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UN report wants Guinea’s junta leader tried

By Babs Odukoya
23 December 2009   |   6:23 am
A UNITED Nations' (UN) report which was leaked to the media yesterday wants Guinea's military leader, Capt Moussa Dadis Camara, to be charged with crimes against humanity over the killing of opposition protesters. The UN panel, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), claims that Camara bears "direct criminal responsibility" for the killings. The report said it could identify 156 people who were killed at the protest - contradicting claims from the ruling junta that fewer than 60 people died. Earlier this month, Capt Camara was shot and wounded by one of his own soldiers. However, the junta spokesman, Idrissa Cherif, accused the UN of rushing out the report and said there had been a "procedural fault" in the way it had been communicated. "I get the impression people want to speed things up as if it were a race against the clock. It is not normal," he told Reuters news agency.

The report, commissioned in October by the UN, backs up claims made repeatedly by rights groups and opposition supporters – and contradicts starkly the accounts offered by Guinea’s military rulers.

The panel of experts, who visited Guinea, said soldiers took part in mass murder and also carried out mass rape and sexual abuse of women at the protest, in the capital Conakry on September 28.

The report, based on interviews with more than 600 people, said about 109 girls and women were subjected to rape, sexual mutilation or kidnap for repeated rape. Hundreds of people were also subjected to torture and abuse, it said.

Capt Camara had previously sought to distance himself from the atrocities by blaming unruly elements in the army. But the report says: “The commission considers there are sufficient grounds for presuming direct criminal responsibility by President Moussa Dadis Camara.”

Another passage states: “The commission recommends that the International Criminal Court be seized with respect to those persons on whom, according to this report’s findings, weighs a strong suspicion of crimes against humanity.”

Critics of the junta had gathered in a sports stadium in the capital, Conakry, to protest at reports that Capt Camara intended to stand for president in an election planned for 2010.

But troops opened fire on the protesters in what human rights groups have described as a pre-planned massacre.

Guinea has been in turmoil since the military took over last December, but the shooting of Capt Camara by one of his soldiers on 3 December this year has thrown the country into even greater chaos.

Camara was flown to Morocco for treatment after the shooting and has not yet returned, fuelling rumours that he was seriously injured.

The soldier implicated in the shooting, Lt Toumba Diakite, has been on the run ever since. He has been accused of being in charge of some of the soldiers who opened fire on the protesters, and the UN panel recommended that he should also face charges.

But he said in an interview with French media last week that he had shot Camara because he feared he would be blamed for the stadium killings.

A third member of the junta, the drug police chief, Moussa Sakho Camara, was also named by the UN experts as bearing responsibility for the massacre.