Burkina Faso: UN rights office deeply alarmed at reported killing of 220 villagers

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According to media reports, over 220 civilians, including 56 children, were killed in attacks reportedly carried out by the military in two villages on a single day in late February.

Furthermore, at least two international media outlets – the BBC and Voice of America – have been “temporarily suspended” in the past few days following their reporting of the deadly attacks.

OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado called for an immediate end to restrictions on media freedom and civic space.

“Freedom of expression, including the right of access to information, is crucial in any society and even more so in the context of the transition in Burkina Faso,” she said in a statement.

Burkina Faso has been under military rule since early 2022 amid an insurgency by extremist militants which triggered a series of coups and counter coups.  

Capt. Ibrahim Traoré was named transitional president in September 2022, and the transitional government has continued to battle insurgents and further reported counter-coup attempts.  

Unable to verify allegations

Ms. Hurtado added that while OHCHR has not been able to independently verify reports of the alleged massacre due to lack of access, it is crucial that allegations of such serious violations and abuses by various actors are brought to light and that the transitional authorities promptly undertake thorough, impartial and effective investigations.  

“Perpetrators need to be held accountable and victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations must be upheld. Fighting impunity and pursuing accountability is paramount to ensure people’s trust in the rule of law and social cohesion,” she stressed.

Multifaceted challenges

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, visited the country in late March, where he highlighted the multifaceted challenges Burkinabè have been facing since the overthrow of the democratically-elected government in January 2022.

In all, about 6.3 million out of a population of 20 million people need humanitarian assistance, and in 2023, OHCHR had documented 1,335 violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian laws involving at least 3,800 civilian victims.

“Armed groups were responsible for the vast majority of violations against civilians in incidents involving more than 86 per cent of the victims,” Mr. Türk said, emphasising that “protection of civilians is paramount. Such wanton violence must stop and the perpetrators held accountable.” 



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