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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing notes on Guinea, Gambia, Iraq and South Soudan

31 August 2012

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Subject: (1) Guinea (2) Executions in the Gambia, Iraq and South Sudan

(1) Guinea

We are concerned about the excessive use of force by security forces in Guinea in a number of incidents over the past few weeks. On Monday (27 August), there were violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators during an opposition protest rally in Conakry, where security forces used tear gas in the compound of an opposition leader’s home. Reports suggest that live bullets were also used, and that a number of people were arrested, severely beaten up and injured.

This came weeks after six people were killed in the town of Zogota in the southeast of the country by security forces on 3 August. Our country office in Guinea has been investigating the circumstances surrounding the killings, which occurred after protestors in Zogota vandalised the facilities of a mining company. The Government has launched an inquiry into the killings and we call on the authorities to ensure that those responsible are held accountable, to bring justice to the victims and to send a clear message that security forces cannot expect impunity for such egregious breaches of international human rights law.

Law enforcement officials must respect the international legal standards for maintaining public order, including detailed guidelines governing the use of live ammunition.

Given the tense political climate in the country, we call on all stakeholders to exercise restraint. Demonstrators must be allowed to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly and expression, and law enforcement officials must enforce law and order in a proportionate manner.

We encourage all stakeholders to work towards an inclusive dialogue, including with the participation of civil society actors, to ensure that the delayed elections are held promptly.

(2) Executions in the Gambia, Iraq and South Sudan

As you may have seen from the various press releases coming out of OHCHR this week, we are concerned about a sudden spate of executions that have taken place in a number of countries, namely the Gambia, Iraq, and now South Sudan as well.
A week ago – the exact date is still not sure -- nine prisoners were executed in the Gambia soon after a public announcement by President Jammeh that all people on death row will be put to death by mid-September. This is a tremendous regression as the Gambia had maintained a moratorium on the death penalty for a quarter of a century since 1985, and it reaffirmed the moratorium as recently as 2010 in the context of its Universal Periodic Review here in Geneva.

In Iraq, during the month of August, 26 people have reportedly been executed -- including 21 in a single day on Monday -- bringing the number of people executed since the beginning of 2012 to around 100. Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings in Iraq, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is – as the High Commissioner said in a statement back in January after a large number of people were executed all at once – “a truly shocking figure.” It is even more shocking that the number has now gone up even further like this.

Finally, on Tuesday, two men were hanged in South Sudan, in the Central Prison in Juba. One of the issues there is that they did not have proper legal assistance.

We urge all States, who have not yet done so, to introduce – or reintroduce -- an official moratorium on the use of the death penalty aiming to abolish it.

The global trend and position on the death penalty have been moving strongly away from the use of the death penalty, a move that has been endorsed by the General Assembly. Currently around 150 States of the United Nations have abolished the death penalty or introduced a moratorium, either in law or in practice.


For further information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 79 506 1088 / [email protected]) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9310 / [email protected])

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