Amnesty International has given vivid details of how the Presidential Guards, a group of elite soldiers opened fire on innocent Bukinabes during the foiled September coup. The organization said 14 people including two children were killed while six were shot in the back. The organization therefore insist that there must not be amnesty for soldiers who shot at unarmed civilians.
Already Amnesty International has submitted its documented report to the transitional authorities, calling for an inquiry to investigate recent and historical abuses. “Burkina Faso’s former presidential guard displayed a cold-blooded disregard for human life, killing 14 unarmed protestors and bystanders and wounding hundreds more with automatic weapons following last month’s coup d’état;
Whilst General Gilbert Diendere, who led the coup, and General Djibril Bassole, former Foreign Minister, have been arrested and charged with crimes including attacking state security and murder, members of the Regiment de sécurité présidentielle (RSP) are being reintegrated into the national army”, the report stated.
“For soldiers to gun down large numbers of unarmed protestors, including children, with automatic weapons is an outrageous use of force amounting to a crime under international law” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International West Africa director.
RSP members have long enjoyed impunity, despite being at the heart of grave human rights violations. Independent investigations are needed to bring those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice, in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty. Of the 14 killed in Ouagadougou between 16 and 20 September, six had been involved in peaceful demonstrations against the coup d’état. Numerous eyewitnesses confirmed that, on several occasions, protesters were holding their hands in the air. Despite this clear display of their peaceful intent soldiers opened fire on them without warning.
On September 17, for example, RSP members arrived at a protest in front of the traditional king Moogho Naaba’s palace, and began shooting in the air and towards the crowd. Two people were shot dead in the square and a journalist present described how fleeing protesters were pursued by soldiers:
“As people ran away they were chased by the RSP on a motorbike and shots were fired. One protestor fell down, he was hit at the back of his neck. Blood ran out of his neck and mouth…he died later.”
Medical evidence seen by Amnesty International from a number of incidents shows that six of those killed were shot in the back. Eyewitnesses confirmed they had been shot whilst running away from security forces. Others killed were shot in the head, chest and thorax, indicating that soldiers who had opened fire had not attempted to minimise fatal injury.
Government figures report that 271 people were injured during the post-coup violence. Medical documents consulted by Amnesty International suggest that a large proportion were injured by live ammunition, while videos and eyewitness testimony confirm that others were whipped and beaten by the RSP.
One pregnant woman was shot in the stomach on 18 September whilst standing in her home in the Nonsin neighbourhood of Ouagadougou. “The bullet pierced her uterus and we had to perform a caesarean delivery,” the midwife who looked after her told Amnesty International. “The child was born with a gunshot wound on the left buttock.
Amnesty International also documented restrictions on freedom of expression after the coup, including attacks by RSP on journalists, political figures and human rights defenders. In one case, the studio of Smockey, a musician and leader of the Balai Citoyen civil society movement, was seriously damaged by an anti-tank rocket. Amnesty International researchers found the shell of the rocket and bullet holes on the wall, while computers and other material were stolen.
Based on evidence collected, Amnesty International has submitted a memorandum to the transitional authorities calling for the expansion of a planned Commission of Inquiry to investigate these killings and other human rights violations, including the shooting of at least 10 protesters during demonstrations in October 2014, and the murders of Thomas Sankara and Norbert Zongo.