Junta leader faces international probe over massacre

Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara (photo) is facing international pressure over a recent massacre at an opposition rally in Conakry, as the International Criminal Court investigates the incident. His advisor Chérif Idriss told FRANCE 24 in an intervie


AFP - Guinea faced intense pressure Wednesday over a massacre at an opposition rally, with an international court announcing a probe of the killings that an EU official called a crime against humanity.

Some two weeks after the massacre at the rally in the capital Conakry which rights groups say killed more than 150 people, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague confirmed it was investigating.

The court's announcement came on the same day EU Development Commissioner Karel de Gucht labeled the massacre "brutality never seen before," while the United States said Guinea's military government should step aside.

"We are facing a real crime against humanity," De Gucht said after talks with African Union officials in Ethiopia. "The principal idea is that everywhere there is crime against humanity, the crime must be punished."

He singled out junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in a bloodless coup in December, saying he should stand trial.

"Sooner or later he (Camara) will have to stand in court after the brutal attack against civilians," De Gucht said.

Camara has apologised for the killings and denied responsibility.

According to the United Nations and human rights groups, more than 150 people were killed when troops opened fire on demonstrators at a football stadium on September 28. The military government says 56 people died.

Local human rights groups also say 1,200 people were injured, including many women who were raped by soldiers during the crackdown.

The demonstrators were angered by Camara's apparent intention to stand in the election the junta plans to organise in January.

The ICC prosecutor's office said Wednesday a "preliminary examination" had been opened over the massacre to determine whether crimes were committed that fall under the court's jurisdiction.

"From the information we have received, from the pictures I have seen, women were abused or otherwise brutalised on the pitch of Conraky’s stadium, apparently by men in uniform," deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in the statement.

"This is appalling, unacceptable. It must never happen again. Those responsible must be held accountable."

The statement pointed out that Guinea was party to the treaty establishing the ICC, giving the court jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide possibly committed there.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week said Guinea's junta must recognise "they cannot remain in power" after she voiced outrage over the killings and reported rapes.

On Wednesday, the US State Department said the junta should step aside and allow "legitimate" elections.

"We are significantly concerned about events in Guinea," said spokesman Philip Crowley.

"We have made clear, both in discussions there in Conakry, discussions here in Washington, that the current junta led by Captain Dadis Camara should step aside, should open the door for legitimate elections so that a legitimate government duly elected by the people of Guinea can emerge."

December's coup came within hours of the death of Lansana Conte, who had ruled the small west African country with an iron fist since 1984.

Camara vowed the military would only hold power for a short period to crack down on corruption and drug trafficking before calling elections.

Concerned by hints that he plans to run for office, the African Union last month threatened sanctions against Camara.

The pan-African bloc issued the military leadership with an ultimatum on October 17 to declare he will not take part in the poll.

Its Peace and Security Council is to meet on Thursday when the deadline passes.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app