23rd Session: Commissioner Ben Salem
24th Session: Commissioner Ben Salem
25th Session: Commissioner Ben Salem
26th Session: Commissioner Ben Salem
27th Session: Commissioner Ben Salem
28th Session: Commissioner Ben Salem
29th Session: Commissioner Ben Salem
SUMMARY OF FACTS
1. The Complainant is the Chairman of the Mouvement Burkinabé des Droits de
l'Homme et des Peuples (MBDHP), an NGO that enjoys observer status with the
Commission. He cites a series of human rights violations reported to have
been committed in Burkina Faso from the days of the revolutionary government
to date. He therefore requests the Commission to strive to reveal the truth
with regard to each of the cases reported not to have been reacted to by the
competent bodies in his country.
2. According to the Complainant, Burkina Faso, on 11th December 1991,
re-established the rule of law by adopting a new constitution. This
rekindled the hope that all human rights violations committed between 1983
and 1991 would be treated for the common good of the citizens of that
country. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Furthermore acts prejudicial
to civil and political liberties have been recorded.
3. The Complainant alleges that since the creation of the Mouvement
Burkinabé des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples in 1991, the latter has
recorded several cases of human rights violations in the country after
having been informed on several occasions by the victims and has
unsuccessfully requested the Judiciary to investigate the said cases. The
most important case to be brought to the notice of this NGO was that of the
suspension, discharge and removal of magistrates which took place on 10th
June 1987. It is reported that the state afterwards granted amnesty as part
of the reinstatement of workers wrongly laid off under the regime called the
National Revolutionary Council that ruled Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987.
Many workers are reported to have been reinstated while many others were
4. The Chairman of MBDHP Mr. Halidou Ouedraogo, a Magistrate by profession
belongs to this second category as well as another magistrate, Mr. Compaore
Christophe. Both of them are claiming damages in kind. Their claim has
remained in vain to date. The Supreme Court, which is reported to have been
informed about the case fifteen years ago, has never taken a decision on the
5. According to the Complainant, although the situation has slightly
improved, the Magistrates concerned continue to suffer from harassment
ranging from arbitrary postings to manipulations by the Supreme Council of
Judges and Magistrates and irregularities in the promotion of some
Magistrates. The two unions of Judges and Magistrates are reported therefore
to have, in a joint communiqué, denounced the subordination of their
profession, corruption of judges and irregularities observed in the
deliberations of the Supreme Council of Judges and Magistrates.
6. The Complainant alleges that many cases brought by him before Criminal
Courts in 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1996 have not been examined.
7. In October 1991, the Organisation Pour la Democratie, Mouvement du
Travail (ODP/MT), the ruling party, is reported to have put on fire, through
its militants, a Peugeot 505 vehicle of the Chairman of MBDHP. This incident
is reported to have taken place in front of the headquarters of another
political party now dissolved. La Convention pour le Peuple (CNPP/PS) whose
militants, fearing to see their headquarters burnt down, are reported to
have called on Mr. Halidou Ouedraogo to prevent the crime. The Complainant
maintains that the authors of this act of hooliganism are known and that
some of them are reported to have been active again with the task of
intimidating any person, especially workers and students, suspected of being
against the powers that be.
8. Following the above-mentioned destruction of his vehicle, the complaint
filed at the Ouagadougou Criminal Court by Mr. Ouedraogo in October 1991 is
said to have no effect.
9. In June 1994, after closing from work, Mr. Ouedraogo is reported to have
been a victim of an assassination attempt. When he put his car on, it is
reported to have exploded and he survived only by a miracle. A complaint
filed against X at the Ouagadougou Criminal Court for assassination attempt
and destruction of personal property is reported to have no effect.
10. The Complainant claims that in May 1995 a student demonstration took a
dramatic turn for the worse in a locality called Garango, two hundred
kilometres from Ouagadougou. A gendarme identified by MBDHP is reported to
have shot dead at close range two students. The enquiry speedily launched by
the said Movement which led to the submission of the case to the Criminal
Court of the said locality is reported not to have been examined. On the
other hand, one Ouya Bertin, a Member of Parliament representing his state,
is reported to have accused the Chairman of MBDHP of manipulating the pupils
and students. The former is reported to have declared at a gathering that
Mr. Halidou Ouedraogo should be got rid of and that in any case "measures
have been taken to liquidate him" MBDHP filed a complaint of libel and death
threats against its Chairman. This complaint is also reported to have
remained without effect to date.
