The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has called on the transitional authorities in Burkina Faso to ensure that their investigation into the killing of at least 28 people at the end of December will hold those responsible to account, regardless of their position or rank.
In a statement released on Friday, Mr. Türk said that the decision by the authorities to investigate the deaths was encouraging, but he added that it should be “prompt, thorough, impartial and transparent”. “I have sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs underlining this exact message”, declared the High Commissioner. “The victims and their loved ones are owed no less.”
The 28 bodies were found in the north-western town of Nouna, in the Kossi Province, in the Boucle du Mouhoun region. According to local sources, the victims, who were all men, were killed when members of the Volontaires pour la Défense de la Patrie (VDP), armed auxiliaries to the defence and security forces, descended on the town, in apparent retaliation for an earlier attack on the group’s military base the previous night by suspected members of the Jamāʿat nuṣrat al-islām wal-muslimīn (JNIM) armed group.
Burkina Faso has been in the grip of political instability for several years, and its people have suffered a series of deadly terrorist attacks. The country’s severe humanitarian crisis has seen more than a million people displaced from their homes, victims of ongoing conflict and poverty.
In launching its investigation on 2 January, the Burkina Faso transitional government declared that it is “fundamentally opposed to any form of abuse or human rights violations on any grounds” and reiterated its commitment to protect all civilians without any distinction.
Mr. Türk has previously raised concerns directly with the authorities regarding the potential human rights risks linked to recruitment, arming and deployment of auxiliaries in Burkina Faso.
The statement noted that there is an urgent need to strengthen their vetting procedures, pre-deployment training on international human rights and humanitarian law, their effective supervision by the security and defence forces and to ensure inclusion and transparency during their recruitment.