Conditions in civilian prisons, which are under the Ministry of Justice, remained harsh and life threatening. Abuse, poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and lack of medical attention were pervasive throughout the prison system and worse in gendarme and police detention facilities. Torture, beatings, bribery, and intermingling of minors, women, and men continued to be problems.
Physical Conditions: The government did not keep complete nationwide statistics on the number of prisoners held in prisons or in gendarmerie detention centers, but reputable NGOs estimated 2,500 prisoners were incarcerated in three civilian prisons nationwide. No statistics were available on the number of prisoners held in gendarmerie detention centers.
As of June 10, Conakry Central Prison--with a capacity for 300 persons--held 1,181 inmates, including 96 women and 105 minors. Authorities held one woman--who was pregnant when arrested and lived in prison with her child--for more than four years without trial. A 14-year-old boy was held for more than a year for stealing a car battery. Authorities held minors in a separate section of the prison, where they slept on iron bunk beds with no mattresses or on the floor because it was too hot on the upper bunks below the buildings’ metal roof. Authorities did not separate pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners, and the prison system often was unable to track pretrial detainees after arrest.
Most prisons and detention centers were overcrowded. In one section of Conakry Central Prison, approximately 700 prisoners were held in three buildings, with an estimated 50 prisoners packed into each of the cells that measured approximately 20 by 25 feet, with an open toilet and shower in the middle of each cell. Prisoners, who slept shoulder to shoulder on the floor due to overcrowding and lack of beds, were permitted to leave their cells only one hour each day. Prison officials converted rehabilitation facilities such as schools and workshops into dormitories due to overcrowding.
In the two prisons outside of Conakry and in gendarmerie detention centers, men and women were intermingled. The country did not have a juvenile detention system, and officials generally held juveniles 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.
Lack of medicine in prisons, combined with endemic malnutrition and dehydration, made infection or illness life threatening. Conakry Central Prison had a full-time doctor and medical staff but lacked medicine and funds. The prison had a sick ward where approximately 30 patients were crowded into a room 15 by 30 feet. One prisoner visited had a broken and disfigured leg treated only with a bandage; the prisoner claimed a gendarme broke his leg during arrest. 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. According to the doctor at Conakry Central Prison, eight prisoners died from January through June due to malnutrition or lack of medical treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis. Although officials separated prisoners with tuberculosis in Conakry Central Prison, they held prisoners with tuberculosis together with uninfected inmates in other facilities.
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.
NGOs reported endemic malnutrition throughout the prison system. Authorities provided food at the Conakry Central Prison, but most 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 began providing two meals a day to all inmates in 2011; however, NGOs claimed prisoners in Conakry and elsewhere still received only one meal per day and that many relied on food from their families or outside sources. Relatives often abandoned prisoners due to the difficulty and cost of travel to prisons and because guards often demanded bribes for delivering food they frequently confiscated.
The OHCHR and NGOs noted that conditions at gendarmerie detention centers, which were intended to hold detainees for not more than two days while they awaited court processing, were much worse than in prisons. Such “temporary” detention could last from a few days to several months, and facilities had no established system to provide meals or medical treatment. As in the case of prisons, gendarmerie facilities were dank and fetid. The government routinely suspended habeas corpus.
Although the Ministry of Justice administered civilian prisons, some prisoners exercised more power than guards, controlling conditions and cell assignments and providing better conditions to prisoners who were able to pay. Prison administrators and the supervisors of gendarme detention centers said they sometimes had to follow 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 often would be “lost.” There were no ombudsmen to respond to complaints. An inspector-general of prisons with the Ministry of Justice had responsibility for handling complaints, but this rarely occurred. 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 local NGO Equal Rights for All (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 reprisal by prison guards or gendarmes. Prisoners must use a lawyer to file a complaint, but lawyers were scarce and expensive. Prison authorities did not investigate credible allegations of abuse or inhuman prison conditions. For example, authorities did not execute arrest warrants for police officers accused in 2011 of torturing Djalla Moris to death in detention at the commissariat of Port of Conakry.
Authorities sometimes imprisoned persons involved in civil litigation. For example, in August police arrested a guest at the Palm Camayenne Hotel for not paying his bills; he was detained at Conakry Central Prison at year’s end.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by local humanitarian and religious organizations that offered medical care and food to those in severe need. Local NGOs--such as MDT and the Association for the Support of Refugees, Displaced Persons, and Detainees--as well as volunteers and religious groups received regular and unimpeded access to Conakry Central Prison. 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 military authorities claimed they did not hold civilians at military prisons, previous cases contradicted this assertion. Reports indicated a prison continued to exist at a military camp on Kassa Island, but authorities refused to permit independent monitoring.
Improvements: NGOs cited some improvements, including a reduction in abuse at Conakry Central Prison. During the year a foreign bar association provided human rights training to guards in N’Zerekore and Kankan prisons.