11. The Complainant also alleges several human rights violations as well as
threats reported to have been made against his movement and person during
successive Burkina students' strikes in February, March and April 1997.
12. Referring to the turbulent political situation that prevailed in Burkina
Faso between 1989 and 1990, the claimant alleges that there were many
kidnapping cases followed by executions. He cited the disappearance of
persons suspected or accused of plotting against the State among them Mr.
Guillaume Sessouma who, at the time he was kidnapped/arrested, was a
lecturer at the University of Ouagadougou and who has not been seen since
1989. Similarly, Dabo Boukary, a medical student arrested in May 1990 by the
Presidential Guard has not reappeared to this day. According to the
claimant, the authorities are reported to have said that the latter might
13. As for assassinations, he cited those of Mr. Clement Oumarou Ouedraogo,
a University Professor and erstwhile representative of Burkina Faso at
UNESCO, gunned down in the middle of a street in Ouagadougou on 9th December
1991, two farmers killed in 1996 at 120 kilometres from Ouagadougou during a
so-called police routine check, as well as the 1994/95 assassinations of
people in the locality of Kaya (Nahouri). He claims that commandos of the Po
Military garrison are reported to have a hand in the latter assassinations.
14. The Complainant alleges that his organisation has submitted all these
cases of human rights violations, but without response to this day, to the
following Burkinabe institutions:
• competent jurisdictions;
• the Ministries concerned (Justice, Interior and Defence);
• the Prime Minister; and
• the President of the Republic of Burkina Faso.
15. The Complainant claims that Burkina Faso has violated Articles
3,4,5,6,7,8,9(2), 10,11,12 and 13(2) of the African Charter on Human and
Peoples' Rights. He requests the Commission to investigate the said
violations and get the Respondent State to:
• explain the fate of the student Dabo Boukary;
• disclose the conclusions of the inquiry on the assassination of Mr.
Clement Oumarou Ouedraogo;
• take measures that can help find a legal solution to all these human
rights violation cases; and
• compensate the victims of such violations.
16. In support of his petition, the Complainant provided abundant
documentation on most of the alleged human rights violation cases.
17. The communication is dated 25th April 1997. It was received by the
Secretariat of the Commission by fax on 25th May 1997. However, the
Complainant observed that there were annexes to the communication and the
Secretariat had to wait to receive them.
18. On 20th August 1997, the Secretariat acknowledged receipt of the
communication and asked the Complainant to indicate precisely the points
contained in the communication on which he wanted the Commission to look
into and to attach the documents mentioned.
19. On the same day, a Note Verbale was faxed to the Burkinabe Ministry of
External Relations and Co-operation forwarding a copy of the communication
and requesting for the Ministry's reaction within three months in accordance
with the relevant provisions of the Rules of Procedure. There was no
reaction to this Note Verbale.
20. On 5th December 1997, the Secretariat received correspondence from the
Complainant reiterating the grievances in his earlier complaint instead of
providing the clarifications requested.
21. At its 23rd Session, the Commission decided to be seized of the
communication and deferred examination of the issue of admissibility to the
22. On 1st June 1998, a Note Verbale was sent to the Burkinabe Government
informing it of this decision and calling for its reaction as to the
admissibility of the communication was sent. A similar letter was also
addressed to the Complainant.
23. On 13th July the Secretariat received a fax from the Burkinabé Minister
of Justice and Guardian of the Seals stating that the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs had informed him of a complaint submitted against Burkina Faso by
Mouvement Burkinabé des Droits de l'Homme. He stated that the complaint was
written in English and requested that the Secretariat provide him with the
French version of the complaint since the working language of the country is
24. On the same day, the Secretariat reacted to the above-mentioned fax. The
Minister was informed that the Commission had been seized of the
communication and that the Respondent State was required to forward its
submissions on the issue of admissibility for examination at the 24th
Session scheduled to be held in October 1998.
25. At its 24th Ordinary Session, the Commission heard the parties. Both
parties expressed the desire to settle the dispute amicably and requested
the Commission's assistance to that effect.
26. The Commission declared the communication admissible. However, in view
of the desire of the parties to settle the dispute amicably, it offered its
good services for that purpose.
27. On 10th November 1998, the parties were informed by the Secretariat of
the Commission's decision.
28. At its 25th Session, the Commission requested for information on the
progress of the settlement between the parties.
29. During the 26th Session, the Commission learnt that there had been no
reaction from the parties with regard to the progress of the settlement. The
Commission therefore decided to defer examination on the merits of the
communication to the 29th Session.
