An unjust verdict after a mockery of a trial

'All those convicted who are still in detention are prisoners of conscience , held solely because of their political affiliations, without any proof that they have called for the use of violence,' says Amnesty International today, calling on the Guinean authorities to release immediately and unconditionally those who are still serving sentences.

The report published today is based on the conclusions of an observer sent by Amnesty International to be present at the opening and early hearings of this trial, which lasted from April to September 2000, and also on testimonies gathered during a fact-finding mission in April 2000.

Pre-trial irregularities

'Not one of the basic standards relating to the investigation and to a fair and independent trial was respected throughout the judicial investigation of this affair,' states Amnesty International today. 'The trial of Alpha Condé and 47 other co-detainees is a good illustration of the state of Guinea's judicial system.'

The defendants were detained incommunicado for months and most of them were tortured in order to extract confessions. These confessions were accepted by the court, despite evidence of serious allegations of torture. The right to a fair hearing was not respected during the investigation phase: the lawyers did not have access to their clients' files until five days before the trial started; and during the trial one defence lawyer was subjected to serious intimidation by the Minister of Justice. All these irregularities led to the conviction of 15 people, including four in absentia.

Amnesty International's mission was, in particular, able to gather a number of statements from those tried concerning the torture to which they were subjected in order to make them confess. 'Thorough and independent investigations should be opened into all allegations of torture made by the accused at the time of the trial or when they met with Amnesty International delegates,' says the organisation.

Amnesty International is particularly concerned that Alpha Condé and his 47 co-defendants were tried by a special court, the CSE, which cannot under any circumstances offer guarantees of a fair and independent trial.

In fact, this special court was composed of magistrates appointed directly by the President of the Republic, even though Alpha Condé has for years been one of the leading opposition figures and a candidate in the December 1998 presidential election. Furthermore, contrary to all international standards, the verdict of this special court is not open to appeal. The only possible appeal, the pourvoi en cassation, appeal on point of law, prohibits any reexamination of the facts.

'The Guinean authorities should take steps to abolish the CSE because special courts of this nature cannot guarantee even minimum standards of fairness and independence in the administration of justice,' says Amnesty International.

During its April 2000 mission, the Amnesty International delegation made several attempts to meet with the political authorities to communicate its concerns, in particular with regard to the serious allegations of torture made by most of those tried, but it was not possible because the official authorities in question stated that they were very busy with the trial.

In publishing this report today, Amnesty International hopes finally to have the attention of the Guinean authorities. 'Unless they take immediate steps to end the total impunity enjoyed by the Guinean security forces, it is not possible to imagine even the beginnings of the rule of law,' says Amnesty International.

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