Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Offices tasked with investigating security force killings include civilian and military security services, civil and military courts, and inspectors general within the Ministry of Security and Civilian Protection.
Fighting during the September coup d’etat was limited to Conakry’s Kaloum neighborhood, with press reporting eight to 20 members of the military killed.
According to Amnesty International, in the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election, between October 2019 and July 2020, security forces killed at least 50 persons and injured more than 200. Opposition sources claimed that security forces killed 99 individuals between October and December 2020 during and after the presidential election. The government did not confirm the number of persons killed during this period.
Impunity persisted for abuses perpetrated by state actors in past years, including the 2009 Conakry stadium massacre by security forces. At least 150 opposition demonstrators were killed, and more than 100 women and girls were raped. Since 2011 the judiciary confirmed indictments against 13 individuals. Two of the alleged ringleaders of the massacre, Colonel Claude Pivi and Colonel Moussa Tiegboro Camara, served in high-level government posts during the Conde administration. Tiegboro retained his senior position within the National Committee for Reunification and Development (CNRD) at year’s end. General Mathurin Bangoura, a person of interest whose indictment was dismissed following a judicial review, remained governor of Conakry until September.
The steering committee established in 2018 to organize a future trial for the perpetrators of the 2009 stadium massacre resumed its work during the year. The body reconvened in January after holding no meetings in 2020 due to COVID-19. During the May steering committee meeting, the minister of justice outlined a roadmap for an eventual trial; however, as of September 4, no trial date had been announced. The Conde administration cited the need for training and capacity building for judges as the reason for the delayed announcement of a trial date. On November 27, an International Criminal Court delegation met with the CNRD to demand that the stadium massacre trial begin. On December 3, the Ministry of Justice met with the stadium massacre steering committee. On December 22, former 2008 coup leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who was indicted for his alleged role in the stadium massacre, returned to the country after living in self-imposed exile in Burkina Faso. In statements made to the press, Captain Camara said he was willing to stand trial. The CNRD’s December 25 transition roadmap further reiterated the transition government’s support for the trial but provided no timeline for judicial proceedings.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, human rights observers reported that government officials continued to employ such practices with impunity.
Abuse of inmates in government detention centers continued. Security officials designated as “judicial police officers” abused detainees to coerce confessions. Human rights activists noted the most egregious abuses occurred during arrests or at detention centers. Human rights associations stated that complainants often presented evidence of abuse, and wardens did not investigate these complaints. These nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also alleged that guards abused detainees, including children, and coerced some women into exchanging sex for better treatment.
According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there was one allegation submitted in July 2020 of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, allegedly involving an exploitative relationship with an adult. As of September the United Nations was investigating the allegation.
Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces, particularly in the gendarmes, police, and military forces. Factors contributing to impunity included corruption, lack of training, politicization of forces, and a lack of transparency in investigations. Offices tasked with investigating abuses included civil and military courts and government inspectors general within the Ministry of Security and Civilian Protection. In September the CNRD announced a new public toll-free number for citizens to report on abuses of power by defense and security forces. By year’s end the CNRD had removed two soldiers from the armed forces for vandalism and looting based on information received from the hotline.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in civilian prisons, which are under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice, remained abusive, with poor sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and lack of medical attention pervasive throughout the prison system. Conditions were allegedly worse in gendarme and police detention facilities designed for short-term detentions.
Physical Conditions: Overcrowding remained a problem. According to government sources, between January and February, the Conakry Central Prison in Conakry held 1,570 prisoners in a facility designed for 300 (523 percent of total capacity); Nzerekore held 271 prisoners in a facility designed for 80 (339 percent of total capacity); and Kakan held 229 in a facility designed for 80 (286 percent of total capacity). Government-funded rehabilitation programs were underfunded and ineffective, leading some NGOs to try filling the void.
Prison officials held men and women separately. Authorities held minors in separate sections at prisons and detention facilities, 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 building’s metal roof. Prison officials did not separate pretrial detainees from convicted prisoners. There were reports the government had trouble tracking the location of pretrial detainees in the justice system.
Between December 2020 and January, at least three opposition members died while in pretrial detention, reportedly due to poor prison living conditions. A fourth member died shortly after his release in December 2020. Authorities investigated none of the several reported deaths of prisoners.
Although the Ministry of Justice administered civilian prisons, prisoners allegedly controlled cell assignments and provided better conditions at some detention centers to prisoners who were able to pay. Rumors persisted that guards ignored court orders to free prisoners until bribes were paid.
A lack of health-care personnel, medicine, and medical supplies in prisons, combined with malnutrition and dehydration, sometimes made infection or illness life threatening; cases of beriberi were recorded. Only two of the 31 detention centers had a full-time doctor and medical staff. Reports of overcrowding in medical wards at detention centers were common, including at the Conakry Central Prison. Prisoners relied on family members, charities, or NGOs to bring medication, but visitors often had to pay bribes to provide the medicine to prisoners.
Mismanagement and neglect were prevalent. Toilets reportedly did not function, and prisoners often 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 and little access to electricity for air conditioning or other cooling techniques.
NGOs as well as the National Institution for Human Rights reported endemic malnutrition throughout the prison system. Authorities provided food at the Conakry Central Prison, but most prison directors relied on charities and NGOs to provide food for inmates. The Conakry Central Prison claimed it provided two meals a day; however, NGOs reported prisoners in Conakry and elsewhere received only one meal per day and that many relied on food from their families or other outside sources. Guards often demanded bribes for delivering food to prisoners, which they then frequently confiscated.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and NGOs noted that conditions at gendarmerie detention centers, 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 more than two years, and facilities had no established systems to provide meals or medical treatment. As in the case of prisons, gendarmerie facilities were dank and unsanitary.
Administration: Prison authorities did not investigate credible allegations of abuse or inhuman prison conditions. Prisoners and detainees have the right to submit complaints but seldom did due to possible reprisals from prison guards. Prisoners must use a lawyer to file a complaint, but lawyers were scarce and expensive. Prison authorities received little to no formal penal training, and prison guards received only rudimentary basic military training designed for gendarmes. The local NGO Equal Rights for All stated religious practice was restricted at prisons other than the Conakry Central Prison. Prisoners complained that they were regularly denied access to visitors, including family members. Visitors were often required to pay bribes to access prisoners.
Independent Monitoring: Local NGOs such as Equal Rights for All and the Association for the Support of Refugees, Displaced Persons, and Detainees received regular and unimpeded access to the Conakry Central Prison; authorities rarely granted access to other facilities to monitor conditions.
Military prison conditions, managed by the Ministry of Defense, could not be monitored since the government denied access to prison advocacy groups and international organizations. Although military authorities claimed they did not hold civilians at military prisons, previously reported cases contradicted this assertion. Prior to the September coup d’etat, reports indicated a prison existed at a military camp on Kassa Island, and that political prisoners were at times held at a military camp near Kankan.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The Transition Charter, previous constitution, and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always observe these prohibitions.
The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention, but few detainees chose this option due to the difficulties they might face and fear of retribution.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
Although the law requires arrest warrants, police did not always follow this protocol. The law also provides that detainees be charged within 48 hours, renewable once if authorized by a judge. In cases involving national security, the law allows the original length of detention to be increased to 96 hours, renewable once. Many detainees were held for much longer periods before being charged. Authorities held most detainees in the three main prisons indefinitely and without trial.
The law precludes the arrest of persons in their homes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., but arrests between those times occurred. After being charged the accused may be held until the conclusion of the case, including a period of appeal. Authorities routinely ignored the legal provision entitling defendants to an attorney and did not provide indigent defendants with an attorney at government expense.
Release on bail is at the discretion of the magistrate under whose jurisdiction the case falls. The law allows detainees prompt access to family members, but access was sometimes denied or restricted until families paid bribes to the guards at detention facilities.
