Prosecutors demand life imprisonment for Guinea ex-dictator Dadis Camara

By Mouctar Bah with Boubacar Diallo in Dakar - AFP
Guinea Former Guinean dictator Moussa Dadis Camara is on trial over a 2009 massacre which left at least 156 dead.  By SEYLLOU DIALLO (AFP)
Former Guinean dictator Moussa Dadis Camara is on trial over a 2009 massacre which left at least 156 dead. By SEYLLOU DIALLO (AFP)

Guinean prosecutors on Wednesday demanded life sentences for former dictator Moussa Dadis Camara and six other military or government officials over a 2009 massacre, saying they were guilty of crimes against humanity.

The chief prosecutor, Alghassimou Diallo, denied the defendants any mitigating circumstances, pointing to their lack of regret since the landmark trial began in September 2022.

On September 28, 2009, and in the days that followed, members of the presidential guard, soldiers, police and militiamen brutally cracked down on an opposition rally at a stadium in the suburbs of the capital Conakry.

At least 156 people were killed, 109 women were raped and hundreds injured, according to a UN-mandated commission of inquiry, in one of the darkest chapters in the West African nation's history.

In a silent courtroom, the defendants listened without flinching as chief prosecutor Diallo set out the prosecution's demands.

He asked the court to reclassify the charges against Dadis Camara as "crimes against humanity by murder, assassination, torture, holding people against their will, rape and superior responsibility".

Diallo requested that the charges also be reclassified for the 11 other defendants, one of whom is being tried in absentia and another of whom escaped prison after the trial began.

The chief prosecutor called for Dadis Camara and six other defendants to be sentenced to life imprisonment with a 30-year non-parole period, during which he would not be eligible for a modified sentence.

Diallo requested sentences of 15 years' imprisonment for three other defendants, and 14 years for two others.

Map of Guinea locating the capital Conakry.  By Gillian HANDYSIDE, Kun TIAN (AFP) Map of Guinea locating the capital Conakry. By Gillian HANDYSIDE, Kun TIAN (AFP)

The trial is due to resume Monday with the defence case, which is expected to last several days before the judges give their verdict at a date yet to be determined.

Victims had been waiting years for justice, before the case was brought before a court under the junta which seized power in 2021.

Nene Aissatou Ndane Doumbouya, a retired nurse who was raped at the stadium and left for dead, expressed her joy after the closing arguments.

When she heard the prosecutor's requests, "the rest didn't interest me anymore, I was so relieved, so drunk with happiness," she said.

'Got what they deserved'

On Wednesday, three representatives from the public prosecutor's office recounted before the court the sheer brutality of the acts committed in September 2009.

One of the representatives, Elhadj Sidiki Camara, burst into tears as he recalled how a mother of a three-week-old baby was abducted from the stadium and held captive for a month by a soldier who used her as his sex slave.

"I remember this doctor who came with a photo of his mother cut up among other bodies," said prosecutor Diallo.

But, he said, "I have not felt the slightest remorse on the faces of these defendants", adding that it had been a "surprise throughout these 18 months".

"Mitigating circumstances are granted to those who regretted the acts they committed. Them? You must not even think about that, Mr President," he added.

During the trial, the defendants blamed each other for the events that took place in September 2009.

Dadis Camara always argued that he had been overtaken by his subordinates and denied any responsibility.

The prosecution disagreed.

"He did nothing to ensure that the meeting was not repressed. On the contrary, he planned it," said Elhadj Sidiki Camara.

He added that Dadis Camara later took no action against his men.

Convictions in line with the prosecution's requests would "put the sword of Damocles on the heads of every member of the nation to say that the path taken by these defendants here today is a path prohibited by law," said prosecutor Diallo.

"We couldn't have wished any better for our persecutors, they got what they deserved," one victim, Aminata Camara, a retired teacher, told an AFP correspondent who was himself a victim of the events.

"From this evening, I'm going to pray that the judge will follow the prosecutor's request exactly," she added.