Burkina Faso must end excessive use of force against protesters

The authorities in Burkina Faso must rein in the security forces that have used excessive force to crack down on peaceful anti-government protests, Amnesty International said today.

Amnesty found that at least three people have been killed in the protests and dozens of demonstrators have been injured by gunshot wounds since unrest erupted yesterday. 

Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher Gaëtan Mootoo, said:

“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.

“Any use of force in the policing of demonstrations must comply with international law. It appears from these reports of deaths and injuries that the security forces ignored these basic principles.

“It’s 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 in order 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 neighbourhood of the capital during the protests, told Amnesty 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. 

One journalist told Amnesty 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. 

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