30. On 10th December 1999, the Secretariat informed the parties of the
31. At the 27th Ordinary Session held in Algiers, Algeria, the Commission
heard parties to the complaint and decided that the Respondent State should
take the initiative in inviting the Complainant for an amicable settlement
of the case, failing which, the Commission would proceed to consider the
case on its merits.
32. On 20th July 2000, the Secretariat of the Commission conveyed the above
decision to the parties.
33. On 17th August 2000, the Secretariat of the Commission received a Note
Verbale from the Respondent State informing the Commission that they had
complied with its decision and invited the Complainant for a meeting on 14th
34. At the 28th Ordinary Session, the Commission heard both parties. The
Respondent State informed the Commission that the case of the victims of
massacres committed by police officers had been settled but that the other
cases were pending. The Complainant confirmed that a meeting had been held
but that there had been no progress in so far as settling the matter was
35. Article 56(5) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' rights
requires, prior to any recourse being addressed to the Commission that
communications received in accordance with article 55, should be "...sent
after exhausting local remedies, if any unless it is obvious that this
procedure is unduly prolonged".
36. In this particular case, the Complainant had approached the competent
national authorities with a view to obtaining redress for the alleged
violations and to clarify the cases of disappearances and assassinations
that had remained unpunished. At its 24th Ordinary Session, the Commission
heard both parties. They expressed their desire to reach an amicable
solution and requested its assistance to this end. The Commission informed
the parties that it was at their disposal for purposes of reaching an
amicable settlement but the parties did not utilise this avenue. The
communication was declared admissible.
37. Article 3 of the Charter, stipulates that:
"Every individual shall be equal before the law. Every individual shall be
entitled to equal protection of the law."
38. In order to redress the effects of the suspensions, dismissals and
retirements of magistrates which took place on 10th June 1987, the Burkinabé
State introduced an amnesty, aimed at rehabilitating workers abusively
removed under the so-called "Conseil National de la Révolution" regime,
which ruled over Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. As part of the said
measure, many workers were restored to their posts, while many others,
according to information available to the Commission, remained unaffected by
the measure. The Complainant, Mr. Halidou Ouédraogo and Mr. Compaoré
Christophe, both magistrates, fall in the latter category. They both
demanded to be compensated in kind. The request made by Mr. Compaore has not
been met to date. The Supreme Court, before which the case was filed over
fifteen years ago has passed no verdict on it. The Commission further notes
that no reason with a basis in law was given to justify this delay in
considering the case. Nor does the Respondent State give any legal reasons
to justify the retention of the punishment meted out to these two
magistrates. The Commission considers therefore that this is a violation of
Articles 18 and 19 of the Fundamental Principles on the Independence of the
Judiciary, adopted by the seventh United Nations Congress on Crime
Prevention and the Treatment of Offenders, held from 26th August to 6th
September 1985, and confirmed by the General Assembly in its Resolutions
40/32 of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13th December 1985.
39. In communication 39/90, A. Pagnoule (for A. Mazou) /Cameroon, para. 17,
the Commission stated:
"Considering that the case under examination concerns the possibility of Mr.
Mazou exercising his profession and that there are undoubtedly some people
who depend on him for their survival, two years without any action on a
case... constitutes a violation... of the Charter".
40. It is abundantly clear, as the Commission has already noted that the
Respondent State has shown reasons as to why the rehabilitation measure was
applied in a selective manner. The Commission also wonders at the reasons
behind the Supreme Court's failure to proceed with the case. Fifteen years
without any action being taken on the case, or any decision being made
either on the fate of the concerned persons or on the relief sought,
constitutes a denial of justice and a violation of the equality of all
citizens before the law. It is also a violation of Article 7(1)(d) of the
African Charter, which proclaims the right to be tried within a reasonable
time by an impartial court or tribunal.
41. Article 4 of the Charter states that:
"Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect
for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily
deprived of this right".
