The Special Rapporteur expresses particular concern following reports of the violent suppression of a peaceful demonstration held in Conakry on 17 January 2007. The demonstration was organised in support of a general strike which started on 10 January 2007, organised by trade unions in Guinea calling on President Lansana Conte to address a number of economic and social issues including rising inflation, mismanagement of public affairs, corruption and impunity.
The Special Rapporteur is extremely concerned about reports stating that the security forces used a number of violent means to disperse the crowd including rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition. According to independent sources at least one hundred people have died, many more have been seriously injured and millions of dollars worth of property destroyed since the beginning of the strike. In addition on 12 February several private radio stations were reportedly closed in Conakry including Radio Liberté and Radio Familia.
The Special Rapporteur is also concerned about the harrassment of a number of the participants following the protest, including trade union leaders Dr Ibrahima Fofana, Secretary General of the “Union Syndicale des Travailleurs de Guinée” (USTG), Mme Hadja Rabiatou Diallo, Secretary General of the “Confédération Nationale des Travailleurs Guinéens” (CNTG), M Yamadou Touré, Secretary General of the “Organisation des Syndicats Libres de Guinée” (ONSLG) and M Abdoulaye Baldé, Secretary General of the “Union Démocratique des Travailleurs de Guinée”.
The Special Rapporteur has received information that on 22 January a number of the President’s Guards, known as the Red Bérets, reportedly raided the offices and searched the computers of the aforementioned trade unions. More than twenty trade unionists including Dr Ibrahima Fofana, Mme Hadja Rabiatou Diallo, M Yamadou Touré and M Abdoulaye Baldé, who were present during the raid were allegedly beaten with rifle butts, arrested and briefly detained before being released several hours later between the night of 22 and the early hours of the morning of 23 January 2007. It has also been reported that Dr Ibrahima Fofana and other trade unionists MLouis Mbemba Soumah, Secretary General of the “Syndicat Libre des Enseignants et Chercheurs de Guinée” (SLEGG), an affilate of the USTG, and M Ahmadou Diallo, first Secretary General of the CNTG, have received death threats in June 2006.
The Special Rapporteur is concerned that the ongoing acts of harassment against human rights defenders in Guinea, and in particular the recent alleged beating and arrests of those advocating labour rights, may be related to their human rights work, specifically their trade union activities.
The Special Rapporteur urges the Guinean authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure that all human rights defenders including trade unionists can carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of reprisal. The Special Rapporteur also reminds the Government of its responsibility under the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, with particular reference to Articles 1 and 12.2 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Government is also respectfully reminded of its obligations under the Grand Bay and Kigali Declarations and other international human rights instruments ratified by Guinea.