Burkina Faso must end excessive use of force against protesters

Authorities in Burkina Faso must rein in security forces that have used excessive force to crack down on peaceful anti-government protests, Amnesty International said today.According to Amnesty International’s information, at least three people have been killed in the protests and dozens of demonstrators have been injured by gunshot wounds since unrest erupted yesterday. “The use of excessive force to crack down on peaceful protesters is unacceptable and the transition authorities must act urgently to rein in security forces,” said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s Researcher for West Africa.“Any use of force in the policing of demonstrations, even when they may have turned violent, must comply with international law. It appears from these reports of deaths and injuries that the security forces have ignored these basic principles.“It is crucial that those responsible for the killings and beatings of protesters, journalists and other civilians are identified and held accountable. Officials at the highest level should publicly make it clear that excessive use of force will not be tolerated.”People took to the streets of Ouagadougou and other cities yesterday to protest against an attempt by President Blaise Compaore – who has since resigned – to amend the constitution to extend his long stay in power.Security forces fired tear gas at protesters who entered the National Assembly, which was among several government buildings ransacked and burnt.In Burkina Faso’s second largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso, protesters ransacked several buildings, including the town hall and the mayor’s house. One witness, who was in the Ouaga 2000 neighborhood of the capital during the protests, told Amnesty International that men wearing khaki uniforms had attacked protesters.“They began beating them with cords, then they shot live bullets. I saw three protesters fall down in front of me. One protestor was shot dead. I was able to take a photo showing the bullets that killed him when he was shot in the chest,” he said. A journalist told Amnesty International that he was stopped at a roadblock in the capital by soldiers, who “took turns beating me with batons”. The use of force by security forces is prohibited by international law except when strictly necessary and to the extent required for them to perform their duty.Protesters should not be detained and charged for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly, as guaranteed by the constitution and international and regional treaties ratified by Burkina Faso.President Compaoré this afternoon released a statement announcing his resignation and calling for calm.