African security forces kill with impunity: Amnesty

LONDON — Security forces and police in Africa killed hundreds of people in 2009 but were rarely investigated due to a culture of impunity, Amnesty International said in an annual report released Thursday.

Amnesty highlighted a massacre at a stadium in Guinea’s capital Conakry last September in which more than 150 people taking part in a demonstration were killed and women were publicly raped.

“No credible investigations were initiated by the authorities so the UN set up an international commission of inquiry,” the group said.

“It concluded that crimes against humanity had been committed and recommended referral to the ICC (International Criminal Court),” it said.

Amnesty hailed the ICC’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes in Darfur as a milestone “demonstrating that even sitting heads of state are not above the law”.

Despite the “strong signal” the warrant sent, the African Union refused to cooperate with the ICC in detaining Beshir.

Now that South Africa and Botswana had declared that they were prepared to arrest the Sudanese president, the London-based rights group said it hoped other countries would follow their example.

Amnesty’s assessment of rights across the world also expressed concern at the situation in Nigeria, saying hundreds died there each year at the hands of police.

“These unlawful killings, many of which may be extrajudicial executions and which occur in police stations at road blocks or in the street, are hardly ever investigated,” it said.

Other countries pinpointed by the report included Cameroon, where there was “no indication” the government had begun investigations into the unlawful killing of about 100 people in 2008 during a crackdown on protestors.

In Kenya, Amnesty said the government had failed to properly investigate human rights violations during the post-election violence in 2007 and 2008. More than 1,000 people died in the unrest.

The report also singled out Madagascar, where it said “no independent and impartial investigation” was launched into the death of at least 31 people.

The island nation’s Presidential Guard fired live ammunition at unarmed demonstrators on February 7, 2009, as they marched on the presidential palace in Antananarivo.

The report said problems in 2009 were compounded by the continuing low pay and poor training of security forces.

“In many states security forces were still primarily a tool for repression and not for maintaining law and order, or for serving the public,” it said.

“In this way, the demand for accountability was squashed by further violations,” it added.

The report also highlighted the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by “ongoing armed conflicts and insecurity.”

The victims were often forced to live in camps “in precarious conditions with limited access to water, sanitation, health, education and food,” it added.

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