Arbitrary Arrest: The CNRD arrested and arbitrarily detained former president Alpha Conde on September 5. On November 27, authorities moved former president Conde from his previous location to his wife’s house in the Dixinn neighborhood of Conakry. As of December he remained under house arrest without charge.
In February 2020 authorities arrested without charge more than 30 persons in various Conakry neighborhoods and held them for more than a month at the Soronkoni camp in Kankan, Upper Guinea. The detainees reported they were arrested by police and other security service units, were isolated, and had no contact with family. Following postelection violence in Nzerekore in March 2020, local sources reported that at least 40 persons were transferred to the same Soronkoni camp. As of September the CNRD released an additional five of these detainees. By December the CNRD released a total of 364 political prisoners. (See section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees, for details regarding the postelection situation.)
Pretrial Detention: In February pretrial detainees constituted 72 percent of the prison population. Information was not available regarding the average length of detentions, or whether detentions exceeded the maximum possible sentence.
The law states that when the prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant against an individual or an individual is questioned by an investigating judge, the individual may remain in detention for a maximum of 24 months under circumstances related to national security.
In June authorities provisionally released a boy, age 17, who spent three years in pretrial detention at the Conakry Central Prison. The boy was arrested in 2018 and charged with unauthorized gathering. According to his lawyer, he was arrested in a Conakry neighborhood near where a police officer was killed several days before. As of December authorities had not set a trial date for the case.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial system was plagued by corruption. The Transition Charter also states the CNRD’s commitment to an independent judiciary. The judicial process often lacked independence and impartiality. Political and social status often influenced decisions. A shortage of qualified lawyers and magistrates, outdated and restrictive laws, nepotism, and ethnic bias limited the judiciary’s effectiveness. Domestic court orders were often not enforced. For example, some prisoners ordered to be freed by courts remained in detention because they failed to pay “exit fees” to guards. On the other hand, politically connected criminals often evaded prosecution.
Many citizens, wary of judicial corruption or with no other choice, relied on traditional systems of justice at the village or urban neighborhood level. Litigants presented their civil cases before a village chief, neighborhood leader, or a council of “wise men.” The dividing line between the formal and informal justice systems was vague, and authorities sometimes referred a case from the formal to the traditional system to assure compliance by all parties. Similarly, a case not resolved to the satisfaction of all parties in the traditional system could be referred to the formal system for adjudication. In the traditional system, evidence given by women carried less weight (see section 6, Women).
The Transition Charter, previous constitution, and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary, although burdened by corruption and limited effectiveness, generally strived to enforce this right.
Trials are public and defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Trials must be timely. The prosecution prepares a case file, including testimony and other evidence, and provides a copy for the defense. Defendants have the right to confront and question prosecution witnesses and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The law provides for the presumption of innocence of accused persons, the independence of judges, the equality of citizens before the law, the right of the accused to counsel (but only for major crimes), and the right to appeal a judicial decision, but these rights were not consistently observed.
Authorities must inform defendants promptly of charges. Defendants are entitled to free assistance from an interpreter, if necessary. Defendants generally had adequate time but lacked resources, such as access to a lawyer, to prepare a defense. Most cases never came to trial.
Although the government was responsible for funding legal defense costs in serious criminal cases, it rarely disbursed funds for this purpose. The attorney for the defense frequently received no payment. Authorities allowed detainees’ attorneys access to their clients, but often on condition that prison guards or gendarmes be present. The law provides that defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, but torture or other harsh treatment and conditions in detention centers undermined this protection.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
The previous government and CNRD arrested or summoned individuals without cause. Civil society described the actions as “political intimidation.” Local sources estimated the number of such arrestees or summoned individuals to be more than 300. The government permitted access to such persons on a regular basis by the International Committee of the Red Cross or other human rights or humanitarian organizations.
In May authorities released 40 detainees arrested following the October 2020 postelection violence. Nine of the released detainees were arrested by security forces for their proximity to the October 2020 mob attack on a freight train operated by the aluminum producer Rusal, in which according to government and press reports attackers killed four security force members.
