The trial of Guinea’s former dictator Moussa Dadis Camara over the killings of 156 opposition supporters and rapes of at least 109 women at a 2009 rally has resumed after weeks of delays.
The proceedings got under way again on Monday after they had been suspended since May 29 after a boycott by lawyers who said they had not been paid for more than eight months.
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It was due to resume on June 21 after an agreement was reached but was delayed again because of a strike by prison wardens.
Camara and 10 other former military and government officials stand accused of the killings and rapes at a stadium in the capital, Conakry, where tens of thousands of opposition demonstrators had gathered. Soldiers blocked off the exits, fired tear gas into the stadium and opened fire with live ammunition. Mass rapes then ensued in the hours that followed.
Families and victims wait 13 years for justice
Souleymane Camara lost his brother in the attack. Now with the Association of Victims of September 28, he said many who survived later died after being infected with HIV.
The trial of the 11 men accused of ordering the killings and brutality began on September 28, exactly 13 years after the rally.
“This trial is the accomplishment of all the fights we started 13 years ago to seek justice and bring reparations to the victims,” Souleymane Camara said.
Former leader Camara has denied ordering the slaughter and blamed “uncontrollable” security forces and a former adviser for leading it.
Despite the trial’s resumption, lawyers said their payment demands are still unresolved.
Defence lawyer Antoine Pepe Lamah said they had given the justice ministry until the end of July to fix the problem. He warned the attorneys would resume their boycott after the August holiday period if “the promises made are not fulfilled”.
The repeated delays have been a major blow to the victims and their relatives in a trial that is a first of its kind in a country ruled for decades by authoritarian regimes.
‘Very significant players’
Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch praised the trial’s resumption but noted safety for those giving testimony is an issue that must still be contended with.
“It is absolutely the case that there are very significant players on trial,” she told Al Jazeera. “The Guinea government has made hundreds of security personnel available and has worked with the victims to make sure there is adequate security.”
Keppler noted all 11 accused have testified along with dozens of victims. Many of the “hundreds” of other victims are still expected to testify, she added.