1 December 1999
International Human Rights Day 1999: challenging impunity
**Updates IFEX alerts of 9 July, 7 May and 18 January 1999, 22 October, 16 October and 15 December 1998**
(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) -The following is an ARTICLE 19 press release:
Forward Planning Notice
Re: International Human Rights Day: 10 December 1999.
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 1999: CHALLENGING IMPUNITY
The last week has seen huge demonstrations in Burkina Faso protesting against the brutal murder a year ago of Norbert Zongo, a pioneering and fearless critic of the government, and three of his friends. A general strike is planned in the country for December 13, the anniversary of their deaths. Public anger over the issue is compounded by the fact that, despite compelling evidence pointing to the involvement of security officials in the murder, a year later no-one has been arrested.
ARTICLE 19 is marking International Human Rights Day 1999 by joining the organisations honouring the memory of Norbert Zongo and demanding action from the authorities. Burkina Faso: One Year On and Still No Justice, a new report from ARTICLE 19, looks at the background leading to the murder of Norbert Zongo and the huge impact it has had in Burkina Faso. An interview given in July 1997 by Zongo is published here for the first time.
Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19 said:
"The Burkina Faso government's response to the independent inquiry into the death of Norbert Zongo has been completely inadequate. The public response shows that the Burkinabé have had enough of government inaction on fundamental human rights issues."
The case of Norbert Zongo highlights a critical human rights problem seen all over the world: impunity. ARTICLE 19's recommendations for the Burkina Faso government in this report reflect the need for governments across the world to respect the right to freedom of expression and guarantee safety for journalists and human rights workers. This not only involves ensuring that independent investigations are carried out, but that they are followed by swift action by courts acting in accordance with international standards to ensure that perpetrators of crimes are brought to justice.
As an investigative journalist and tireless human rights worker, Norbert Zongo was in the front line for targeting by the authorities. It is thought that his fate was sealed when, in his role as an investigative journalist (he was editor-in-chief of the weekly L'indépendant), he began to look into the death in custody, allegedly due to torture, of an employee of the President's brother.