Burkina Faso Junta Slams NGO Report On Massacre As 'Baseless'

(file photo).

Military-ruled Burkina Faso has rejected as "baseless accusations" a Human Rights Watch report that soldiers killed at least 223 villagers in two attacks on 25 February.

"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 underway 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," the New York-based group said on Thursday.

According to the Burkina statement, "The media campaign orchestrated around these accusations fully shows the unavowed intention ... to discredit our fighting forces."

Media networks suspended

"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.

The junta on Thursday suspended the BBC and Voice of America radio networks from broadcasting for two weeks after they aired the report accusing the army of attacks on civilians in the battle against jihadists.

The Burkina Faso communications authority CSC said the report contained "hasty and biased declarations without tangible proof against the Burkinabe army".

The UN Human Rights Office said it was "concerned" about the suspension.

"Restrictions on media freedom and civic space must stop immediately," spokesperson Marta Hurtado said in a statement.

The British and US broadcasters are the latest international media organisations to be targeted since Captain Ibrahim Traoré seized power in the West African country in a September 2022 coup.

French outlets targeted

Under Traore, the junta has distanced Burkina Faso from France, which ruled the country until 1960, and has already targeted a number of French media outlets.

In September, the junta suspended the print and online operations of French media outlet Jeune Afrique in the country after it published two articles about tensions within the military.

In June, it suspended French TV channel LCI for three months.

In March 2023, it also suspended all broadcasts by the France 24 news channel a few months after also suspending Radio France Internationale (RFI). It accused both public media outlets of having relayed jihadist leaders' messages.

The following month the correspondents of French newspapers Liberation and Le Monde were expelled.

The jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015 has seen thousands of civilians, troops and police killed and two million people have fled their homes.

(with AFP)

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