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Judges Go After Soldiers Suspected of Slaughter in Guinea

[All links lead to French-language websites unless otherwise noted. This article was written prior to the recent events in Guinea.]

The head of presidential security in Guinea is the latest person formally accused of having a hand in security forces' brutal crackdown [en] on an opposition protest in 2009, in which at least 157 people were killed and countless women and girls were raped.

On September 28, 2009, soldiers opened fire on opposition demonstrators protesting against military head of state Dadis Camara and his intention to run for president during the January 2010 election.

Following the massacre, Camara and members of the junta denied any responsibility for the killings. The international community sanctioned the junta [en] with an arms embargo and a travel ban, and froze any bank accounts owned by the officers in charge at the time. A year later, Camara was shot by soldiers [en] in his entourage.

A few weeks after the massacre, Camara ordered an independent investigation by a commission composed of 31 members. However, families of the victims have asked human rights organisations to look into the massacre [en] and the alleged clandestine burials performed by the military.

Investigating judges opened prosecution against Colonel Claude Pivi, the head of presidential security, on June 27, 2013 after hearing the previous day's testimony from the high commander of national police General Ibrahima Baldé. Pivi appeared in court the next day to hear the charges against him, and was due to appear in court again on July 4, but he did not respond to the judges’ summons.

Blogger Assanatou Baldé expressed her delight on afrik.com:

L’heure de rendre des comptes est arrivée pour Claude Pivi alias Coplan.

The time to settle scores has arrived for Claude Pivi alias Coplan.

Human Rights Watch presented charges against this high-ranking official from President Alpha Condé’s government who was decorated in 2011:

Le suspect, le lieutenant-colonel Claude « Coplan » Pivi, est le ministre guinéen chargé de la sécurité présidentielle, un poste qu'il occupait déjà au moment des crimes de 2009. Selon les médias, Pivi a été inculpé de meurtres, viols, incendies, pillage, destruction d’édifices et complicité. Conformément au droit international, Pivi est présumé innocent jusqu’à ce qu’il soit jugé et reconnu coupable.

The suspect, lieutenant colonel Claude “Coplan” Pivi, is Guinean Minister for Presidential Security, a post he occupied at the time of the 2009 crimes. According to the media, Pivi was accused of murder, rape, fire-raising, looting, destruction of buildings and complicity. To conform with international law, Pivi is to be presumed innocent until judged and recognized guilty.

Website aminata.com published a press release in conjunction with many human rights organisations in Guinea. The introduction read:

Depuis le début de l’instruction, les victimes que nous accompagnons dans cette procédure craignaient que Claude Pivi, en raison des fonctions qu’il occupe et de sa place dans la hiérarchie militaire, échappe à la justice. Hier, les juges d’instruction ont apporté un premier élément de réponse en l’inculpant formellement.

Since the start of the preliminary investigation, the victims that we are accompanying in these proceedings fear that Claude Pivi will escape justice due to the positions he occupies and his place in the military hierarchy. Yesterday the investigating judges produced an initial response by formally accusing him.

Sarifou Barry reported in an article on website guineenews.org the words of Dr Thierno Maadjou Sow, president of the Guinean Human Rights Organisation (OGDH):

Nous considérons du point de vue des principes que c’est quelque chose de très important surtout dans la lutte pour le respect des droits de l’homme et aussi dans la lutte contre l’impunité qui est le terreau des crimes. Il ne faut pas oublier qu’il y a eu des personnalités qui ont été inculpées déjà dans cette affaire mais malheureusement, cela n’a rien donné. Ces personnes occupent encore des postes extrêmement importants au sein de l’administration. Vous savez, dès après les crimes commis, le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, les organisations de défense des droits de l’homme avaient déclaré que ces crimes commis étaient des crimes contre l’humanité.

