Guinea's Bloody Monday Demonstrates Need for Greater Arms Control

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Cartridge casing from a bullet, for a Kalashnikov-type assault rifle, found at Conakry stadium. Copyright Amnesty International

Cartridge casing from a bullet, for a Kalashnikov-type assault rifle, found at Conakry stadium. Copyright Amnesty International

There is no question that the September 28th, 2009, Bloody Monday massacre in Guinea was an unprecedented episode of violence and brutality by Guinea’s security forces. But let’s not forget that this was not the first time that Guinea’s military and security forces have used excessive force and acted with impunity in the past decade. In fact, the behavior of the security forces has been defined by a clear pattern of unlawful killings, extrajudicial executions, rape, arbitrary detentions, torture and grossly excessive use of force.

You did not want the military, so now we are going to teach you a lesson – member of the security forces present during the 28 September 2009 violence

Yet, as Amnesty’s new report demonstrates, a number of governments and companies have continued to finance, train and supply Guinea’s security forces, ignoring the numerous human rights violations they have committed over the years. In fact, several of the military and security units whose members were directly involved in the commission of human rights violations during Bloody Monday and in previous years had received training from states including France, China and the US. Weapons and security equipment supplied from South Africa, France and elsewhere provided the tools for the crimes perpetrated on Bloody Monday.

The decision by several states to suspend military cooperation with Guinea, including the US after the December 2008 coup and France after the September 2009 massacre, was too late. While such suspensions will certainly help minimize the capacity of the security forces to commit human rights abuses in the future, the signs were there long before December 2008 and military cooperation should have been suspended much earlier.

What the case of Guinea shows is the need for all states to adopt international standards to assess arms transfers on a case-by-case basis. This would ensure that states adequately assess the risk of exporting arms and training to countries such as Guinea and that such transfers do not facilitate serious human rights violations.