Human Rights Watch denounces extrajudicial killings in Burkina Faso

Burkinabe security forces patrolling near Gorgadji Burkinabe security forces patrolling near Gorgadji 2019 Reuters/Luc Gnago

21 April 2020

Government security forces allegedly executed 31 civilians in a counterterrorism operation in Djibo

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that on 9 April 2020 31 unarmed persons were killed by security forces in Djibo, 200 km north Burkina Faso’s capital. Burkinabe security forces have three military camps in the region to counter the presence of jihadist terrorists who have been recruiting new members among local Peuhl and Fulani communities. Islamist armed groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahel have been present in Burkina Faso since 2016, spilling over from neighbouring Niger and Mali.

Local residents feel caught in the middle of this crossfire, with both security forces and extremist armed groups threatening their lives. In fact, since 2017 jihadist groups killed more than 300 civilians in Burkina Faso, while government forces have killed several hundred men for alleged support to these groups. A Djibo resident said to HRW: “The jihadists have been roaming around lately. It’s like we’re punished for their mere presence.” All the men killed on 9 April belonged to the Fulani ethnic group and died after being arrested by heavily armed security forces in armoured vehicles. According to witnesses, the bodies of the victims – made unrecognisable by bursts of gunfire – were found a couple of hours after the arrest nearby cemeteries.

HRW reports the words of a man who lost his brother in the 9 April killings, who declared: “How can unarmed people be thrown into a vehicle by our own army and murdered without even being interrogated or tried?”. Burkinabe defence ministry has promised to act upon these allegations by opening an investigation on the matter. Nevertheless, similar incidents have occurred in the past and local officials have done little to hold the perpetrators accountable. Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at HRW, urged competent authorities to impartially investigate this alleged war crime and to suspend all the officials involved from their duties until the release of the investigation’s outcome. 


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Author: Annette Savoca

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