Thu, 08 Dec 2022

Guinea on Wednesday opened a landmark trial of 11 men, including the country's former dictator Moussa Dadis Camara, who are accused of responsibility for a 2009 stadium massacre and mass rape by Guinean security forces.

"Thirteen years later, let's do everything possible to ensure that the horror of massacres does not happen again in Guinea," said Djibril Kouyate, the president of the Guinean National Bar Association, during a speech at the trial's opening. "Those who died will not speak again, but their bloodshed demands justice."

Karim Ahmad Saad Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, told those gathered Wednesday that "13 years is a long time" and applauded the victims' family members for keeping their patience.

"September 28 has become a day of sadness," he said. "We have the opportunity, you have created the space for September 28 to be a day of promise and hope."

On September 28, 2009, tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators held a protest in the stadium to pressure Camara not to stand for election as president of Guinea the following year.

Reporting from Conakry, FRANCE 24's Sophie Lamotte said the trial, which was supposed to start at 9am local time, opened at around 3.30pm after a delay due to a last-minute inauguration of a new tribunal courthouse for the trial.

"The prosecutor called the 11 men accused in this trial, including Moussa Dadis Camara. They all got to the stand one by one. There was dead silence in the whole courthouse. It's truly a historical moment in Guinean history," said Lamotte.

Survivors of the September 28, 2009 massacre have waited 13 years for justice, and expectations have been high ahead of the trial. "We spoke to the lawyer of some of the families who has been working on this case and he said that there's so much importance put on this inauguration, that he fears that it takes away from the depth of this trial. He fears that authorities could be making this judicial affair into a political one," said Lamotte.

'I still haven't processed what happened'

Asmaou Diallo was at the 2009 protest, where she was assaulted and barely escaped with her life. In an interview with Reuters, Diallo explained that her son was killed in front of her on that fateful day.

"The most shocking image for me that day was that of the body of my slain son. I still haven't processed what happened," said Diallo, who now heads an association of parents and victims of the massacre.

"Knowing that this trial will take place is for all the victims the beginning of hope for deliverance," she said.

After prolonged investigations and repeated delays by the previous government, the military government that seized power in September last year gave an order that the trial should start no later than September 28, the anniversary of the massacre.

Camara, who was in exile in Burkina Faso following an attempted assassination and his ouster in 2009, returned to Guinea over the weekend.

He was interviewed by a prosecutor and detained on Tuesday alongside two other former senior military officers, their lawyer Pepe Antoine Lamah told journalists.

"It is in violation of the law that the prosecutor decided to incarcerate my clients," Lamah said.

At least 600 victims of the stadium incident have been identified, according to Alseny Sall, spokesperson for the Guinean Organisation for Human Rights.

Sall said some 154 were killed that day by soldiers from the presidential guard, the military police, the police, and military trainees as about 50,000 people gathered at the stadium to protest.

Some relatives of those killed have said they never received their loved ones' remains.

"The hardest thing for me was not being able to mourn my husband. His body disappeared and was never returned to us. It's a situation that weighs on me," said Salimatou Bah, a rice seller.

"All we want is justice. This trial must ensure that such things never happen again in this country," she said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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