Conditions in civilian prisons, which were under the Ministry of Justice, remained harsh and life threatening. Poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and lack of medical attention resulted in several deaths. Prison guards routinely threatened, beat, and sometimes tortured prisoners to extract confessions or extort money, although there were fewer such reports than in previous years. Conditions in gendarmerie detention centers were reportedly worse than in civilian prisons. Torture; beating; bribery; and intermingling of minors, women, and men continued to be problems at detention centers.
Physical Conditions: Prisoners are held in two separate systems. Suspects who are arrested are usually taken to gendarmerie detention centers where they are supposed to be held not more than 48 hours (renewable once) and then either charged or released. If charged, they should then either be freed on bail or transferred to a civilian prison for a pretrial detention period limited to four to six months, renewable for up to a year. However, detainees were often held without charge beyond the 48-hour period in gendarmerie centers and held indefinitely without trial in civilian prisons where they mixed with convicted prisoners.
All prisons and detention centers were overcrowded. Conakry Prison, for example, with a design capacity of 300, held approximately 1,300 prisoners at year’s end. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Equal Rights for All (MDT) estimated 2,600 prisoners were incarcerated in 33 civilian prisons nationwide. Official statistics on incarcerated minors held nationwide were unavailable, but the international charitable federation Land of People (TDH) estimated 231 minors had been held in 2011, including 61 at Conakry Prison--57 boys and four girls. The report noted they were held in the section for minors at Conakry Prison with 50 other adults. Furthermore, the report indicated only four of the 61 minors had been tried and convicted of crimes. The government did not provide for the children’s food, clothing, education, or medical care in prison. In September, the government, in consultation with the TDH, issued a new code for the treatment of children in prison or accused of crime. It includes recommendations for health, hygiene, housing, and daily activities such as parental visits. The government did not keep official statistics on how many prisoners were held in gendarmerie detention centers.
In most prisons men and women were held separately, but juveniles generally were held with adults in prisons outside the capital. Men, women, and children were intermingled at gendarmerie detention centers--sometimes with women sleeping in hallways outside the prison cells. Pretrial detainees were not separated from convicted prisoners, and the prison system often was unable to track pretrial detainees after arrest.
Gendarmerie detention facilities were intended to hold civilian detainees for not more than two days as they await court processing. In practice such “temporary” detention could last anywhere from a few days to several months. The government routinely suspended habeas corpus. For example, one gendarme commandant said he had held one prisoner for more than a month, although he was not aware of the charges against the prisoner: he was simply told to “hold” the prisoner. Like prisons, gendarmerie facilities were dank and fetid. Access to medical care was inadequate, highlighted by the September 5 death of Colonel Issiaga, accused of participating in the July 2011 assassination attempt on President Conde. (The circumstances of the July 2011 assassination attempt remain murky.) Another July 2011 detainee, Colonel “Aidor” Bah, was evacuated to Morocco for medical treatment. He then returned home where he died in November. Issiaga died of an illness from which he was suffering when arrested, whereas Bah died from an illness he contracted in prison.
Lack of medicine in prisons, combined with endemic malnutrition and dehydration, made infection or illness life threatening. In several regions prisoners with tuberculosis were held together with uninfected inmates. An agreement for the Ministry of Health to provide medical treatment to prisoners was not carried out. Prisoners relied on family members to bring medication on visits, but visitors often had to pay bribes to provide the medicine to prisoners. Prisoners were sometimes close to death before they were given treatment. The MDT estimated at least 20 persons died in prison or detention centers during the year.
Neglect, mismanagement, and lack of resources were prevalent. Toilets did not function, and prisoners slept and ate in the same space used for sanitation purposes. Access to drinking and bathing water was inadequate. Many prisons were former warehouses with little ventilation. Temperatures were stifling, and electricity was insufficient. Although some prisons replaced tin roof panels with transparent ones, most prisons were dark. The UNHRC and NGOs noted that treatment at gendarmerie detention centers was much worse than in prisons, as the detention centers were not intended to house prisoners for long-term stays. For example, there is no set system for meals or medical treatment at gendarmerie detention centers.
NGOs reported endemic malnutrition throughout the prison system, which did not generally provide food or medicine to inmates, although food was provided at the Conakry prison. Prison directors relied on charities, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and NGOs to provide food for inmates. The Conakry Prison claimed it had begun offering two meals a day to all inmates in 2011. However, NGOs disputed that claim, saying prisoners in Conakry and elsewhere still received only one meal per day and many still relied on food from outside sources. Inmates relied on assistance from families or friends to maintain their health, but relatives often abandoned prisoners due to the difficulty and cost of travel to the prisons. Guards often demanded bribes for delivering food or medication to inmates and routinely confiscated prisoners’ food.
Although the Ministry of Justice administered civilian prisons, some prisoners exercised more power than the guards, controlling conditions and cell assignments and providing better conditions to prisoners who were able to pay. There were reports that some prison administrators followed directives from their military or gendarme superiors, even when they conflicted with orders from the Ministry of Justice. Sometimes the court would order prisoners released, but guards would not release them until they paid bribes.
Administration: Authorities did not use alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. Prison recordkeeping improved in the year, with records of prisoners transferred from gendarme facilities to civilian prisons. However, if prisoners paid bribes for their release, records of their arrest would often be lost. There were no ombudsmen to respond to complaints. There is a mosque and chapel at Conakry Central Prison. Prisoners could pray at normal prayer hours in the mosque or in their cells if the mosque is full. A priest visits the prison for regular Christian prayer sessions in the chapel. The MDT said religious practice is restricted at other prisons. Prisoners and detainees have the right to submit complaints but seldom did so due to fear of reprisals by prison guards and the gendarmerie. They must also use a lawyer to file a complaint, but lawyers were scarce and expensive. Prison authorities did not investigate credible allegations of inhumane prison conditions. The penal code authorizes payment to prisoners of 100,000 GNF ($14.38) for each day they are unlawfully imprisoned. A human rights activist attempted to bring a lawsuit for Kadiatou Bah, a woman arrested and held arbitrarily for three weeks in May. A judge prevented the suit from going forward, saying the government could not afford to pay all of the prisoners that had been unlawfully imprisoned.
Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by local humanitarian and religious organizations that offered medical care and food to those in severe need. The ICRC had regular access to all civilian detention facilities and continued partnership programs with prison and security authorities to improve civilian prison conditions. The government also allowed international organizations and NGOs access to detention centers operated by the gendarmerie. Conditions in military prisons, which were under the Ministry of Defense, could not be verified since the government denied access to prison advocacy groups and international organizations.