Camp Boiro Memorial

Amnesty International
Annual Report - 1998 Guinea

(This report covers the period January-December 1997)

Possible prisoners of conscience were detained during the year. Two prisoners detained without trial in previous years, one a possible prisoner of conscience, were released. Four opposition party members sentenced to prison terms were released on appeal. Death sentences were apparently commuted.

In July a permanent State Security Tribunal was established by presidential decree. The Tribunal contravenes Article 80 of the Constitution guaranteeing the separation of powers. Headed by the President of the civil and penal division of the Supreme Court, the Tribunal is responsible for hearing cases which threaten the internal and external security of the state. All eight members of the Tribunal were appointed by presidential decree, and a military commander, Colonel Sama Panival Bangoura, regarded as very close to President Lansana Conté was appointed to the post of solicitor. There is no right of appeal against the decisions of the Tribunal.

Three journalists were arrested in Conakry, the capital, and held for at least three weeks. Publications director Ousmane Camara and editor-in-chief Louis Espérant Célestin of the independent newspaper L'Oeil were arrested in August. The arrests followed a complaint by the Minister of Justice in connection with two articles published in June and July which criticized him. The two journalists were charged with spreading false information and defamation, and were provisionally released after two weeks' detention in Conakry Central Prison. Louis Espérant Célestin, an Ivorian national, was expelled from Guinea in December after his newspaper reported an opposition press conference. He was accused of “inciting violence and rebellion”.

Foday Fofana, a Sierra Leonean journalist for L'Indépendant and British Broadcasting Corporation correspondent, was arrested in October after he tried to interview a military commander at Alpha Yaya Camp in Conakry. He was accused of “attempting to threaten the security of the state” and was still held without trial at the end of the year.

Moussa Traoré, a supporter of the opposition Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée (RPG), Guinean People's Rally, who had been sentenced to three years' imprisonment in October 1996, continued to be held in Kindia Prison (see Amnesty International Report 1997). He was a possible prisoner of conscience.

Two prisoners detained in previous years were released without charge during 1997. Amadou II Diallo, detained since October 1992, was released in June (see Amnesty International Reports 1996 and 1997). Mamadou Diaby, an RPG member and possible prisoner of conscience arrested in 1996, was released in October (see Amnesty International Report 1997). It emerged that Banjou Oulén Oularé, an RPG official, had been released in December 1996.

Soldiers arrested in 1996 after mutinies in Conakry remained in detention charged with treason. They alleged that they had been held in a secret detention centre and tortured before being handed to the judiciary. No date for their trial had been set by the end of the year (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Their cases were transferred from the Assise court to the State Security Tribunal.

Three members of the RPG — Saloum Cissé, Madame Keita (née Bintoubé Camara) and Louceni Condé — who were arrested in November and December 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997) were brought to trial in June. They were charged with holding meetings, acts of violence, assault and battery, destruction and damage of public property. Sékou Tatia Combassa, another member of the RPG, arrested in June, was tried at the same time on the same charges. All four were sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a fine; they were released in November by the Court of Appeal.

Conditions of detention remained harsh and humiliating for all prisoners, and often constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In Nzérékoré Prison, detainees were shackled every night. The authorities justified this as a measure to prevent escape. Prisoners suffered from lack of food and medical care.

In July Amnesty International received information that a death sentence passed on Sergeant Sékou Bangoura had been commuted to life imprisonment (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Although no official confirmation was received from the authorities on other death penalty cases, it appeared that all death sentences had been commuted.