The Long Road to Justice in Guinea

Mamadou Diallo never imagined he would lead the fight for justice in one of the most damning cases of human rights violations in Guinea’s recent history. But one tragic day in his early 20s dramatically changed the course of his life.

On September 28, 2009, Mamadou – a computer programming graduate – joined friends in a peaceful demonstration in the capital Conakry to demand the resignation of Guinea’s then military ruler, Moussa Dadis Camara. Thousands of largely young Guineans turned up at the national football stadium to show their discontent at Camara and his refusal to give up power after leading a military coup the year before.

Allegedly, under Camara’s orders, and without any warning, security forces stormed the stadium during the protest, locking the doors and opening fire on the unarmed crowd. Soldiers killed 157 people, gang raped over 100 women, and beat many more.

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, little was done to bring those responsible to justice. Mamadou and six other friends, who were victims and witnesses to the events, refused to accept this inaction. A few months later, they formed Consortium des Jeunes pour la Défense des Droits des Victimes de Violences en Guinée (Youth Coalition for the Defense of the Rights of Victims of Violence in Guinea – COJEDEV).

Mamadou and others from COJEDEV began work by visiting victims still in the hospital, offering support, and beginning the painstakingly slow process of documenting statements. Mamadou, who is now President of COJEDEV, recalls:

“I remember when victims first came to me and I had to write down the stories of what had happened to them, and what they had seen. Sometimes I would just drop my pen in shock, it was so hard to hear and also re-live it for myself, but I knew it was an important job.”

Mamadou and his friends worked tirelessly – at great personal risk and as volunteers with no salary – to continue demanding justice. COJEDEV has worked with international bodies, like the International Criminal Court, and Guinea’s special tribunal to fast-track processes and provide information, evidence, and testimonies.

On July 8, 2015 Guinea’s special tribunal announced that Camara had been indicted for his role in the 2009 stadium massacre, joining thirteen other high-ranking military officials already indicted. This was a groundbreaking moment in Guinea’s long history of impunity and a major victory for COJEDEV in its five year-long pursuit for justice. Speaking on the day this was declared, Mamadou said:

“All these years of hard work were worth it… We have given victims hope. We never gave up on them. We are not lawyers or judges but we have always been determined to help them and make them see that it was not just in their interests, but in the country’s interests, for us to all keep fighting for justice.”

Trials are expected to start in early 2016 and COJEDEV plans to continue accompanying victims and help them prepare to give evidence in court.

The Fund for Global Human Rights is the first and currently the only organization to provide financial and capacity-building support to COJEDEV but is actively working with the organization to help it secure new funding sources. The Fund provided COJEDEV with its first seed grant in 2011 after being introduced to Mamadou and seeing the great potential in the group’s work that no others were prepared to do.