CONAKRY/GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations’ human rights chief on Wednesday called on Guinea’s military rulers to allow a full inquiry into a lethal crackdown on opponents, describing the killings as a “blood bath.”
Hospital sources cited by a local rights group said at least 157 people were killed as security forces broke up a rally with live rounds in the capital Conakry on Monday, while eyewitnesses spoke of sexual assaults on women and other abuses.
Military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara has promised an inquiry into the killings but vowed to punish any opposition troublemakers and accused crowds at the rally of looting weapons from a police station.
“Monday’s blood bath must not become part of the fabric of impunity that has enveloped Guinea for decades,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, a former high court judge in South Africa, said in a statement.
Any inquiry had to be “both independent and impartial,” she declared in a statement issued from her Geneva office.
Camara seized power in the world’s top bauxite exporter in December 2008 after the death of President Lasana Conte. He promised a transition to civilian rule but has recently angered critics by not ruling out standing in a January election.
Speaking on state television, Camara warned opponents that any “subversive” meetings in the future would be banned.
Guinea began observing two days of national mourning on Wednesday. Most shops were closed, the streets of Conakry were quiet and there was no sign opposition leaders — some of whom were wounded in the crackdown — were planning further rallies.
Monday’s violence, the worst since the December coup, drew broad international condemnation. Former colonial power France said it had cut military cooperation with Guinea and would discuss further measures with European partners.
The African Union has given Camara until mid-October to confirm he will stay clear of presidential elections slated for January 31, warning of sanctions if he misses that deadline.
Pan-African rights group RADDHO said the international response so far had been inadequate and urged the U.N. Security Council to charge the Hague-based International Criminal Court to investigate what it called crimes against humanity.
Camara has blamed uncontrollable elements within the Guinean army for the killings, saying he cannot be held responsible.
Reporting by Saliou Samb; writing by Mark John; editing by Philippa Fletcher