorship affecting all communication between Guinea and the outside world and official secrecy regarding detentions. On the basis of information received in 1983, it appeared that Camp Boiro in Conakry, the main detention centre, contained an average of about 200 political detainees over recent years although this figure was occasionally temporarily increased by several hundred. Most detainees were apparently held for several months and then released or moved to another prison. Political detainees were also reportedly held during the year at the Alpha Yaya and Samory Toure military camps in Conakry and at several police stations in the capital, at Camp Keme Boureima in Kindia, and in police stations or prisons in at least seven other major towns. Reliable estimates for the number of political detainees held in these locations were not available. Exiled opposition sources provided estimates of the total number of political detainees which varied from several hundred to several thousand, but the accuracy of these claims was difficult to assess.
Many people were detained for openly expressing some form of dissent, however minor, from directives by local officials of the only authorized political party, the Parti Démocratique de Guinée, the Guinean Democratic Party, or for criticizing some aspect of party policy. Others were reportedly detained for participating in student protests against obligatory agricultural work or because they were suspected by the authorities of attempting to leave Guinea without official permission. Many others appeared to have been arrested because they were suspected of having been connected with a grenade explosion at the Palais du peuple, People's Palace, in May 1980 or attempted sabotage at Conakry airport in February 1981.
None of those who were known to have been detained for political reasons in 1983 were believed to have been charged or tried by the court, arrests and subsequent detentions were often ordered by minor party officials or local administrators without reference to any superior authority, and the constitutional and legal safeguards which exist in Guinea to protect citizens against arbitrary arrest were inoperative. The 48-hour legal limit on garde-à-vue (police custody) and the 72-hour limit on preventive detention apparently were not respected by the authorities when arrests were made for political reasons. Political detainees received no protection from the judicial structure, which appeared to have no power to intervene in such cases. Detainees were often interrogated first by members of the milice (militia) or of the police, and then by political officials. In 1983, as in previous years, detainees branded as "counter-revolutionaries" or as members of the "fifth column" were usually transferred to Camp Boiro in Conakry and interrogated by the Comité révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Committee), a body which consisted of senior political officials and relatives of President Ahmed Sekou Toure and had sweeping powers of arrest and detention. The Comité révolutionnaire was believed by Amnesty International to make use of coercion and duress including torture to extract "confessions" from political detainees.
Amnesty International continued to investigate the case of Bah Mahmoud, a food technology engineer who had been detained without trial since August 1979 in connection with an alleged plot to destroy public buildings with explosives. At least 10 other people arrested at the same time as Bah Mahmoud are believed to have been extrajudicially executed by the authorities shortly after they were taken into custody, by means of the diète noire, "black diet" (total deprivation of food and water). Investigations were also made by Amnesty International into the case of Barry Mouctar, who was repatriated forcibly and extrajudicially from the Ivory Coast in April 1981. He was detained on arrival at Conakry and taken to Camp Boiro, where he was apparently interrogated in connection with the May 1980 grenade explosion. He reportedly continued to be held there without trial in 1983. Amnesty International made further inquiries in 1983 about two other Guineans, Cheik Mohamed Kone and Jack Soumah, who were forcibly and apparently unlawfully repatriated from Liberia in November 1981, where they had reportedly been linked to an exiled opposition grouping Both were reportedly held in Camp Boiro.
The authorities continued to withhold information on the fate of some 2,900 political detainees who were arrested between 1969 and 1976 and reportedly "disappeared" in prison. Among the detainees were many former government ministers and senior civil servants, army officers, teachers, lawyers and medical personnel who were arrested in a series of purges and accused of "counter-revolutionary" or "fifth column" offences. Many of them were killed in prison, often by means of the "black diet", or died as a result of malnutrition and disease. Amnesty International sent appeals to the authorities throughout the year to end their policy of secrecy regarding political detainees and to supply information on the fate of 78 named "disappeared" detainees. In December 1981, at the time of an Amnesty International mission to Guinea, the authorities had agreed to provide information on the fate of those individuals, but they failed to do so in either 1982 or 1983.
There were eye-witness reports that torture and other forms of ill-treatment were regularly being used in many military camps, prisons and police stations as a means of intimidating individuals taken into custody and of extracting "confessions" from them. Beatings appeared to be administered as a matter of routine against newly arrested detainees suspected of either criminal or political offences, often with several guards using rifle butts, sticks or truncheons. In many cases, suspects were bound tightly with rope or metal wire, a practice which often resulted in temporary paralysis. Many suspects were denied food and water for several days in order to weaken them and to facilitate the extraction of confessions. Individuals arrested on suspicion of serious political offences were usually held at Camp Boiro or at Camp Keme Boureima in Kindia. In both these camps victims were regularly beaten and deprived of food and water, burned with cigarettes and had electric shocks applied to the head, limbs and genitals. Standards of sanitation, nutrition and medical care remained unacceptably low. Most detainees were believed to be held in small, poorly ventilated cells and to be deprived of exercise. Conditions in the tête de mort ("death's head") quarter at Camp Boiro were described as particularly cruel with detainees held in grossly overcrowded and absolutely dark cells. All political detainees in Guinea were believed to be held incommunicado.