By: Anya Susarina
Pace International Law Review, Junior Associate
On September 28, 2009, tens of thousands of the opposition members came to a stadium in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, for a peaceful rally. These pro-democracy supporters gathered to protest against the military regime and Captain Moussa Dadis Camara’s candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections. Captain Camara is the nation’s self-proclaimed ruler, who, following the death of the long-time President Lansana Conté in December 2008, staged a military coup d’état and seized the power. At that time, Camara said that he did not plan to run for President at the end of the two year transitional period and made a vow to eradicate the corruption and lead Guinea out of its deep despair. Camara’s popularity rapidly decreased as his leadership style became increasingly unpredictable and the government, consisting of inexperienced soldiers, was failing.
After conducting an in-depth investigation of the September 28 demonstration, Human Rights Watch reports that the troops used teargas and fired point-blank directly into the massive crowd of unarmed demonstrators. The soldiers blocked the exits and surrounded the stadium making the escape extremely difficult. This resulted in many being crushed to death by the panicked crowd. While the government acknowledges 63 deaths, the Human Rights Watch’s research shows that the death toll is as high as 150 to 200 with over 1,000 people wounded and dozens of women violently raped and sexually abused.
A United Nations panel investigating the massacre recommended that Camara, Lieutenant Aboubacar Chérif Diakité (chief of the Presidential Guard), and Officer Moussa Tiégboro Camara (chief of the special services) be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. According to the panel’s report, all three are directly responsible for the atrocities of September 28 as the attacks could not have occurred without their orders. Camara is in charge of the Presidential Guard that executed the killings. It is suspected that Lieutenant Diakité was physically present at the stadium commanding the Presidential Guard. Tiégboro is also said to have been present at the stadium commanding the elite gendarme unit which participated in the massacre. According to the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the investigation has already begun. As Guinea signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2000, the court was able to proceed with the investigation without having to await a referral from the Security Council.