RSF files complaint against Blaise Compaoré with French authorities
(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has asked the French state prosecutor to open a preliminary investigation against Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré, on the occasion of his visit to France. The president is expected to arrive in France on 11 October 2001. Represented by lawyer Sophie Coupry, RSF wants the French courts to examine Compaoré's responsibility for acts of torture committed by members of the presidential guard, of which he is the immediate superior. French legislation integrated the convention against torture into its national law in 1984. French judges now have the authority to try those responsible for acts of torture, even if the torture was not committed in France or against French citizens.
On 13 December 1998, Norbert Zongo, director of "L'Indépendant" newspaper, and three of his companions were assassinated in Sapouy (100 kilometres south of Ouagadougou). The journalist had long been investigating the death of David Ouédraogo, the chauffeur of François Compaoré, presidential advisor and the head of state's brother. Suspected of robbery, Ouédraogo and three of François Compaoré's other employees were arrested in December 1997 by guardsmen who were close to Blaise Compaoré. The four employees were detained for several weeks inside the buildings which house the presidential guard. Ouédraogo died as a result of the torture to which he was subjected.
The independent commission of inquiry that was created in order to shed light on Zongo's death concluded in its final report, which was made public on 6 May 1999, that the journalist was assassinated "following his investigative work in the Ouédraogo affair." The commission implicated six members of the presidential guard in Zongo's assassination.
Though several individuals were found guilty in the Ouédraogo affair, Burkina Faso's justice system only prosecuted those who carried out the crimes. Neither Blaise Compaoré nor his brother François were questioned. By appealing to the French courts, RSF hopes to end the impunity which is prevalent in Burkina Faso.