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Guinea: UN stresses need to uphold human rights as calm restored after deadly clashes

19 July 2013 – The United Nations today commended the efforts of the Government of Guinea and its security forces to restore calm amid deadly inter-communal clashes this week, while also reminding them of the need to uphold human rights principles during law enforcement operations.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that calm seems to have been restored after three days of violence that began on Monday between members of the Guerze and Konianke tribes in Koule, which is 45 kilometres from Nzerekore.

"The clashes have resulted in the killing of at least 57 people, three of whom were beheaded with machetes, with others hacked to death or burnt alive," OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva. Over 163 people were also injured, and hundreds of others were displaced and sought refuge in nearby military camps.

He said the clashes allegedly broke out following an altercation between three individuals, with two members of the Guerze tribe beating a young Konianke to death after accusing him of stealing from the gas station where they worked. Members of the two communities then formed gangs and attacked each other.

The violence spread to other parts of the Forestière region, with those involved reportedly fighting each other with machetes, stones and sticks, he added. There have also been incidents of looting, roadblocks, and destruction of places of mosques and churches, as well as houses and damage to other property.

The Government declared a curfew on 16 July and sent a ministerial delegation to the area to facilitate mediation talks between the two groups, while the President issued a statement calling for calm. Security and defence forces which were deployed to restore order, with the support of additional troops from Macenta and Gueckedou, continue to patrol the Nzerekore area.

"We commend the efforts made by the Government and security and defence forces to restore calm, while also reminding them of the necessity to uphold human rights principles during law enforcement operations," said Mr. Colville.

OHCHR has quite a substantial office in the country and is closely following the situation.

Last night, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for calm and urged Guineans to follow the law amid the reported clashes. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban also urged national and community leaders to ensure the security of persons and property, to uphold the rule of law and to pursue the path of dialogue with a view to addressing any concerns among the communities.

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