We will be considering this from the point of view of the principle that this is something very important, especially in the fight to respect human rights and also in the fight against the impunity which sowed the seeds of these crimes. It must not be forgotten that there were officials who had already been accused in this affair but unfortunately, this has led nowhere. These people still occupy extremely important posts at the heart of the administration. You know, just after these crimes were committed, the UN Security Council and human rights defence organisation had declared these crimes to be crimes against humanity.

Asmaou Diallo,  the president of the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of September 28 (AVIPA), and who was also interviewed by Sarifou Barry, expressed her feelings in the same article in the following terms:

C’est la réaction d’une victime qui crie toujours à ce qu’il y ait justice dans cette affaire. Si le colonel Claude Pivi a été inculpé, cela nous fait du bien mais ça ne suffit pas. Il ne s’agit pas seulement d’inculper et de laisser par la suite le dossier dans les tiroirs. Cette inculpation nous remonte quand même le moral mais, nous voulons plus. Nous voulons que tous ceux qui ont été inculpés dans ce dossier, quittent leurs postes de responsabilité pour qu’ils se mettent à la disposition de la justice.

It is the reaction of a victim always crying out for justice in this affair. If Colonel Claude Pivi has been accused, that does us some good, but it is not enough. It is not a matter of just accusing and then afterwards leaving the case in a drawer. Anyway, this indictment takes us back to the moral issue, but we want more. We want all those accused in this case to leave their positions of responsibility so they can be brought to justice.

This article inspired some lively comments from readers. For example, Ardho underlined the courage of the judges who accused Colonel Pivi and other high up members of the security forces:

Je pense qu'il faut encourager ces juges qui vont lentement dans des conditions que nous connaissons tous, mais qui entreprennent des actions importantes dans cette procedure… Nous esperons que le gouvernement prendra ses responsabilites aussi en ecartant ces maboules des postes de responsabilite qu'ils occupent.
I think we must encourage these judges who are going slowly in conditions we all know, but who are undertaking important actions in these proceedings… We hope that the government will take responsibility as well as getting these lunatics out of the positions of responsibility that they occupy.

In their previously mentioned press release,  the Guinean Human Rights Organisation expressed similar worries:

nos organisations expriment leur préoccupation quant à la sérénité de la procédure judiciaire et la sécurité de ses acteurs ou des victimes qui ont témoigné dans ce dossier, en raison du poste qu’occupe M. Pivi aujourd’hui. Comme nos organisations l’avaient recommandé concernant le colonel Moussa Oumar Tiegboro Camara, inculpé en février 2012, ou que le commandant Sekou Resco CAMARA, Gouverneur de Conakry, inculpé dans une affaire de torture en février 2013, qui ont tous deux été maintenus à leur poste, nous recommandons aux acteurs concernés de prendre toutes les dispositions afin garantir l’indépendance et l’impartialité du processus judiciaire en cours, dans le respect du droit à un procès équitable. Nous les invitons donc à envisager la mise à l’écart de ces hauts responsables, mis en cause pour des faits d’une exceptionnelle gravité.

Our organisations express their worry concerning the equanimity of the judicial proceedings and the safety of actors or victims bearing witness in this case, because of the post that Mr Pivi occupies today. As our organisations had recommended [independence and impartiality] for Colonel Moussa Oumar Tiegboro Camara, accused in February 2012, and Commander Sekou Resco Camara, Governor of Conakry, accused in a February 2013 torture trial, but both kept their posts, we recommend that those concerned take all provisions to guarantee the independence and impartiality of the ongoing judiciary process with respect to the law and an equitable trial. Therefore we invite them to consider sidelining these high-ranking officials, called into question by facts of an exceptionally serious nature.

Almamy Camara wrote the following in an article on afrik.com:

L’organisation internationale Human Rights Watch (HRW), a appelé ce mercredi 3 juillet à la suspension des accusés de leurs fonctions gouvernementales et invite les autorités à protéger les juges ainsi que les victimes dans le dossier du massacre du stade du 28 septembre, en 2009. Cet appel fait suite à l’inculpation du ministre de la Sécurité présidentielle, Claude Pivi dit Coplan par le pool des juges d’instruction le mercredi dernier.

