UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visits Burkina Faso and Niger

The United Nations Office located in Geneva, Switzerland The United Nations Office located in Geneva, Switzerland Mathias P.R. Reding on Unsplash

1 December 2021

Bachelet’s visit offers a chance to press the international community to stop the atrocities committed by all sides in the Sahel crisis

Since 2015, Islamist armed groups – connected with both Al Qaeda and ISIS – have carried out attacks in West Africa’s Sahel region, contributing to the displacement of over a million people and reversing the progress made in health and education facilities. According to Human Rights Watch, throughout 2021, they have killed over 800 civilians in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. However, government retaliations have led to the death of hundreds of suspected terrorists alongside many civilians. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is visiting Burkina Faso and Niger from 28 November to 4 December 2021. “Bachelet should use her visit to raise the alarm about the scale of the atrocities and the crucial need to protect civilians and hold abusers from all sides to account”, said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The Islamists groups have burned villages, markets, and schools, murdered men and boys, and abducted and raped women in their homes. Moreover, they have imposed their version of Sharia law through courts that do not comply with international fair trial standards.

On the other hand, during the counterterrorism operations, the extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances perpetrated by the government security forces and pro-government militias have worsened the already worrisome situation. The abuses committed have done nothing but fuelled recruitment into the armed groups and breached trust in governments, especially among the ethnic community of Peuhl, or Fulani. Their members, which make up the majority of victims of pro-government soldiers, have in fact been targeted as recruits by the Islamists forces. 

During her visits, Bachelet is meeting human rights defenders, community and religious leaders, victims of human rights violations and abuses, people displaced due to armed conflict and climate change, and civil society organizations. The hope is that she will be able to consolidate international support and help formulate a strategy that can effectively tackle the terrorist threat without further endangering civilians.


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Author: Antonella Candiago; Editor: Xavier Atkins

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