Guinea, a New Abolitionist De Facto State
Death Penalty Worldwide has just updated its entry for Guinea. The West African country recently joined the group of abolitionist de facto states, according to the United Nations definition (no executions in the past 10 years). Its last execution took place in 2001.
Executions in Guinea have been rare over the past few decades. The 2001 execution followed a de facto moratorium of 16 years, and the current de facto moratorium has lasted over 10 years. During both these moratoria, however, Guinea has continued to hand down death sentences – in 2005, 2006, 2008, and most recently, in 2011, when 16 persons were sentenced to death for their involvement in an ethnic confrontation during which at least 25 people were killed.
The 2011 sentences belie statements made by President Alpha Condé in July 2011, when, during a meeting with foreign diplomats, the president declared that the death penalty did not exist in Guinea. Sentencing people to death, he explained, was never acceptable – even for those who attempted to take the President’s life.
President Condé’s pronouncements on the death penalty and other human rights issues have been the object of careful observation. As the first president in decades to have been elected during largely free and fair elections, his presidency had embodied a chance to break with a history of repressive regimes which had little regard for human rights.
Guinea’s historical attitude towards the death penalty is more ambiguous and more difficult to define than its President’s statements suggest. In September 2010, shortly before Condé’s election, the Minister of Justice told the Human Rights Council that “following high level consultations, it was decided that it was premature to include [the question of abolishing the death penalty] in the national debate, especially during this delicate transitional phase.” He went on to explain that the “solution would be to have a de facto moratorium.”
However, Guinea has also expressed its objections to a formal moratorium during its recent votes on the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution for a universal moratorium on executions. Guinea voted against the moratorium in both 2008 and 2010, and even joined the signatories of the 2010 Note Verbale of dissociation in 2010.
Death Penalty Worldwide’s full entry for Guinea can be found here.