In June President Conde pardoned four high-profile opposition members who requested clemency following their convictions. Although the four were pardoned and released, the convictions remained part of their record.
In July the government announced that four senior-level members of the opposition political party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea were conditionally released for medical reasons. The members were previously imprisoned for their alleged role in postelection violence following the 2020 October presidential election. One of them, however, was sent back to prison in August for reportedly violating the conditions of his provisional release. He also was among the 79 detainees released by the CNRD on September 7.
On September 5, Colonel Doumbouya and the CNRD announced their intention to release all political prisoners and activists imprisoned during former president Conde’s administration. The CNRD requested that the Ministries of Justice and Defense coordinate closely with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the prison administration, and lawyers to release all the detainees.
On September 7, the CNRD released 79 political detainees from the Conakry Central Prison. Many of the released were prominent opposition members such as Oumar Sylla (Fonike Mengue), Abdoulaye Bah, Etienne Soropogui, Ismael Conde, and Keamou Bogolan Haba. On September 24, the CNRD released 12 detainees, including five soldiers and two civilians held in Conakry, and five soldiers held at Camp Soronkoni. On September 28 in Kankan, the CNRD released one military detainee and Colonel Doumbouya pardoned five soldiers previously convicted and imprisoned.
Prior to the September 5 coup d’etat, in February Amnesty International reported that during the March and October 2020 elections there were “400 arbitrary arrests targeting opponents and members of civil society after the presidential election.” Lawyers for the detainees reported that authorities made many of the arrests during house-to-house searches at night in neighborhoods considered opposition strongholds. Authorities also reportedly used excessive force in the arrests. The government announced that these individuals were arrested for participating in postelection violence.
In March President Conde pardoned seven minors who were reportedly members of the opposition and were arrested immediately following the October 2020 presidential election for “illegal assembly on a public road.”
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
The law provides for a judicial procedure in civil matters, including lawsuits seeking damages for human rights abuses. Individuals filed few lawsuits seeking damages for human rights abuses, in part due to public fear of suing security force members and lack of confidence in the competence and impartiality of the judiciary. Some cases were appealed to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice.
Property Seizure and Restitution
In 2019 the government forcibly evicted persons from four neighborhoods in Conakry. The government alleged the inhabitants were squatters on land long-planned as the relocation site of multiple ministries. Authorities demolished an estimated 2,500 buildings, resulting in 20,000 persons evicted, some of whom allegedly had legal ownership of their land. The victims formed a collective and appealed to the ECOWAS Court of Justice for compensation. On September 11, the victim’s association made a public statement demanding assistance and the indictment of the former minister of housing for destroying their homes. As of September 30, the ECOWAS Court of Justice suspended all existing legal proceedings with the country because of the coup d’etat. The government made no efforts to protect, assist, resettle, or integrate these displaced persons in other areas.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but police reportedly ignored legal procedures in the pursuit of criminal suspects, including when it served their personal interests. Authorities sometimes removed persons from their homes without legal authorization, stole their personal belongings, and demanded payment for the release of their belongings.
The government continued to arrest or punish family members for alleged offenses committed by relatives.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent and opposition-owned media were active and generally expressed a wide variety of views. Print media had limited reach. Radio remained the most important source of information for the public, and numerous private stations broadcast throughout the country. FM radio call-in shows were popular and allowed citizens to express broad discontent with the government. An increase in online news websites reflected the growing demand for divergent views. Nevertheless, allegations against or criticism of the Conde government could result in government reprisals, including suspensions, fines, and arrests. The CNRD reportedly engaged in reprisal against a media outlet that was affiliated with former president Conde.
Violence and Harassment: There were reports of arbitrary arrests, harassment, and intimidation of journalists by Conde government officials and CNRD transition authorities.
On July 18, police arrested journalist Habib Marouane Kamara in Conakry and took him to the Office of the Director of Judicial Police where he was questioned for several hours. According to his lawyer, Kamara was sued for defamation and blackmail following a complaint by the new director of the Guinea Water Company. Kamara previously criticized the appointments of water company executives, including the CEO’s wife, on his Facebook page. The Union of Private Press Professionals denounced his arrest and the lack of a judicial summons. Authorities released Kamara after two nights in police custody.
