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Burkina Faso says HRW massacre accusations ‘baseless’

In News, World
April 28, 2024

A Human Rights Watch report on Thursday accused the military of executing residents in Nodin and Soro, including at least 56 children.

Burkina Faso has said a Human Rights Watch report alleging that soldiers killed at least 223 villagers in two attacks on February 25 made “baseless accusations”.

The HRW report on Thursday accused the military of executing residents of Nodin and Soro, including at least 56 children, as part of a campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with rebel fighters. The New York-based group said its report was based on telephone interviews with witnesses, civil society and others.

“The government of Burkina Faso strongly rejects and condemns such baseless accusations,” Communications Minister Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo said in a statement late on Saturday.

“The killings at Nodin and Soro led to the opening of a legal inquiry,” he said.

The minister expressed his surprise that “while this inquiry is under way to establish the facts and identify the authors, HRW has been able, with boundless imagination, to identify ‘the guilty’ and pronounce its verdict”.

HRW described the massacre as “among the worst army abuse in Burkina Faso since 2015”.

“These mass killings … appear to be part of a widespread military campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with Islamist armed groups, and may amount to crimes against humanity,” HRW said on Thursday.

“Burkinabe authorities should urgently undertake a thorough investigation into the massacres, with support from the African Union and the United Nations to protect its independence and impartiality,” it added.

According to the Burkina statement: “The media campaign orchestrated around these accusations fully shows the unavowed intention … to discredit our fighting forces.”

“All the allegations of violations and abuses of human rights reported in the framework of the fight against terrorism are systematically subject to investigations” followed by the government and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, it said.

On Thursday, Burkina Faso suspended the BBC and Voice of America radio networks from broadcasting after they aired the report accusing the army of attacks on civilians in the battle against rebels.

Violence in the region fuelled by the decade-long fight with armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) has worsened since the respective militaries seized power in Burkina Faso and neighbouring Mali and Niger in a series of coups from 2020 to 2023.

Burkina Faso saw a severe escalation of deadly attacks in 2023, with more than 8,000 people reportedly killed, according to United States-based crisis monitoring group the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).

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