Two former war-crimes specialists were recently hired as consultants for
David M. Crane, the former U.N. prosecutor for the
The two American war-crimes specialists, who now run a consulting firm called CW Group International, LLC, recently used their expertise on behalf of the government of Guinea's former military leader, Moussa Dadis Camara, who stands accused by a U.N. commission of inquiry of responsibility for the Sept. 28, 2009, murder and disappearances of more than 156 civilian protesters in the country's national soccer stadium.
CW Group signed an agreement with
The report confirms that an elite Guinean presidential guard -- known by their red berets -- opened fire on opposition demonstrators at the national soccer stadium, and sexually assaulted women inside and outside of the stadium. But the death toll -- 59 -- and the scale of the violence described by Crane and White, is lower than that described by international human rights investigators. The report also downplays the role of the Guinean leadership in the killings or the abduction of scores of civilians and makes no mention of a coverup of the crimes, which has been claimed by the U.N. commission and Human Rights Watch. "Simply stated it appears from the facts extant that a crime against humanity was not committed by government forces on September 28th," the report states.
On the contrary, CW cites the efforts of key military commanders to defuse the standoff and to protect the opposition leaders who had gathered in the national stadium to protest Camara's effort to run for president in 2010. CW places some of its greatest emphasis on criticizing the country's opposition movement, Le Forum Des Forces Vives, for carrying out its demonstration in defiance of President Camara's wishes.
The report places most responsibility on the unit's commander, Lt. Aboubacar Cherif Diakite (a.k.a. Lt. Toumba), noting that President Camara had instructed the military to stay out of the stadium. "Those military personnel who responded to the stadium were in violation of a direct order issued by President Camara," the report stated. Lt. Toumba later told Radio France International that he shot President Camara in retaliation for seeking to place the blame for the killings on him. Toumba is in hiding and Camara is receiving medical treatment in
"The CW report is a dishonest and misleading report, and it is shameful that persons formerly associated with the Sierra Leone Special Tribunal authored it," according to an international human rights researcher who investigated the massacre. "It is absolutely clear that they ignored evidence that was widely available to them, both in terms of the scale of the atrocities and the responsibility for the massacre. Their motives in writing a white-wash report for the Guinean authorities have to be questioned."
Crane and White deny that their report was a white wash. But it stands in stark contrast to the U.N.'s investigation, which is based on nearly 700 interviews with witnesses and government officials and concluded that forces under the command of President Camara launched a "widespread and systematic attack" against the demonstrators, killing more than 100 civilians in the stadium, including 40 whose bodies have never been recovered. The U.N. report -- which said the assault constituted crimes against humanity -- says at least 109 women were sexually assaulted, including several who were held for days by soldiers in sexual slavery, and hundreds of others were tortured. The U.N. commission found that "there is a prima facie case that President Camara incurred direct criminal responsibility in the perpetration of crimes."
An investigation by Human Rights Watch echoed those findings, concluding that
Crane acknowledged in an interview with
"There were no punches pulled," Crane said. "It was clear to us that crimes were committed against the Guinean people and had to be dealt with under domestic law and possibly international law. We certainly want to see justice for the Guinean people and particularly the victims."
While the report does not hold Camara personally responsible for the killings, Crane and White both insisted that the firm privately warned Camara that he bore ultimate responsibility for the crimes and had to prosecute those responsible for them. "Even though there's no direct evidence in the preliminary assessment that links you directly as commander and chief you are ultimately responsible," White recalled telling Camara. "We told him to his face if you do not take appropriate action and hold those responsible for what happened you could be held criminally responsible: plain and simple."
The two war-crimes experts first appeared on the international justice scene in 2002, when they were appointed to lead the U.N.-backed investigation against Charles Taylor on charges that he provided financial and political support to a ruthless rebel movement, the Revolutionary United Front, that was known for mutilating its victims.
The two men had previously served in the
Crane and White said their firm is committed to the same principles that drove its two founders to champion the cause of human rights in
Crane and White were paid for their confidential report, but wouldn't reveal how much. White said the amount was "inconsequential."
The two men also insisted that their work on behalf of the Guinean military junta did not constitute lobbying, which would require that they register as agents of a foreign government. "We are not lobbyists," said White. "They try to prop you up publicly. We didn't do that.... At the end of the day, our integrity and ethics and moral standards will never be compromised. We do believe in