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Historic ruling calls on Burkina Faso to investigate Norbert Zongo's murder

Media Foundation for West Africa

This statement was originally published on on 8 June 2015.

Reporters Without Borders hails the historic ruling that the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights issued on 5 June in the case of Norbert Zongo, a Burkina Faso newspaper editor who was murdered together with three other people in 1998.

The court ordered Burkina Faso's authorities to “resume the investigations with a view to finding, charging and trying the perpetrators of the murders of Norbert Zongo and his three companions.”

It also ordered the Burkina Faso state to pay compensation of 25 million CFA francs (38,000 euros) to the spouses of each of the four victims, 15 million CFA francs to each of their children and 10 million to each of their parents.

“This ruling constitutes a major turning-point in the Zongo case, which has suffered appallingly from the impunity tolerated for all these years by Burkina Faso's justice system,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk.

“This puts additional pressure on the authorities to keep the promises of justice initially given at the time of the November 2014 political transition. The reparations demanded for the families of the victims are an acknowledgment of the suffering they endured. We hope the authorities will seize this opportunity to redress an injustice that has lasted for too long.” The founder and editor of the weekly L'Indépendant, Zongo was murdered while investigating the suspected implication of President Blaise Compaoré's brother in his driver's murder. The Zongo murder investigation was closed in 2006, without any one being found guilty, in a decision that outraged civil society and human rights defenders.

In a previous decision issued in March 2014, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights ruled that Burkina Faso had failed to properly investigate the Zongo murder.

After President Compaoré was ousted last November, transitional President Michel Kafando announced that steps would be taken to combat impunity, raising hopes that the Zongo case would be quickly reopened. An investigating judge was appointed but no tangible progress has been seen since then.

The government now has six months to submit a report on the progress achieved in the Zongo case.

For all the information about the Zongo case and the action taken by Reporters Without Borders, click here.

Burkina Faso is ranked 46th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Court: Burkina Faso must investigate journalist’s 1998 death

    “The court’s ruling reaffirms the importance of holding governments accountable for prosecuting those who would use violence to silence journalists,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “Now it remains for the government to carry out the court’s orders and bring Norbert Zongo’s killers to justice.”

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