Camp Boiro Memorial

Amnesty International
Annual Report on Human Rights - 1985

Major political changes affecting human rights followed the death in late March of President President Toure. Under his administration, Amnesty International had been concerned about the detention without trial of large numbers of suspected critics of the government, many of whom "disappeared" or were tortured or killed in detention. Following his death, the armed forces took power and immediately started a process of reform which was still continuing at the end of 1984. Political prisoners were released, restructuring and reform of the judiciary began, and an official inquiry was established into the fate of some thousands of prisoners who "disappeared" in detention during President Sekou Toure's long rule. An Amnesty International mission visited the country in October to assess these changes.

The armed forces seized power on 3 April and formed a government known as the Comité militaire de redressement national (CMRN), Military Committee for National Redress, and suspended the constitution. They also disbanded the National Assembly and dissolved the country's sole political party, the Parti démocratique de Ouinée (PDG), Democratic Party of Guinea and all the political structures and organizations which it had controlled. In its first public statements the new government declared that it would give priority to the protection of internationally recognized human rights and would seek to guarantee freedom of expression, movement and trade union activity. It also stated that the thousands of political prisoners who had "disappeared", died or been killed in prison were "martyrs" who had "lost their lives simply because they wanted to express their opinions on the country's future" and that they "would be rehabilitated". An official inquiry was subsequently established to investigate the fate of these prisoners and to look into the numerous cases in which the property of political detainees and their families had been confiscated.

The new government immediately released all political detainees. At least 200 were reportedly released on 3 April from the main detention centre, Camp Boiro, in the capital, Conakry. Some had apparently been detained on suspicion of complicity in various alleged plots against the government. Others had been detained for several years apparently because they were relatives or friends of alleged opponents of President Sekou Toure's government. As Amnesty International had previously reported, political detainees in Guinea had usually been held without charge or reference to any independent judicial authority. Many of them had their cases investigated by the Comité révolutionnaire, Revolutionary Committee, a body made up of senior political officials and relatives of the President, which met in closed session at Camp Boiro and often had detainees tortured to extract confessions. Released prisoners confirmed that various methods of torture were systematically used: electric shocks, beatings, burning with cigarettes, and the so-called diète, "diet" -- deprivation of food or water for days at a time.

Some 40 government ministers, senior PDG officials and relatives of the late President, including members of his immediate family, were arrested when the armed forces took power. Some of them had been members of the Revolutionary Committee. At least 15 soldiers accused by the new government of attempting to organize a counter coup shortly after 3 April were also detained. The CMRN said that they would all be tried in public and that leading members of the former administration would be charged with corruption, embezzlement and other economic offences. Later, however, they said that some would also face charges of murder and other offences relating to human rights violations. The new President, Colonel Lansana Conte, and various government ministers all said during 1984 that these cases would not result in the death penalty.

In mid-June major reforms of the judiciary were announced following a week-long Conférence nationale de la justice, National Conference on Justice. Tribunals created under the previous administration, over which PDG officials had presided, were abolished and their jurisdiction over civil and some criminal matters was transferred to newly created local courts and justices of the peace. The Supreme Revolutionary Tribunal, a court composed of members of the National Assembly with jurisdiction to try political cases, was also abolished. Its powers were transferred to the Haute cour de justice, High Court of Justice, a court which had not functioned in President Sekou Toure's time. A new Supreme Court was also established and the responsibility for the administration of prisons was returned from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Justice.

More than 200 people were arrested in September after violent protests at Kamsar following the death in police custody of Kerfalla Cisse, a criminal suspect. In mid October, 16 of those arrested were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to five years and the remainder were fined and released. Four police officers were reported to have been charged in connection with Kerfalla Cisse's death.

In early October an Amnesty International delegation visited Guinea to assess developments, seek information about those who had "disappeared" in prison' and inquire into the needs of former prisoners, particularly those requiring medical treatment. Meetings were held with President Lansana Conte, the Prime Minister and other senior government and judicial officials, including members of the Commission rationale d'enquête, National Commission of Inquiry, established to investigate the cases of "disappeared" prisoners. President Conte reaffirmed the government's commitment to human rights and its opposition to torture, and stated that he would not wish to see the death penalty imposed in any of the cases against former government officials.

Amnesty International's delegates also met representatives of a newly formed Association des anciens détenus politiques, Association of Former Political Detainees, who helped arrange three days of public meetings for the delegates in Conakry's Palais du peuple, People's Palace. They were attended by several hundred released prisoners, their relatives and relatives of "disappeared" prisoners. At these meetings Amnesty International's delegates received numerous oral and written testimonies about political imprisonment in Guinea from as early as 1961; information about penalties imposed by the previous government on relatives and close friends of political detainees; and details of acute medical and other needs of former prisoners. Much of the information in the testimonies had apparently not been made public before, and referred to prisoners who had been secretly executed, often by means of the diète noire, black diet, total deprivation of food and water until death, or who had died under torture or as a result of ill-treatment. Several former detainees said that they were among at least 70 farmers from Benty who had been arrested in January 1984 following protests over taxes. They said they had all been tortured and that this had resulted in a number of deaths.

Amnesty International's delegates were told that many former political prisoners were in poor health as a result of ill-treatment or their harsh conditions of imprisonment Some had neurological and digestive disorders, others had suffered loss of sight or become partially or totally paralysed.

During the mission delegates asked the Minister of the Interior about the situation of at least nine people reportedly arrested in N'Zerekore in July 1984 for distributing a leaflet criticizing the appointment of certain local administrators. They were told that those arrested had been released after a short time. The Minister also provided information concerning the rioting which took place in Kamsar in September.

At the government's invitation Amnesty International's delegates visited Kindia prison where about 60 members of the former administration, soldiers and relatives of President Sekou Toure were held. They interviewed five of the detainees in private and found that they appeared to be well-treated. Amnesty International was told by the authorities that the National Commission of Inquiry was investigating possible charges against the detainees and that a number would probably be tried when investigations were completed. However, this had not occurred by the end of 1984.