Guinea is a constitutional democratic republic in the early stages of a transition from decades of authoritarian rule. In 2015 President Alpha Conde won re-election with 58 percent of the vote. The election was generally regarded as free and fair. The last round of legislative elections was held in 2013 and regarded as free and fair. Municipal elections, originally scheduled for 2010, took place in February. The elections were generally considered free and fair, despite allegations of fraud. Protests erupted throughout the country following the release of the results, and opposition parties alleged the ruling party, the Guinean People’s Assembly, conspired to commit voter fraud. At year’s end, most elected officials had not assumed office.
Despite tighter rules of engagement and a prohibition on the use of lethal force during street protests, elements of the security forces on occasion acted independently of civilian control.
Human rights issues included use of excessive force against civilians by security forces; alleged torture by government security forces to extract confessions; arbitrary arrest by government security personnel; endemic corruption at all levels of government; frequent rape and violence against women and girls, which rarely led to prosecution; forced and early marriage; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; human trafficking; and forced labor, including forced child labor.
Impunity by government authorities remained a problem. The government took minimal steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses during the year or in years past.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There continued to be unsubstantiated reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
The investigation into the 2016 death of Thierno Hamidou Diallo and injury to three individuals during a peaceful opposition march in Conakry continued. The police officer arrested in connection with the death was awaiting trial, with the court scheduled to reconvene in January 2019.
Impunity persisted for abuses perpetrated by state actors in past years, including security force killings by the previous military regime of at least 150 opposition demonstrators and the rape of more than 100 women and girls in the 2009 stadium massacre. Two of the indicted alleged ringleaders of the massacre–Colonel Claude Pivi and Colonel Moussa Tiegboro Camara–remained in high-level government posts. General Mathurin Bangoura, a person of interest whose indictment was dismissed following a judicial review, remained governor of Conakry.
In December 2017 the minister of justice announced the closing of the years-long investigation into crimes committed during the September 2009 massacre. The minister also announced the establishment of a steering committee to organize the trial of those responsible. The mission of the 12-member committee is to study and outline the logistics of the trial. The committee is also charged with determining how to address other issues surrounding the massacre, such as establishment of a compensation mechanism for victims. Authorities took no action to exhume the bodies reportedly buried by security forces in mass graves. By year’s end it remained unclear what progress, if any, the committee had made.
There were no new reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
The government closed the investigation and announced it had established a steering committee to organize the trial of those from the previous military regime responsible for the disappearance of dozens of prodemocracy demonstrators during the 2009 stadium massacre. The Association for the Victims of September 2009 estimated 84 persons were still missing and presumed dead.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, human rights observers stated government officials continued to employ such practices with impunity. In 2016 the legislature promulgated a new criminal code that reconciles national law with international conventions on torture.
Abuse of inmates in prisons and in judicial police and gendarme detention centers continued at previous levels. Gendarmes and police designated as “judicial police officers” (OPJs) routinely abused detainees to coerce confessions. Human rights activists noted the most egregious abuses occurred during arrest or in gendarme detention centers. Human rights associations indicated the complainants often presented evidence of abuse and prison wardens did not investigate these complaints. According to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), guards abused detainees, including children, and coerced some women into exchanging sex for better treatment.
In 2012 two civil society NGOs submitted a complaint on behalf of 16 individuals for arbitrary detention and torture committed in 2010 at the Gendarmerie of Hamdallaye. The trial finally started in April. The accused included, among others, a former chief of staff of the army and a former governor of Conakry. They were charged with arresting and torturing approximately 17 persons in 2010.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in civilian prisons, which are under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice, remained harsh and life threatening. Abuse, poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and lack of medical attention were pervasive throughout the prison system, and worse in gendarme and police detention facilities.
Physical Conditions: Overcrowding remained a problem in all prisons. An EU-financed survey revealed that prison management and operations remained deficient. Government-funded rehabilitation programs were nonexistent, and NGOs performed the work. A Spanish government program to build a new central prison was sidelined as the contractor was convicted of embezzlement of project funds in Spain.
