Nordine Drici. Legally, standards for detention do exist in Guinea. The Criminal Code, like the Code of Criminal Procedure, was revised in 2016. It includes international crimes (such as war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity) and has raised the threshold of criminal liability for children from 10 to 13 years old. The Code on the Rights of the Child, which the country adopted in 2019, is considered one of the best in West Africa.
Guinea has ratified some international and regional treaties for the promotion and protection of human rights, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Convention against Torture. However, it has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (which provides for the creation of a national prevention mechanism), nor the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
In practice, there are many obstacles. First, the lack of facilities: there are too few courts, prisons, human resources, and allocated resources.
There are 36 courts in the four regions of Guinea: 18 courts of first instance and 18 houses of justice, which serve as mediation courts and only handle misdemeanour cases. For serious crimes, you must go to a court of first instance. But there are not enough of those, which severely limits one’s access to justice.
The country’s 34 prisons date back to the colonial period. Prison overcrowding is very common. There are eight high-security prisons, the rest are short-stay prisons. The classification of prisoners does not meet the standards: some are held in short-stay prisons while serving long sentences.
The high-security prison in Conakry, for example, is designed to accommodate between 300 and 400 prisoners. It now houses 1,600 prisoners, which is four to five times more than its capacity. Access to care, medical treatment and food does not meet the minimum requirements. Several national and international organisations have had to develop food programmes for prisoners because daily rations are too meagre. This often leads to deaths due to undernourishment and malnutrition.
The lack of trained professionals to act as judges is also a concern. In 2021, the country only had 350 judges. Training the next generation of judges is crucial as the law evolves. Most of them belong to the old school. They do not consult international law. There is also the fundamental issue of bringing more female judges into the judiciary, which seems to be underway, but there remains work to be done.
The law permits magistrates to visit and inspect prisons. The Code on the Rights of the Child also affords politicians the right to visit places where minors are detained. However, neither magistrates nor politicians exercise this right. This missed opportunity to inspect places of detention is all the more regrettable because organisations defending fundamental rights have great difficulty entering the high-security prison of Conakry.
Overall, there are many discrepancies between the standards and what is practised. Standards do exist, despite shortcomings. But even magistrates do not inspect the premises as they should.
There is a real problem in Guinea when it comes to monitoring and evaluating detention conditions and the treatment of persons deprived of liberty.