ICC prosecutor arrives in Guinea

February 18, 2010 12:00 am

, CONAKRY, Feb 18 – The deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court arrived in Guinea on a three-day visit to assess whether it can try those responsible for a 2009 opposition massacre if the government fails to do so.

Fatou Bensouda is set to visit the Conakry stadium where rights groups say more than 150 people died and 1,200 were injured when troops attacked opponents of Guinea\’s military junta gathered for a rally on September 28 last year.

The junta says 63 people died.

Soldiers shot, stabbed and beat up protesters and publicly raped women. A UN report said regime leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara and his aides were responsible for crimes against humanity.

In a brief statement at the airport Bensouda said: "The aim of our visit is to observe what has been done about the painful events of September 28 2009 here in Conakry so that justice should be done to the victims."

She was welcomed by Guinea\’s Justice Minister Colonel Siba Lohalamou.

The deputy prosecutor will visit military camps and hospitals and meet Guinea\’s interim President General Sekouba Konate, transitional Prime Minister Jean-Marie Dore, cabinet ministers, judges and representatives of victims\’ groups, prosecution aide Beatrice le Fraper told AFP ahead of the visit.

"Cooperation is good," she added. "The Guinean authorities were not obliged to show us the places where potential crimes were committed but they have been transparent."

The Netherlands-based ICC said in October it had launched a "preliminary examination" of the violence to determine whether the alleged crimes fell within the court\’s jurisdiction and whether the facts warranted a full-scale investigation.

To this end, the court has to examine the nature and gravity of the crimes, whether or not there were national criminal proceedings, and the interests of justice in general, said le Fraper.

Guinea is a state party to the founding Rome Statute of the court, the world\’s only permanent tribunal for the adjudication of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It only acts when a member state is unwilling or unable to try individuals accused of serious violations.

A junta-appointed commission this month absolved Camara, who is convalescing in Burkina Faso since a December assassination attempt, of blame over the stadium incident.

Guinea has insisted it has the will and the means to prosecute those responsible for the killings.

"We are going there to tell them that by virtue of the Rome Statute, which they ratified, they are obliged to do so," said le Fraper.


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