Authorities held minors in a separate sections at prisons and detention facilities, where they slept on iron bunk beds with no mattresses or on the floor because it was too hot on the upper bunks below the building’s metal roof. Prison officials did not separate pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, and the prison system often was unable to track pretrial detainees after arrest.
In the two main prisons outside of Conakry and in gendarmerie detention centers, men and women were intermingled. There was no juvenile detention system, and officials generally held juveniles with adults in prisons outside the capital. Men, women, and children were intermingled at gendarmerie detention centers, sometimes with women sleeping in hallways outside the prison cells. Violence and the need to bribe guards for miscellaneous services continued to be problems.
Lack of health-care personnel and medicine in prisons, combined with malnutrition and dehydration, made infection or illness life threatening; cases of beriberi were recorded, and the deaths of prisoners were seldom investigated. Only two of the 31 prisons had a full-time doctor and medical staff, but they lacked adequate medicine and funds. The Conakry Central Prison (CCP) had a sick ward where approximately 30 patients were crowded into a room 15 by 30 feet. Prisoners relied on family members, charities, or NGOs to bring medication, but visitors often had to pay bribes to provide the medicine to prisoners. There were reports of detainees’ deaths. As of September at least nine prisoners had died at the CCP. The circumstances around their deaths remained unclear. Mismanagement, neglect, and lack of resources were prevalent. Toilets did not function, and prisoners slept and ate in the same space used for sanitation purposes. Access to drinking and bathing water was inadequate. Many prisons were former warehouses with little ventilation. Temperatures were stifling, and electricity was insufficient.
NGOs reported endemic malnutrition throughout the prison system. Authorities provided food at the CCP, but most prison directors relied on charities, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and NGOs to provide food for inmates. The CCP claimed it began providing two meals a day to all inmates in 2011; however, NGOs reported prisoners in Conakry and elsewhere still received only one meal per day and that many relied on food from their families or other outside sources. Relatives often abandoned prisoners due to the difficulty and cost of travel to prisons and because guards often demanded bribes for delivering food, which they then frequently confiscated.
In May the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice agreed to create a national prison health strategy as part of the national public health system.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guinea and NGOs noted that conditions at gendarmerie detention centers, intended to hold detainees for not more than two days while they awaited court processing, were much worse than in prisons. Such “temporary” detention could last from a few days to several months, and facilities had no established system to provide meals or medical treatment. As in the case of prisons, gendarmerie facilities were dank and fetid. The government routinely suspended habeas corpus.
Although the Ministry of Justice administered civilian prisons, at times prisoners controlled cell assignments and provided better conditions to prisoners who were able to pay. In addition prison administrators and gendarmes at the detention centers reported receiving directives from their military or gendarme superiors, even when they directly conflicted with orders from the Ministry of Justice. Rumors persisted that guards ignored court orders to free prisoners until bribes were paid.
Administration: Prison authorities did not investigate credible allegations of abuse or inhuman prison conditions. An inspector general of prisons in the Ministry of Justice had responsibility for handling complaints, but this rarely occurred. Prisoners and detainees have the right to submit complaints but seldom did so due to possible reprisals from prison guards or gendarmes. Prisoners must use a lawyer to file a complaint, but lawyers were scarce and expensive. The local NGO Equal Rights for All (MDT) stated religious practice was restricted at prisons other than the CCP.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by local humanitarian and religious organizations that offered medical care and food to those in severe need. Local NGOs–such as MDT and the Association for the Support of Refugees, Displaced Persons, and Detainees–as well as volunteers and religious groups received regular and unimpeded access to the CCP. The ICRC had regular access to all civilian prisons and detention facilities and continued partnership programs with prison and other security authorities to improve civilian prison conditions. The government also allowed international organizations and NGOs access to detention centers operated by the gendarmerie.
