Conditions in civilian prisons, which were under the Ministry of Justice, remained harsh and life threatening. Abuse, poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and lack of medical attention resulted in at least 15 deaths. Prison guards routinely threatened, beat, and sometimes tortured prisoners to extract confessions or extort money. 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: Authorities held prisoners in two separate systems. Suspects who were arrested were 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 one year. Detainees were often held without charge beyond the 48-hour period in gendarmerie centers and held indefinitely without trial in civilian prisons, where they were housed with convicted prisoners.
All prisons and detention centers were overcrowded. Conakry Central Prison, for example, with a capacity of 300 persons, held approximately 1,890 persons as of September 30. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Equal Rights for All (MDT) and the UNOHCHR estimated approximately 2,600 prisoners were incarcerated in 30 civilian prisons nationwide. Official statistics on incarcerated minors held nationwide were unavailable. At midyear Conakry Central Prison held 119 minors in a separate section of the prison. Of these, 34 had been convicted of crimes, 16 had been detained during political protests, and the rest were being held indefinitely as they awaited trial for other reasons. They were housed in one building with triple bunk beds. Prisoners stated they had to sleep on the floor, either due to overcrowding or because it was too hot on the upper bunks due to the building’s metal roof. Family members provided food and medicine after they paid guards to give them access. Prisoners did not have access to hospital treatment. The government did not keep statistics on the number of prisoners held in gendarmerie detention centers.
In some prisons outside of Conakry, men and women were intermingled. Officials generally held juveniles with adults in prisons outside the capital. The country did not have a juvenile detention system. Men, women, and children were intermingled at gendarmerie detention centers, sometimes with women sleeping in hallways outside the prison cells. Authorities did not separate pretrial detainees 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 awaited court processing, but such “temporary” detention could last anywhere from a few days to several months. The government routinely suspended habeas corpus. As in prisons, gendarmerie facilities were dank and fetid. Access to medical care was inadequate.
Lack of medicine in prisons, combined with endemic malnutrition and dehydration, made infection or illness life threatening. In several regions authorities held prisoners with tuberculosis together with uninfected inmates. The Ministry of Health did not carry out an agreement with international NGOs to provide medical treatment to prisoners. Prisoners relied on family members, charities, or NGOs to bring medication, but visitors often had to pay bribes to provide the medicine to prisoners. Prisoners were sometimes close to death before they received treatment. The MDT estimated at least 12 prisoners died during the year in Conakry’s Central Prison due to malnutrition or lack of medical treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis. One prisoner died of liver failure in Kouroussa Prison. NGOs concluded that any prisoner with a severe disease would likely die in prison due to lack of medical care.
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 UNOHCHR and NGOs noted that treatment at gendarmerie detention centers was much worse than in prisons, since the detention centers were not intended to house prisoners for long-term stays. For example, gendarmerie detention centers had no set system for meals or medical treatment.
NGOs reported endemic malnutrition throughout the prison system, which did not generally provide food or medicine to inmates, although authorities provided food at the Conakry Central Prison. Prison directors relied on charities, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and NGOs to provide food for inmates. The Conakry Central Prison claimed it had begun offering two meals a day to all inmates in 2011. 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 was inadequate. If prisoners paid bribes for their release, records of their arrest would often be “lost.” There were no ombudsmen to respond to complaints. An inspector-general of prisons with the Ministry of Justice was supposed to field complaints. There was 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 was full. A priest visited the prison for regular Christian prayer sessions in the chapel. The MDT stated religious practice was 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. For example, four police officers were accused of torturing Djalla Moris to death in detention at the commissariat at the Port of Conakry in August 2011. The case was pending at the court of Kaloum, and the prosecutor had not executed the arrest warrant as instructed by the court.
Independent 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. Although the military claimed it did not hold civilians at military prisons, Camp Soronkony was used to house prisoners (see section 1.c.), and interviews with a former detainee in October indicated the government also housed civilian prisoners at a military camp on Kassa Island.