Guinea accuses Human Rights Watch of bias

Guinea’s politics have been tense for months, with a dispute over the constitution sometimes flaring up into violent protests in which dozens of people have been killed.
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The Guinean government has accused Human Rights Watch of bias in favour of the political opposition on Friday, following the NGO’s criticism of alleged government abuses committed during the coronavirus crisis.

The New York-based group said in April that authorities had “harassed, intimidated, and arbitrarily arrested opposition members and supporters in recent weeks”, and described “an atmosphere of insecurity” under anti-virus measures. 

Guinea has shut the borders, restricted travel and imposed a strict night-time curfew in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

The West African nation of 13 million has recorded 2,009 cases to date, with 11 fatalities.

Human Rights Watch pointed to recent instances where security forces had acted with alleged impunity during the night-time curfew.

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Guinea’s security ministry on Friday rejected the allegations and said the arrests were justified.

While admitting to “possible excesses” from security forces, it said violence during a constitutional referendum on March 22 had been triggered by opposition activists. 

Guinea’s politics has been tense for months, with a dispute over the constitution sometimes flaring up into violent protests in which dozens of people have been killed.

President Alpha Conde enacted the new constitution in April following a referendum in March; the credibility of which was questioned by France, the European Union and the United States.

Critics argue that the motive behind changing the constitution is to allow Conde, 82, to reset presidential term limits and run for a third spell in office later this year. 

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But on Friday, Guinea’s security ministry accused Human Rights Watch of ignoring opposition violence and of having “a tendency to systematically denounce the government alone”. 

Rights campaigners have accused Conde of authoritarian drift and complaints about the impunity of the security forces in the country are routine.

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