Conditions in military prisons, which were under the Ministry of Defense, could not be verified since the government denied access to prison advocacy groups and international organizations. Although military authorities claimed they did not hold civilians at military prisons, previous cases contradicted this assertion. Reports indicated a prison continued to exist at a military camp on Kassa Island, but authorities refused to permit independent monitoring.
According to the United Nations, an allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse against a police peacekeeper from Guinea reported in 2017 was pending. The Ministry of Security reported that the individual had been disciplined. The case alleges sexual exploitation (transactional sex) involving a police officer deployed in the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UN payment was suspended; investigations by the United Nations and the government of Guinea were pending.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions.
The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention, but few detainees chose this option due to the difficulties they would face.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The Ministry of Defense oversees the gendarmerie, and the Ministry of Security oversees the National Police. The gendarmerie and National Police share responsibility for internal security, but only the gendarmerie can arrest police or military officials. The army is responsible for external security but also plays a role in domestic security.
There are also special police or gendarme units, such as the Anti-Criminal Bureau and the Secretariat General of the Presidency in Charge of Special Services in the Fight against Drugs and Organized Crime. OPJs–mixed units of police and gendarmes with special training in investigative techniques–investigate specific crimes.
There were instances in which security forces failed to prevent or respond to violence. Police forces were largely ineffective, poorly paid, and inadequately equipped. There were multiple reports of security service units disregarding their orders and resorting to excessive force, often because they lacked appropriate training and equipment.
Corruption remained widespread. Administrative controls over police were ineffective, and security forces rarely followed the penal code. Few victims reported crimes due to the common perception that police were corrupt, ineffective, and dangerous.
The government continued to implement reform policies, focusing on the standardization of uniforms, provision of identity cards, and removal of individuals impersonating security officials. The new National Police Academy provided for professional training of new cadets and in-service training of police officers. The gendarmerie continued to receive improved training and equipment. The government established strict rules of engagement for protest marches, with standing orders to allow destruction of property–including police stations–rather than resorting to lethal force.
There were limited internal and external mechanisms to investigate abuses by security forces. The mechanisms available were ineffective due to low government capacity and an ineffective judicial system.
Government impunity remained a widespread problem, and the government took only minimal steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Although the law requires arrest warrants, police did not always follow this protocol. The law also provides that detainees be charged before a magistrate within 48 hours, renewable once if authorized by a judge, but many detainees were held for longer periods. Authorities held most prisoners in the three main prisons indefinitely and without trial. In cases involving national security, the law allows the length of detention to be increased to 96 hours, renewable once.
The law precludes the arrest of persons in their homes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., but night arrests between those times occurred. After being charged, the accused may be held until the conclusion of the case, including a period of appeal. Authorities must inform detainees of charges against them within 48 hours. Authorities routinely ignored the legal provision entitling defendants to an attorney and did not provide indigent defendants with an attorney at state expense.
Although the law prohibits incommunicado detention, it occurred. Release on bail is at the discretion of the magistrate under whose jurisdiction the case falls. The law allows detainees prompt access to family members, but access was sometimes denied or restricted until families paid the guards a bribe (see section 1.c.).
Arbitrary Arrest: Many arrests took place without warrants and in violation of other due process protections provided in the law. Police arbitrarily arrested and detained opposition members. Authorities also arrested family members for offenses allegedly committed by their relatives.
For example, following a fatal car accident in a suburb of Conakry in June, the driver fled and tried to hide from police. In response, police officers arrested multiple family members of the driver, including his mother. The family members were detained at the central prison of Conakry. According to police, this was a means to coerce the driver out of hiding.
Pretrial Detention: According to an NGO working on prisoners’ issues, the 2016 reform of the justice sector decreased the length of pretrial detention by 65 percent. Despite progress, pretrial detainees constituted 60 percent of the prison population. The reform transferred many responsibilities previously held by the High Court to lower courts, resulting in more cases being heard. In addition, the Ministry of Justice directed the review of pretrial cases, resulting in additional prisoners being released.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial system lacked funding and judicial independence, and corruption plagued the system. Budget shortfalls, a shortage of qualified lawyers and magistrates, an outdated and restrictive penal code, nepotism, and ethnic bias limited the judiciary’s effectiveness. Often domestic court orders were not enforced. For example, some prisoners freed by the courts remained in detention, because they failed to pay “exit fees” to guards. On the other hand, politically connected criminals often evaded prosecution.
