Human Rights Watch says Sept. 28 massacre was premeditated

In a damning report published on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said an in-depth investigation into the September 28 bloodbath in a stadium in Conakry showed the massacre had been premeditated.


AFP - Many residents of Conakry and other Guinean towns stayed at home Wednesday in a quiet protest at the army's massacre of opposition demonstrators exactly a month earlier.

Opponents of the military junta in the west African country called on the population to stay at home to commemorate the massacre on September 28.

At least 150 opposition protesters were killed by troops in a Conakry stadium as they gathered to urge junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara not to run in a presidential election he has slated for January.

On Tuesday evening, the junta-appointed government had warned that the stay-at-home protest would be a "provocation" as the opposition and the junta had started talks with a regional mediator, Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore.

In Conakry the port, banks and insurance companies were closed and schools were empty, an AFP journalist reported. The Madina market, the largest in Guinea and located in a Conakry suburb, was also closed and few taxis ventured out on the streets of the capital.

The city was not completely paralysed by the protests, with small shops and markets still open. Government offices were also open but often only staffed by managers.

In several provincial towns like northern Labe, central-northern Kita and Kindia to the east of Conakry many people stayed home in protest, inhabitants told AFP.

The United Nations says that at least 150 people died when troops opened fire on thousands of protesters in a Conakry stadium on September 28. Human rights groups put the toll at 157 dead and more than 1,200 injured, including women who were publicly raped.

Camara's junta has admitted that 56 people died and 934 were wounded.

The junta and the United Nations have both announced enquiries into the massacre.

In a damning report published Tuesday Human Rights Watch said an in-depth investigation into the events on September 28 showed the massacre was premeditated.

"The manner in which the massacre appears to have been carried out -- the simultaneous arrival of the combined security force, the sealing off of exits and escape routes, and the simultaneous and sustained deadly firing by large numbers of the Presidential Guard -- suggests organization, planning, and premeditation," Human Rights Watch said.

"There is no way the government can continue to imply the deaths were somehow accidental," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"This was clearly a premeditated attempt to silence opposition voices."

The United Nations has already announced it would set up an inquiry into the massacre while the International Criminal Court said it will hold a separate preliminary inquiry to determine if war crimes had been committed.

Human Rights Watch called on the international community to fully support the inquiry and urged the Guinean authorities to cooperate fully.

Next Monday, the Guinean opposition is due to meet Compaore in Ouagadougou for talks about the political crisis.

It is not known if junta representatives will also be in the Burkinabe capital but in any case the opposition has made it clear it does not want to meet them. It has refused to talk to the junta until the army quits power.

The opposition has proposed forming a new government of national unity to pave the way for elections.

The junta seized power in the mineral-rich state on 23 December last year, just hours after the death of Guinea's longserving ruler Lansana Conte, who was an autocratic army general.

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