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In Guinea, a woman used as human shield by police

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Guinean police officers were videotaped of their inadequacy by an amateur videographer, on January 29, using a woman as a human shield, in the commune of Ratoma, in Conakry, capital of Guinea. A man, who picked up the woman after the scene, recounts what happened and gives news of the victim.

The video is just over three minutes long. It shows a woman detained by a police officer, accompanied by three others. They face several young Guineans, on January 29, during a new demonstration against the probable third term of President Alpha Condé.

The three police officers place the woman in front of them to protect themselves from the stone throws and take her with them for several meters before dragging her to the ground. The scene is determined in confusion after a shot by one of the police.
The editorial staff of Observateurs de France 24 identified the exact location of the scene in the Wanindara 3 district. A photo sent by an inhabitant of the area makes it possible to recognize the same tree or the same houses.
“The police no longer had tear gas and they wanted to protect themselves by taking this woman as a human shield”
The video, collected and posted by Abdourahmane Bah, a resident of Wanindara 3, was viewed more than 350,000 times on Facebook in less than 24 hours. He picked up the victim after hearing screams on the street.
She is a lady who works at the Enco 5 market as a cleaning lady, a few hundred meters away. She came to the neighbourhood because she heard that the same morning that a child of one of her relatives was injured in the foot during the protests. So she came to visit the family of this child, but she did not know the neighbourhood well, because she lives in another district of Conakry.

She ran into these police officers, who then told her to stay with them because there were young people nearby. But it was a trap, because quickly the police kept her with them to face these people who threw stones at them. The police ran out of tear gas, and keeping this woman with them was the only way they could protect themselves from the stones. They wanted to negotiate with the demonstrators by this means, but the young people refused.

“The woman was not pregnant, but has a young baby”

After being dragged for several meters, the police finally abandoned the woman on the ground, and fled to Le Prince main road in the neighbourhood. We collected the woman who was very shocked. Her clothes were covered in mud; my mother gave her new clothes so she could leave. This woman was not pregnant, as we have seen written here and there. But she has a six-month-old baby [as well as 4 other children, according to the Guinean website which was able to interview he, and she was very afraid of being injured or killed in the clashes. She has many knee sores.

What has happened is unacceptable. This is the first time I have seen such behaviour with a woman from the police, it proves that even women are not safe. Since the protests began, my neighbourhood has been one of the most repressed, and the presence of the police has been permanent. We don’t feel safe.

The editorial staffs of Observateurs de France 24 was able to confirm the identity of the victim, who testified to Guinean media, including GuinéeMatin. She said she was traumatized by the event and had “pain in her right foot”.
The victim was interviewed by several Guinean media, including Guinéematin.com, from which this screenshot was taken. The editorial staff of Observateurs de France 24 decided to blur the face of the victim who did not have his verbal authorization to disseminate his identity.
The three arrested police officers
We also exchanged with the Minister of Public Security, Albert Damantang. He said three police officers were arrested. He added that a fourth, present with them, had not yet been identified. According to him, these police officers will be presented to a disciplinary council and soon sanctioned.

In defence, the police officer allegedly claimed to have seen the lady “give stones to the young people”, which is why he first arrested her; a version which “cannot be corroborated at this stage” said the Minister. He also renewed his apologies to the victim, as he had done in this video posted on Facebook, and said that it would be received by the Minister of Social Action, Women’s Promotion and Children Mariama Sylla after talking with her by phone.

For his part, François Patuel, researcher at Amnesty International on Guinea, believes that this video is another example of the abuses of the Guinean police:

This scene of a woman used as a human shield contravenes several international pacts signed by Guinea. The voluntary exposure of people to suffering or injury is a serious violation of human rights. But this is part of a tradition of impunity for violations committed by the security forces: since 2010, more than a hundred people have been killed in the context of protests.

Despite complaints from families, only one police officer was convicted. His directly responsible hierarchy was not worried.
Police abuse has increased in Guinea since the end of 2019, while protests have not decreased against the new constitution draft that would allow Alpha Condé to run for a third term. On January 14, a video showing an elderly man being abused by the police had already sparked outrage.

Source: Les Observateurs.

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