Many citizens, wary of judicial corruption or with no other choice, relied on traditional systems of justice at the village or urban neighborhood level. Litigants presented their civil cases before a village chief, a neighborhood leader, or a council of “wise men.” The dividing line between the formal and informal justice systems was vague, and authorities sometimes referred a case from the formal to the traditional system to assure compliance by all parties. Similarly, a case not resolved to the satisfaction of all parties in the traditional system could be referred to the formal system for adjudication. In the traditional system, evidence given by women carried less weight.
Trials are public, and defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. The prosecution prepares a case file, including testimony and other evidence, and provides a copy for the defense. Defendants have the right to confront and question prosecution witnesses and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The law provides for the presumption of innocence of accused persons, the independence of judges, the equality of citizens before the law, the right of the accused to counsel (but only for major crimes), and the right to appeal a judicial decision, but these rights were not consistently observed.
Authorities must inform defendants of charges. Defendants are entitled to free assistance from an interpreter, if necessary. Authorities must charge or release defendants within 48 hours, but they did not consistently observe this requirement. Defendants generally had adequate time but lacked resources, such as access to a lawyer, to prepare a defense. Most cases never came to trial. Officials may not hold defendants for more than four months to a year (depending on the charge) before trial. Authorities frequently denied defendants these rights.
Although the government was responsible for funding legal defense costs in serious criminal cases, it rarely disbursed funds for this purpose. The attorney for the defense, if there was one, frequently received no payment. Authorities allowed detainees’ attorneys access to their clients, but often on condition that prison guards or gendarmes be present. The law provides that defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but torture or other harsh treatment and conditions in detention centers undermined this protection.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
The government arrested or summoned individuals as “political intimidation” but released them shortly thereafter. The government permitted access to such persons on a regular basis by the ICRC.
In March 2017 the Supreme Court overturned the 2013 High Court verdict that sentenced Fatou Badiar to 15 years and Commander Alpha Oumar Boffa Diallo to life in prison for complicity in the 2011 attack on the president’s residence. After a long delay, authorities reopened the case in April.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
The law provides for a judicial procedure in civil matters, including lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. Judicial process lacked independence and impartiality. Bribes and political and social status often influenced decisions. There were few lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations, in part due to public fear of suing security force members and lack of confidence in the competence and impartiality of the judiciary. Domestic court orders often were not enforced. NGOs that filed cases for civilians in 2012, 2013, and 2014–ranging from complaints of torture to indefinite detention–claimed their cases had yet to be heard. NGOs subsequently began opting to lodge complaints with the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but police reportedly ignored legal procedures in the pursuit of criminal suspects, including when it served their personal interests. Authorities sometimes removed persons from their homes at all hours, stole their personal belongings, and demanded payment for their release.
The government continued to punish family members for alleged offenses committed by relatives.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, but citizens were restricted in the exercise of that ability.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: In 2013 the country held legislative elections. The elections were considered generally free and fair, despite allegations of fraud.
In 2015 President Alpha Conde won re-election with 58 percent of the vote. The election was considered generally free and fair, despite allegations of fraud.
Repeatedly delayed local elections took place in February. The elections were considered generally free and fair, despite allegations of fraud.
Political Parties and Political Participation: There were no official restrictions on political party formation beyond registration requirements, but parties may not represent a single region or ethnicity.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Observers noted, however, there were cultural constraints on women’s political participation. Four women were serving in cabinet-level positions, in a total of 34 such positions. There were 25 women serving as deputies in the 114-member National Assembly. The electoral code requires at least 30 percent of candidates for any party competing for seats in the National Assembly to be women; however, the Constitutional Court ruled this law discriminatory during the year.