Burkina Faso’s Presidential Guard must stop using lethal force, beatings and other violence to repress protests and release arbitrarily detained members of the transitional government, said Amnesty International amid reports that demonstrators have been beaten and shot following today’s coup.
With large protests announced in response to the dissolution of the transitional government, members of the presidential guard (RSP, Regiment de Sécurité Présidentielle) must refrain from again using excessive force against peaceful protestors. In October 2014, more than 10 people were killed and hundreds injured when security forces, including the RSP, fired on unarmed crowds.
Civilians with gunshot wounds have already been registered at local hospitals in Ouagadougou, while there are also reports of deaths. Amnesty International has spoken with an eyewitness who saw the dead body of one person killed by bullets.
“The situation in Burkina Faso is deeply worrying. The interim president and all those detained must be immediately freed and their physical integrity protected,” said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher.
“The security forces must respect the right of the population to protest peacefully, and take action to avoid any more deaths or injuries,”
Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of members of the transitional government who have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, including interim President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Colonel Isaac Zida, and the reopening of radio stations that have been shut down.
The detention of members of the executive and the announcement by members of the RSP that the transitional government was being dissolved has triggered protests in the capital, Ouagadougou and other cities across the country including Bobo Dioulasso.
National as well as privately owned radio stations, such as the station Oméga, have been prevented from transmitting news. Journalists’ materials have been seized, they have also been threatened and beaten by members of the RSP. Members of the presidential guard have also fired warning shots to disperse crowds in main avenues and have been patrolling the capital city. A curfew has been imposed and the national borders have been closed.
“There is also no excuse for cutting off radio stations or intimidating journalists,” said Gaetan Mootoo.
“Freedom of expression must be protected. Steps must be taken urgently to ensure the media can freely and fully report, and that peoples’ right to access information is upheld.”
The coup d’état comes just two days after the National Reconciliation and Reforms Commission recommended that the RSP be disbanded following accusations that its guards opened fire on unarmed protesters during last year’s anti-government protests.
In January, Amnesty International published a report stating that security forces loyal to Burkina Faso’s ousted president Blaise Compaoré used live ammunition against largely peaceful protesters, leaving at least 10 dead and hundreds injured during October 2014’s protests. The document called on authorities to fulfil their obligation to respect the right to demonstrate peacefully and to prohibit the use of excessive, arbitrary, unjustified and abusive force against protesters; as well as respect and protect the right of journalists to carry out their profession, free from fear of intimidation and threats.