'Rights violations' in Guinea protests

2010-10-22 22:23

Conakry - The UN's human rights office said Friday that security forces in Guinea "committed serious human rights violations" during recent protests related to the upcoming election.

The Geneva-based agency said in a statement that the forces fired at unarmed protesters - shooting some at point-blank range. One man was killed and at least 62 were wounded during demonstrations in Conakry earlier this week. The agency also said authorities severely beat protesters and arbitrarily detained an unknown number of people and kept them in undisclosed locations.

Among the victims listed in the statement was a 7-year-old schoolboy who was shot in the head by a stray bullet and who remains in a coma.

The statement said some of the culprits appeared to be members of a special police unit charged with safeguarding the election.

The UN agency also said some violence appeared to be ethnically targeted.

The agency said it was "particularly concerned that some members of the security forces appear to have been making threats, and even conducting assaults, on the basis of victim's ethnicity or political affiliation, and is calling on political leaders to restrain their supporters, both within the security forces and among the general population, while still respecting the right of people to assemble and protest peacefully."

Discord over Sunday's presidential runoff is dividing the West African country and threatening to cause yet another delay of the poll, which could choose the country's first freely and fairly elected leader since its independence from France in 1958.