ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the deadly repression of demonstrators by Guinean law enforcement officials on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 July 2022. At least four demonstrators were killed and several more injured during a protest organised by the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC). Journalists covering the events were attacked and a number of political activists were arrested, as they joined the FNDC calls for more transparency in the management of the country’s transition from a military to civilian rule.
Early on 18 July, clashes between protesters and police began in several areas of Conakry. Media reports indicate that protesters set up barricades and burned tires. Police used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse groups who thrown stones at them. Several demonstrators were taken into custody, including Foninke Mengué, Ibrahima Diallo and Saikou Yaya who were arrested on Saturday, July 30, following an order from the prosecutor’s office to arrest the organisers of the demonstration. They have been charged with “participation in a banned demonstration, looting, destruction of public and private property, arson and assault and battery”.
Over the recent months, the transitional authorities have resorted to extreme measures that jeopardise fundamental freedoms, including the right to protest and assembly. Demonstrations have been banned for the duration of the transition period; authorities have rejected the call by the United Nations to lift the ban, stating that it should only happen during the election period, three years from now.
“Guineans do not deserve the return of violence and bloody repression they suffered under previous governments. It is imperative that the transitional authorities stop repressing demonstrators and activists and work towards ensuring that fundamental freedoms are respected and protected across the country” stated David Diaz-Jogeix, Senior Director of Programmes at ARTICLE 19.
Guinea’s law protects and promotes the right to demonstrate. ARTICLE 19 recalls that under international principles and guidelines, security forces can only use force when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty, where all other means of de-escalation and preventing further violence have been exhausted. In any case, the use of firearms should be regarded as potentially lethal in all circumstances; even firing in the air can result in death. In addition to these international standards, ARTICLE 19 principles on the right to protest clearly outline that law enforcement officials must never use firearms to disperse a protest. Tear gas may only be used to disperse a crowd when there is more generalised violence, due to its indiscriminate effects and high potential for harm.
ARTICLE 19 has previously stated that banning of demonstrations can often lead to opposition and more violent and deadly forms of confrontation.
Furthermore, The UN General Comment 37 states that although there is not always a clear line between ‘peaceful’ and ‘non-peaceful’ assemblies, there should be a presumption of assemblies being peaceful. Mere disruption caused by an assembly or isolated acts of violence do not suffice to taint an assembly as non-peaceful. The General Comment adds that journalists, human rights defenders, election monitors and others involved in monitoring or reporting on assemblies are entitled to protection under the ICCPR. They are protected from prohibitions or limitations in exercising these functions, as well as from reprisals, harassment or confiscation and damage of their equipment. Importantly, the UN stresses that the right to monitor assemblies does not terminate even if an assembly is declared unlawful or is dispersed.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the transitional authorities to conduct a transparent and impartial investigation to identify those responsible for the killings, ensure respect for the individual and collective freedoms of Guinean citizens, protect journalists covering demonstrations and release all those arrested.
Guinea experienced a military coup on 5 September 2021, which prompted Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sanctions. ECOWAS took the decision to freeze the financial assets of the new Guinean leaders for failing to announce a timetable for the establishment of a transition from a military to civilian rule. At the end of March 2022, ECOWAS ordered the leaders to present an ‘acceptable’ transition timetable ‘by April 25 at the latest’ or risk an extension of the economic sanctions. Guinea subsequently requested more time beyond the April 25 deadline to allow consultations to continue. In the end, the National Transitional Council (NTC) has finally approved a timetable of 36 months for the transition, rather than the 39 months originally suggested by the National Committee of the Rally for Development (CNRD).
On 13 May 2022, transitional authorities have banned all demonstrations in the country for the duration of the whole transition period. The authorities rejected the calls from the UN to lift the ban, creating deep tension in the country.
Guinea ranked 119 out of 161 countries in the 2022 Global Expression Report – ARTICLE 19’s annual look at the right to free expression and information across the world.
For more information, please contact:
Maateuw Mbaye, Program Assistant, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa