Camp Boiro Memorial

Amnesty International
Annual Report - 1986

Amnesty International's main concerns were the detention of political prisoners without trial and reports of torture and secret extrajudicial executions.

At the beginning of 1985 some 60 or more former officials and relatives of President President Toure, who died in March 1984, remained in detention at Kindia. They had been arrested following the armed forces' seizure of power on 3 April 1984 and the formation of a new government headed by President Lansana Conte. According to the authorities, they were being held while investigations were conducted by the Commission nationale d'enquête, National Commission of Inquiry, to establish responsibility for the massive human rights violations and apparently large-scale financial misappropriation which occurred during the Sekou Toure administration. In April, on the first anniversary of the coup, President Conte reconfirmed that some of the Kindia detainees would be tried for alleged human rights offences. Later that month, however, Senainon Louis Béhanzin, a former ambassador1, was released, and in May 30 other detainees who had also apparently been exonerated by the commission of inquiry were released from detention. They included Jeanne Martin-Cisse, a former Minister of Social Affairs, and Aminata Toure, a daughter of the former President, both of whom had been seen by an Amnesty International delegation which visited Guinea in October 1984 (see Amnesty lnternational Report 1985).

On 4 July, with President Conte temporarily outside the country, there was an attempted coup in Conakry, the capital, apparently led by Diarra Traore, the Minister of State for National Education and a former Prime Minister. The attempt was put down, however, by troops loyal to President Conte. Eighteen people were officially reported to have been killed but the real figure may have been higher. In the wake of the coup attempt, there were attacks on members of the Malinke tribal group resident in Conakry and on their property. Diarra Traore, himself a Malinke, was captured and shown on television being brutally assaulted; his son was killed when the house in which he lived was attacked by troops loyal to the President. Unofficial sources reported that some 200 people were arrested for alleged involvement in the days following the coup attempt.

On his return to Conakry from abroad, President Conte reportedly declared that the authorities would punish severely those responsible for the coup attempt. He suggested that executions might follow quickly, stating that human rights organizations should intervene without delay or else it would be too late. On 8 July Amnesty International told the authorities of its concern about the threatening nature of the statements reportedly made by the President and called for human rights to be respected. In addition, Amnesty International asked to send a delegation to Conakry to discuss with the authorities the importance of fair trials for those accused of involvement in the coup attempt and its opposition to the death penalty. The organization noted that President Conte had described himself as a committed opponent of the death penalty during the Amnesty International mission in October 1984. In the event, however, it was not possible for an Amnesty International delegation to visit Conakry in the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt because of difficulties affecting travel to the country and contact with the government.

On 19 July the authorities denied that any of those detained at Kindia had been executed, as unofficial sources had suggested, and stated that those involved in the coup attempt would receive fair trials. The authorities also announced a commission of inquiry into responsibility for the failed coup. In mid-August, this was reported to have completed its investigations. Two new courts were then established, the cour de sûreté de l'Etat, state security court, and the tribunal militaire, military tribunal, to try the civilians and soldiers allegedly involved in the coup plot. However, no trials were known to have taken place before either court by the end of 1985 and none of those allegedly implicated in the coup had been brought to trial.

Despite government denials, rumours persisted throughout the rest of 1985 that some extrajudicial executions had been inflicted in the days and weeks following the coup attempt. In particular it was reported that some 22 suspected political opponents of the government or associates of former President Sekou Toure had been extrajudicially executed on 8 July. In August Amnesty International asked the government for information about those arrested as a result of the coup attempt and sought assurances that they were not being ill-treated. In response, Amnesty International was told by a government official that no executions had taken place and that those responsible for the coup attempt would be tried. Despite this and other denials, the Paris-based magazine, Jeune Afrique, subsequently named eight former close associates of ex-President Sekou Toure who, it alleged, had been taken from detention at Kindia where they had been held since 1984, and extrajudicially executed by the authorities for suspected complicity in the failed coup attempt. The government repudiated this report but did not produce those named in public to disprove it and there was uncertainty regarding their fate and whereabouts -and that of others- at the end of 1985.

Serious allegations of torture of detainees were also made following the coup attempt. In November a French medical team which had received financial assistance from Amnesty International withdrew from Guinea in protest against the torture of political detainees. The medical team went to Guinea in late 1984 to provide medical treatment to former prisoners and torture victims under Sekou Toure's government. Their withdrawal from Guinea occurred after they had apparently learned of new cases of torture of detainees. They alleged that detainees held at the Alpha Yaya military camp in Conakry, in particular, were subject to torture, beatings and other ill-treatment -including the diète (diet), deprivation of food and water for days at a time, which was extensively used under Sekou Toure to weaken prisoners by starvation.

At the end of 1985, Amnesty International was concerned about reports of torture on an extensive scale and the government's failure to account satisfactorily either for those long-term detainees alleged to have been summarily executed or for many other people detained in connection with the unsuccessful coup attempt.

1. Actually, Louis Senainon Behanzin was Inspector general of Education, Party theoretician, and subsequently Secretaire d'Etat of collectivized state farming (FAPA), minister of information and ideology, member of the Central committee. He was partly responsible for Guinea's disastrous education reform (CER), carried out from the late 60s. [T.S. Bah]