The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, through its Country Rapporteur and Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa, Hon. Commissioner Idrissa Sow, expresses its outrage at the recurrent massacres of civilians in Burkina Faso, especially in the northern region.
The Commission received information that on 20 April 20 2023, armed individuals wearing the uniforms of the Défense and Security Forces accompanied by elements suspected of belonging to the army-affiliated Volontaires pour la Défense de la Patrie (Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland – VDP) group, aboard motorcycles and pickups, entered the village of Karma in the northern part of the Yatenga Province and allegedly fired indiscriminately at people, killing at least 60 civilians and injuring several others. On 15 April 2023, an attack by suspected jihadists on a VDP base near the village of Aorema (about 15 km from Ouahigouya) reportedly killed 10 soldiers and 32 VDPs.
The Commission strongly condemns this spiral of violence, which has only increased and claimed more and more civilian victims, especially since the beginning of the year 2023.
The Commission reminds the Burkinabe authorities of their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other international human rights instruments to which Burkina Faso is a party, especially with respect to the sanctity of life (Article 4). The Commission recalls in particular that a State may also be held responsible for killings by non-state actors if it approves, supports or acquiesces in such acts or if it fails to exercise due diligence to prevent such killings or to ensure there is a proper investigation.
The Commission expresses its solidarity with the people of Burkina Faso and strongly condemns the terrorist attacks against the Defence and Security Forces and the civilian population.
The Commission requests the Government of Burkina Faso to:
- Ensure impartial and independent judicial investigations into arbitrary deprivations of life perpetrated against the civilian population, in order to establish responsibility, bring the perpetrators to justice, and provide assistance to the families of the victims;
- Take the necessary measures to ensure the protection of civilians, particularly in the context of military and security operations carried out in the fight against terrorism;
- Implement appropriate measures to ensure that Burkina Faso's regional and international commitments in the area of human rights are publicized and respected, in particular the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which guarantees every person the right to respect for his or her life and physical integrity (Article 4);
- Strengthen collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, by transmitting information and treaty reports in accordance with the obligations of the African Charter, particularly Article 62;
- Take tangible measures to strengthen social cohesion, de-radicalization, and other measures to address the root causes of violent extremism.
The Commission requests the United Nations, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States to:
- Support the authorities of Burkina Faso and Sahelian countries in general in capacity building and institutional training to help them address the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism in accordance with UN Security Council Presidential Statements S/PRST/2022/6 of 31 August 2022 and S/PRST/2022/7 of 15 December 2022.
The Commission encourages the National Human Rights Commission and human rights organizations to
- Continue monitoring the human rights situation on the ground and report to the appropriate authorities in order to prompt the necessary protection and response measures;
- Thoroughly document these cases of violations and the negative impact of these violations on the civilian population, especially women and children.
Done in Banjul, The Gambia, on 29 April 2023.
Honorable Commissioner Idrissa Sow, Country Rapporteur and Chairperson of the Working Group on the Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa.