The International League for Human Rights
Memorandum on the arrests, interrogation and
detention in the political prison camps of the Republic of Guinea
March 5, 1977
These are carried out at all times of the day and night. Those involved are drawn from various sources: the National Guard, the police, or common soldiers. There is no judge and the prisoner is shown no warrant for his arrest.
[The prisonner] is immediately separated from his family and kept in communicado. When he/she is a party official at the national level, the order comes directly from, or is sanctioned by the Head of State; in other cases a decision by the Minister of the Interior at Conakry or the Federal Secretary for the Region is sufficient.
No distinction is made between detention awaiting trial and actual imprisonmrent. Any prisoner taken to the camps at Boiro, Alpha Yaya or Kindia is stripped and dressed straight away in prison uniform, which is generally used and dirty, and then put in solitary confinement.
According to how important he is and what decision has been made against him, he is put on starvation diet for anything from two to fifteen days — that is literally nothing to eat or drink during that period.
All interrogations are preceded by a very long starvation diet, which are generally broken once on about the fifth day with a cup of hot kenkiliba. This is made to seem as though it is a secret act of compassion by the guard, but is, in fact, done on the orders of the Captain in charge of the camp.
At the end of this time, most prisoners are taken before the Revolutionary Commission. I say most if because when they were pressed for time, they did not even go through the motions of questioning many of the prisoners.
The Commission was officially presided over by a member of the Bureau Politique National assisted by two or more officers. For the less important cases, Captain Siaka Toure acted as President. The prisoner was not told any of the court procedures, he was given no assistance and was allowed no legal representative.
He/she is told what he is expected to confess to by the President of the Commission. If he refuses to confess he is read the confessions which fellow prisoners have made earlier; taken back to his cell for a further period of starvation and tied up night and day, often both hands and feet; he is taken to the “Technical Cabin”.
He cannot ask to confront his accuser, this is arranged at the discretion of the Commission, when they are sure that the accuser will “play the game” and implicate the “new boy”. If there is any possibility that the accuser will retract, they simply suggest that they will not doubt the confession of a counter-revolutionary who sincerely wishes to further the cause of truth.
The “Technical Cabin”
There are several degrees of torture:
- Straightforward blows and beatings
- The tying of arms and legs with metal wire for hours on end, sometimes for whole days
- Being tied up and made to kneel on gravel and potsherd
- Electric shocks to the ears or testicles
- Being hung upside down
- Electric shocks while being submerged in water (these last two being augmented by the use of electric shocks)
When the confession has been obtained as a result of simple cooperation, it is “edited” by the Commission, who “helps” the accused to draft his confession, sign it and tape it.
It is never told to the prisoner, who will never know until the day he/she leaves prison what his sentence was.
The prisoner's family is allowed neither to communicate with him, nor to visit him. For them, he/she may as well be dead. Furthermore, they pressure the wives to change their names and remarry immediately.
After his confession has been recorded, and if he is judged to be of any further use to the Party, the prisoner is provided with a bed (made in Russia), either a simple camp-bed, or a metal one, but without a mattress.
Most people slept on the floor, either on an old cover, or on old packing-cases which they get from the guards after the monthly delivery of provisions.
In Camp Boiro there were two types of cell: those measuring 3 x 3.50 metres, which held up to six detainees and those of 2 x 2 metres. The only source of air and light was an opening 2.50 metres above the ground and measuring 10 x 15 cms. The roof was made of sheet-iron and the door was closed 23 out of 24 hours. The only sanitary arrangements were chamber-pots, either your own, or a communal one, which was emptied once a day, one cell at a time. We could take no exercise. Only those who were semi- paralyzed were given the privilege of taking a short walk each day in the open air. Towards the end, those who were very ill and those who were wounded were allowed to say in the “garden” for a couple of hours each day.
Showers and personal hygiene
Once every two weeks we were given a shower in the courtyard, using a hose from a watering can. This took about ten minutes.
Shaving was done once a month by one of the prisoners.
About once a-month we were allowed out of our cells, one cell at a time, to wash our laundry.
In the mornings they were supposed to have a quarter litre of coffee, or something that passed as coffee, with a bit of sugar added, and a small piece of bread, when they actually got it!
A piece of bread weighing 375 grammes was divided into 10 portions.
At 2 o'clock in the afternoon they were given a single dish of rice, of about 200 grammes, in hot water with a bare smattering of tomato sauce.
Most of the time this had no salt or seasoning.
They never had any fish or meat or fats, though very rarely they had a piece of fruit: orange, mango or a European banana.
In the morning, with the coffee, a ration of bread of 180 grammes.
At 2 o'clock they had a dish of rice, plus Dish "D", which was some salad leaves without seasoning and a piece of grilled fish, either the head or the bones, never real fish. An allowance of one packet of "Milo" cigarettes and a box of matches were given out about once every 12 days.
This was given by the prisoner's doctor, himself a political prisoner, who worked under the supervision of the medical officer of the camp, and it was the latter who kept the key to the medicine cupboard. No matter what was wrong with you, treatment did not last longer than twelve days. At the end of this time it ceased completely and did not start again except in cases where the conditions worsened, often up to a month or two later.
Bodies were put in a common grave near Ratoma.
They were washed in a cell reserved for this purpose and taken away in an ambulance.
The families were never told of the death of the prisoner and the bodies were never returned to them.