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UN rights office says Guinea security forces committed abuses in election demonstrations

The UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed concern on Friday that security forces in Guinea "committed serious human rights violations" [press release] in subduing demonstrations that took place this week ahead of the run-off presidential election scheduled for Sunday. The OHCHR stated that security forces indiscriminately shot unarmed civilians, broke into private homes and severely beat young men who were not offering resistance. Security forces allegedly illegally detained and held a number of people in undisclosed locations without access to legal representation. The press release expressed specific concern that members of the Force Speciale de Securisation du Processus Electoral (FOSSEPEL), a special police unit that was formed to secure the electoral process, were among the security forces. The OHCHR called on political leaders to restrain their supporters in security forces and the general population and respect the right of people to assemble and protest peacefully. Guinea's new election chief, General Toumany Sangare, on Friday stated that the run-off election will not be held on Sunday [BBC Report]. Sangare cited lack of preparation as a reason for the delay, and he did not announce another date.

This is the third time the runoff election has been postponed. The first election, scheduled for July 18, was canceled due to allegations of misconduct during balloting [BBC report]. The second election, scheduled for September 19, was canceled amid violence [BBC Report] sparked by the election fraud conviction [JURIST report] of two senior election officials. The votes have divided primarily along ethnic lines, with all candidates running on a similar platform of economic expansion and the rule of law. The presidential election is seen as the first free election in Guinea since attaining independence in 1958. In May, the International Criminal Court (ICC) sent a delegation from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) [official websites] to Guinea to further investigate the killing [JURIST report] of more than 150 pro-democracy protesters in Conakry [BBC backgrounder] in September 2009. The protesters had rallied against Guinean military leader Moussa Dadis Camara [BBC profile], who announced in October that he intended to push elections forward three months and stand for election, breaking a promise not to run made shortly after he took power. An assassination attempt on Camara two months later eventually drove him into exile.

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