Page last updated at 22:36 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

ICC: Guinea killings 'crime against humanity'

A Guinean woman cries at Conakry great mosque, 02/10
Days after the massacre hundreds of relatives had to identify bodies

The killing of opposition supporters in Guinea last year was a crime against humanity, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said.

The deputy prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, made the statement in Guinea after a preliminary investigation into the deaths in the capital, Conakry.

Security forces have been blamed for the killings of more than 150 people at an opposition rally on 28 September.

Ms Bensouda said "atrocious crimes" had been committed by men in uniform.

Senior members of the ruling military junta have also been implicated.

Men in uniform attacked civilians, they killed and wounded
Fatou Bensouda
ICC deputy prosecutor

The military took over the country in December 2008, following the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte.

"As the deputy prosecutor of the ICC, I end this visit with the feeling that crimes of the order of crimes against humanity were committed," Ms Bensouda said after her three-day investigation in Guinea.

She described "atrocious crimes" at the stadium in Conakry during an opposition rally, when "men in uniform attacked civilians, they killed and wounded".

She said: "In full daylight they mistreated, violated and submitted women to unprecedented sexual violence."

Based on what she discovered in her visit, the ICC could continue with its preliminary investigation, Ms Bensouda said.

Democratic promise

A report commissioned by the UN said in December that Capt Moussa Dadis Camara, who was the junta chief at the time, bore "direct criminal responsibility" for the massacre.

The report said the killings and other crimes "could be qualified as crimes against humanity".

In the weeks after the killings, Capt Camara was shot and seriously wounded by an aide who believed the captain was about to blame him for the massacre.

Capt Camara is now in exile in Burkina Faso, and the military chiefs who succeeded him have installed a civilian prime minister and say they are overseeing a transition back to democracy.

The prime minister, Jean Marie Dore, has said Guinea's judiciary is not capable of judging the massacre suspects.

The ICC can only investigate a crime if the justice system in a country cannot, or will not, investigate itself.

But if it comes to serving any indictments, says the BBC's West Africa correspondent Caspar Leighton, the court will rely on the Guinean authorities to act on any arrest warrants.

This will be a tall order in a country where the military has long held the reins of power.

The Netherlands-based court is the world's only permanent tribunal for the adjudication of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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