42. The communication contains the names of various people who were victims
of assassinations, forced disappearances, attacks or attempted attacks
against their physical integrity, and acts of intimidation. The Respondent
State did not deny these facts. Also, the State has never published the
results of the commission of enquiry set up following the assassination of
Mr. Clement Oumarou Ouédraogo, nor did it identify the perpetrators of the
offences or take any measures against them. In conformity with its own
jurisprudence which states that "whenever allegations of human rights abuses
are not contested by the accused State, ... the Commission shall decide on the
basis of the facts provided by the plaintiff and treat such facts as they
are presented to it" (See communications 25/89, 47/90, 56/93 and 100/93,
para. 49). The Commission therefore applies the same reasoning to the facts
related in the present communication. The Commission would also like to
reiterate a fundamental principle proclaimed in Article 1 of the Charter
that not only do the States Parties recognise the rights, duties and
freedoms enshrined in the Charter, they also commit themselves to respect
them and to take measures to give effect to them. In other words, if a State
Party fails to ensure respect of the rights contained in the African
Charter, this constitutes a violation of the Charter. Even if the State or
its agents were not the perpetrators of the violation. (See communication
74/92, para. 35).
43. The communication points to a series of human rights violations linked
to certain events that occurred in Burkina Faso in 1995 and additional
elements attached to the dossier describe the human rights violations
perpetrated at Garango, Kaya Navio, as well as the murder of a young peasant
at Réo. The communication also mentions the deaths of citizens who were shot
or tortured to death, as well as the deaths of two young students who had
gone onto the streets with their colleagues to express certain demands and
to support those of the secondary school and higher institution teachers.
The Commission deplores the abusive use of means of State violence against
demonstrators even when the demonstrations are not authorised by the
competent administrative authorities. It believes that the public
authorities possess adequate means to disperse crowds, and that those
responsible for public order must make an effort in these types of
operations to cause only the barest minimum of damage and violation of
physical integrity, to respect and preserve human life.
44. Article 5 of the Charter guarantees respect for the dignity inherent in
the human person and the recognition of his legal status. This text further
prohibits all forms of exploitation and degradation of man, particularly
slavery, slave trade, torture cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and
treatment. The guarantee of the physical integrity and security of the
person is also enshrined in Article 6 of the African Charter, as well as in
the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons against Forced
Disappearances, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in
Resolution 47/133 of 18th December 1992, which stipulates in article 1(2)
that "any act leading to forced disappearance excludes the victim from the
protection of the law and causes grave suffering to the victim and his
family. It constitutes a violation of the rules of international law,
especially those that guarantee to all the right to the recognition of their
legal status, the right to freedom and security of their person and the
right not be subjected to torture or any other inhuman or degrading
punishment or treatment. It also violates the right to life or seriously
imperils it". The disappearances of persons suspected or accused of plotting
against the instituted authorities, including Mr. Guillaume Sessouma and a
medical student, Dabo Boukary, arrested in May 1990 by the presidential
guard and who have not been seen since then constitute a violation of the
above-cited texts and principles. In this last case, the Commission notes
the submission of a complaint on 16th October 2000.
45. Article 8 of the Charter provides for the guarantee of the freedom of
conscience, the profession and the free practice of religion. While the
Complainant claims violation of these treaty provisions, the communication
does not contain any elements that could reasonably lead to such a
conclusion. Information before the Commission provides no indication that
the Complainant or that any other person cited in the communication had
tried to express or exercise their freedom of conscience or to profess their
faith. The Commission is of the view, therefore, that violation Article 8
has not been established. It adopts the same position as regards the
allegations of violation of Articles 9(2), 10 and 11 of the Charter.
46. Article 12(2) stipulates that:
"Every individual shall have the right to leave any country including his
own, and to return to his country. This right may only be subject to
restrictions, provided for by law for the protection of national security,
law and order, public health or morality".
47. The communication alleges that on 6th August 1995, Mr. Nongma Ernest
Ouédraogo, Secretary General of the political party known as "Bloc
Socialiste Burkinabé" was prevented from leaving the national territory,
following the publication by the said party of a statement on the situation
in the country. Information available to the Commission does not point to
any threat to public security or morality that either the journey or even
the person of the said Mr. Ouédraogo could have represented. Therefore, it
agrees that there was violation of Article 12(2).
48. The Complainant claims that there was dismissal of many workers at Poura
on account of a strike. Unfortunately, the information provided to the
Commission do not allow it to establish in any certain manner that there was
violation of article 13(2).
FOR THESE REASONS
The Commission finds the Republic of Burkina Faso in violation of Articles
3, 4, 5, 6, 7(1)(d) and 12(2) of the African Charter.
Recommends that the Republic of Burkina Faso draws all the legal
consequences of this decision, in particular by:
• Identifying and taking to court those responsible for the human rights
violations cited above;
• Accelerating the judicial process of the cases pending before the courts;
• Compensating the victims of the human rights violations stated in the
Done at the 29th Ordinary Session held in Tripoli, Libya from 23rd April to
7th May 2001.