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ConflictsBurkina Faso

UN calls for probe into northern Burkina Faso massacre

January 8, 2023

The UN commissioner has called for a swift and transparent investigation into the killing of 28 people in northern Burkina Faso. A rights group said the victims belonged to a traditional hunting community.

Burkina Faso soldiers
Burkina Faso is dealing with an ongoing Islamist insurgency in the northImage: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk on Saturday called for a swift, transparent and impartial investigation into the killings of 28 men found Monday in the town of Nouna in northwestern Burkina Faso.

Earlier in the week, Nouna Public Prosecutor Armel Sama, said "most of the victims, all of them males, were shot dead" but did not provide details on possible perpetrators or motives behind the attack.

Authorities said the bodies were discovered on December 30 and 31, and an investigation is underway.

Turk said he was heartened by the fact that authorities were looking into the incident, adding: "I call on them to ensure it [the investigation] is prompt, thorough, impartial and transparent and to hold all those responsible to account regardless of position or rank. The victims and their loved ones are owed no less."

Rights group alleges discrimination

The non-governmental rights organization Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization (CISC) said Monday that the victims belonged to a traditional hunting community called the Dozo, who were targeted "on the basis of appearance and stigmatization."

CISC says the massacre occurred after a reported terrorist attack against the local headquarters of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP) — a civilian auxiliary force that fights against Islamist militants alongside government soldiers.

People claiming to be VDP members shot dead the 28 Dozo tribesman "in reprisal," the CISC said.

"Armed terrorist groups exploit these kinds of transgression to attract recruits among the public," CISC Secretary Daouda Diallo added.

According to the UN, Turk has voiced concern that such abuses could be "linked to recruitment, arming and deployment of auxilliaries in Burkino Faso."

In a statement, the UN's Geneva-based human rights office said, "There is an urgent need to strengthen their vetting procedures, predeployment training on international human rights and humanitarian law, their effective supervision by the security and defense forces and to ensure inclusion and transparency during their recruitment."

Fight against insurgents ongoing

Burkinabe government spokesperson Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo said last weekend's "drama" had "unfolded at a time when Burkina Faso has launched an operation to mobilize the entire population in a united action in the fight against terrorism."

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been is battling a violent Islamist insurgency that has spread from neighboring Mali. The conflict has killed thousands of people in the region and displaced millions more.

js,zc/kb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)