The international organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) this Wednesday July 3 called for the suspension of the accused from their governmental duties and invited the authorities to protect the judges as well as the victims in the case covering the Stadium Massacre of September 28, 2009. This appeal followed the indictment of the Minister of Presidential Security, Claude Pivi AKA Coplan, by the pool of investigation judges last Wednesday.

Boubacar Bah expressed his doubts on the continuation of this affair in an article published on guineedirect.org, which deals with the impunity with which the other people in charge of the national security forces by the same Guinean justice as Colonel Pivi:

Mais pour des observateurs avertis, quelque soit la volonté du pool des juges d’instruction à éclaircir ce dossier, s’il n’y a pas de volonté politique, tous les efforts seront vains. Des soupçons forts sont portés sur le Président Alpha Condé qui ne souhaiterait pas du tout se débarrasser de Claude Pivi et de Tiegboro. Notamment parce que ces deux hommes puissants du temps du capitaine Dadis, lui avaient apporté tous leurs soutiens à l’occasion de la présidentielle de 2013. En prélude aux législatives de 2013, Alpha Condé ne veut pas perdre son électorat de la Guinée Forestière dont sont originaires Pivi et Tiegboro. Entre la justice pour les victimes du 28 septembre et la campagne pour les législatives, Alpha Condé a choisi la deuxième.

But for informed observers, whatever the will of the pool of investigation judges to shed light on this case, if there is not political will, all efforts will be in vain. Strong suspicions rest on President Alpha Condé who it is believed does not want to be rid of Claude Pivi and Tiegboro at all. Notably because these two powerful men from the time of Captain Dadi, had brought to him all their support during the 2013 presidential election. Before the 2013 general election, Alpha Condé does not want to lose his Guinean Forestry electorate of which Pivi and Tiegboro are originators. Between justice for the victims of September 28 and the general election campaign, Alpha Condé has chosen the second.

Commenting on an article in guineenews.org, Mr Sylla wondered:

Comment voulez vous qu'il est une justice dans un zoo. En tout cas sa sera pour la première fois alors attendons de voir mais sa m'étonnera que justice soit faite .déjà il est venu avec ces gardes du corps pour une simple interrogation chose qui n'est pas admissible dans des pays civilisés et de droit .Alors le jour du jugement si jugement ai il viendra avec tout le camp militaire.je vous dis que ce pays est un zoo .
How do you expect justice in a zoo. In any case it would be the first time so let’s wait and see, but I will be astonished if justice is done. he came already with his bodyguards for a simple questioning, something which is not admissible in civilised countries or by law. So the judgement, if there is a judgement will come with the whole military camp. I tell you, this country is a zoo.

To measure the dangers to which the judges brave enough to accuse Colonel Pivi have exposed themselves, here is his reaction as reported in another article by Boubacar Bah:

lorsque le Pool des juges d’instruction a informé Pivi de son inculpation dans le dossier du massacre du 28 septembre, l’officier a piqué une colère noire. “Si les gens pensent qu’ils peuvent m’humilier comme ça dans ce pays, ils se trompent. Nous, nous avons servi ce pays”, aurait rouspété Coplan.

When the pool of investigation judges informed Pivi of his indictment in the case of the September 28 massacre, the officer had a tantrum. “If people think that they can humilate me like that in this country, they are fooling themselves. We served this country.” Coplan is reported to have complained.

Pivi's supporters have mobilized to express their support for him during the investigation.

The international community and Guinean supporters of human rights must apply pressure to President Alpha Condé for protection of the judges as well as the witness and so that all officials accused of crimes or figuring on the lists of individuals suspected of crimes against humanity are relieved of their positions and judged.

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