Burkina Faso 2017/2018
The draft Constitution included provisions which, if implemented, would strengthen human rights protection. There were reports of torture and other ill-treatment and prison conditions remained poor. Rates of maternal mortality as well as early and forced marriage remained high. Armed groups committed human rights abuses.
Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
In December, a draft Constitution was submitted to the President for approval, following which it will either be approved by referendum or adopted by Parliament. It included provisions to strengthen human rights protection, including economic, social and cultural rights, gender equality, protection for women and girls from violence, abolition of the death penalty, and to increase the independence of the judiciary.
In June, the National Assembly adopted a law to protect human rights defenders.
In July, legislation was adopted which would give the High Court of Justice jurisdiction to try members of the government for crimes committed in the course of, or in connection with, their duties. In the same month, the government adopted a law allowing the military prosecutor to initiate public prosecutions against civilians in proceedings which would operate independently of the High Council of Magistrates which, among other things, was responsible for overseeing the independence of the judiciary.
Torture and other ill-treatment
There were complaints at the main prison of Ouagadougou, the capital: detainees at MACO prison (Maison d’Arrêt et de Correction de Ouagadougou) complained of torture and other ill-treatment, mainly during arrest or in police custody, often in order to extract “confessions”. Several prisoners said they were held in custody for over two weeks without charge. Four prisoners said that courts took no action when they reported that they had been tortured.
Several soldiers who were tried in April for conspiracy to raid an arms depot in Yimdi in January complained in a military court in Ouagadougou that they were tortured during detention in custody either at the gendarmerie or at MACO prison.
Many prisons remained overcrowded: 1,900 detainees were held in MACO prison which has a capacity for 600. Conditions remained poor, with inadequate food and medical provisions. In June, however, Ministry of Justice representatives said that they were developing a strategic plan to improve prison conditions.
The trial of former President Blaise Compaoré and 32 former ministers before the High Court of Justice was repeatedly delayed; in June it was temporarily suspended by the Constitutional Council. Blaise Compaoré was charged with acts of wilful assault, complicity in assault, assassination and complicity in assassination in relation to the October 2014 uprising. An international arrest warrant for him and his former Chief of Security, Hyacinthe Kafando, remained in place.
In May, an international arrest warrant was issued against Blaise Compaoré’s brother, François Compaoré, in relation to the murder of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo in December 1998. François Compaoré was placed under court supervision in France, where he was living, pending a decision on his extradition to Burkina Faso.
Fourteen people awaited trial in connection with the murder of former President Thomas Sankara, three of whom remained in detention.
The findings of an investigation into the attempted coup in September 2015 were referred to the Indictments Division for a decision in October. At least 106 people − including 40 civilians, one of whom was a foreign national – were charged, including with threatening state security, crimes against humanity and murder during the coup attempt. More than 20 of them remained in detention at the end of the year while another, General Djibril Bassolé, remained under house arrest having been transferred from detention in October. In December the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for his release.
Women’s and girls’ rights
Lack of medical equipment, medication and staffing in hospitals left women and newborn babies at serious risk of birth complications, infection and death. There were at least 100 maternal deaths in the first half of the year at one of the two main public hospitals in Ouagadougou. In one hospital, overworked midwives carried out up to 25 caesarean sections a day, while shortages forced women patients to sleep on the floor, sometimes without bedding.
No progress was made towards implementing the government’s pledge in 2016 to increase the legal marriage age of girls and women. Over 50% of girls between 15 and 17 were married in the Sahel region in the north of the country. Rates of female genital mutilation continued to lessen although it remained widespread despite being outlawed.
Abuses by armed groups
The self-defence militia called “Kogleweogo”, mainly comprising farmers and cattle breeders, continued to commit human rights abuses including beatings and abductions, despite the Justice Minister’s pledge in December 2016 to regulate the militia’s activities.
Justice Ministry officials said that Kogleweogo members beat a man to death in the town of Tapoa in January over an alleged chicken theft. In May, six people died, including four Kogleweogo members, in clashes between locals and Kogleweogo in Goundi. In the same month, the regional governor banned “self-defence groups” in Boulkiemdé and Sanguié.
There were reports that trials were postponed when Kogleweogo held demonstrations in order to protect their members from prosecution in Fada N’Gourma and Koupela.
Armed groups carried out attacks close to the Mali and Niger border, killing dozens of civilians. They also attacked police and military personnel. Repeated attacks in the Sahel region led to public officials temporarily vacating the region.
In late January, armed men went to several schools in the north and threatened teachers to make them adopt Islamic teaching. Consequently, hundreds of schools closed, including in Soum, Oudalan and Loroum.
Ansaroul Islam claimed responsibility for attacking police stations in Baraoulé and Tongomaël on 27 and 28 February.
On 3 March, an armed group killed a school principal and another local person in Kourfayel, a village in Soum.
In August, at least 19 people were killed and more than 22 injured in an attack against a restaurant in Ouagadougou. No group claimed responsibility.
On two occasions in September and November, armed groups carried out attacks in Soum, killing at least nine people.