On October 9, security forces raided the compound of Djoma Media, a private media outlet with reported ties to former president Conde. The military claimed they were searching for missing government vehicles, although they did not have a warrant to enter the compound. Gunfire erupted at the scene, reportedly injuring two persons, after Djoma Media security guards refused to grant access.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The Conde government penalized media outlets and journalists who broadcasted items criticizing government officials and their actions. Some journalists accused government officials of attempting to influence the tone of their reporting.
There were also reports CNRD authorities restricted journalists from covering certain transition government meetings and froze the assets of Djoma Media, a media outlet linked to former president Conde. According to media sources, the bank accounts were frozen due to “unjustified movements of money.” Djoma Media’s founder, Kabinet Sylla (known as “Bill Gates”), was a former government official and confidant of former president Conde. At year’s end the accounts remained inaccessible.
On October 8, according to Reporters Without Borders, CNRD authorities restricted several private television stations from filming CNRD Prime Minister Mohamed Beagovui’s swearing-in ceremony. State-owned Radio Television Guinea was often the only media outlet invited to cover Conde government meetings; it remained the only platform for official CNRD announcements to the public.
Libel/Slander Laws: Libel against the head of state, slander, and false reporting are criminal offenses subject to imprisonment up to five years and heavy fines. Conde government officials used these laws to harass opposition leaders and journalists. Journalists alleged the defamation lawsuits targeted persons critical of the government to silence dissent.
On February 4, a Conakry court sentenced sports journalist Ibrahima Sadio Bah to six months in prison and a monetary fine for defaming Mamadou Antonio Souare, the president of the national soccer federation.
On February 27, authorities arrested and detained sports journalist and historian Amadou Dioulde Diallo for allegedly insulting President Conde during a radio talk show. Reporters Without Borders, local press associations, and the Guinean Organization for the Defense of Human Rights expressed concern regarding the arrest and denounced his imprisonment, claiming that it was a violation of the law on freedom of the press. On May 19, a court sentenced him to a substantial fine and released him.
In January three journalists detained since 2018 from the private radio station Nostalgie FM, were prosecuted for “defamation, slanderous denunciation, and insults.” The journalists were sentenced on January 13 to two months’ imprisonment with suspended sentences and fined. During a 2018 episode of their radio show Africa 2025, a former teacher from the undergraduate school Saint Joseph de Cliny called in to denounce the working conditions at the school. In response the director of the school filed a complaint against the journalists who hosted the broadcast. The journalists’ lawyer announced they would appeal the decision. As of December the appeal was pending with the Conakry Court of Appeals. Several local press associations issued a press statement announcing their support for the journalists and advocated the cancellation of their sentence. On January 15, the Union of Private Press Professionals held a sit-in at the court to denounce the decision.
In December 2020 Minister of Technical Education and Vocational Training Zenab Nabaya Drame sued the three journalists for defamation for publishing a story implicating her in the embezzlement of approximately 219 billion Guinean Francs (GNF) ($22.3 million) in public funds as minister and in former positions as finance director in the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. The minister withdrew the suit in February after the court ruled that it could not proceed with the case while there was an ongoing investigation into the allegations of embezzlement (see section 4, Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government).
National Security: Authorities used the law to punish journalists and executives at media outlets critical of the government.
In November 2020, after being detained for three weeks, Guinean-Canadian pro-opposition blogger Mamady Conde (alias Madic 100 Frontieres) was charged with slander, threats, xenophobia, inciting a revolt, and harming the fundamental interests of the state. He was convicted on February 8 and sentenced to five years in prison and fined for “downloading and disseminating messages, photos, drawings of a racist nature, xenophobia, threat, violence and insults through a computer system.” His sentence was reduced to one year on June 10 after an appeal. Then president Conde pardoned Mamady Conde in addition to three other high-profile opposition members in July after the four wrote letters of contrition seeking clemency.