Burkina Faso


  • Burkina Faso at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report

    Coalition Burkinabé des Défenseurs des Droits Humains, the West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and CIVICUS welcome the government of Burkina Faso's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome passing of a new law on the protection of human rights defenders in June 2017, making Burkina Faso only the second African country to do so.

    However, in our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, Burkina Faso only partially implemented the one civic space recommendation received during its 2nd Cycle review. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    A new law on freedom of association, passed in 2015, allows authorities to delay the granting of legal personality in order to conduct a “morality” test on the applicant if deemed necessary. Civil society in Burkina Faso are further concerned about article 56 of the law which establishes a mediation commission, the members of which are not guaranteed to be independent of government.

    Despite the new HRD law, in recent years journalists and civil society activists, in particular those critical of the government, have continued to experience threats, intimidation and physical attacks. Freedom of expression has been undermined in recent years, including through the forced closure of some media outlets. 

    Serious violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including the killing of at least 14 unarmed protestors, took place during a coup d’etat in September 2015.

    Mr President, we call on the Government of Burkina Faso to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.


  • Civil and political rights are backsliding in West Africa ahead of elections

    There has been a rapid decline in civic freedoms and democratic norms in Francophone West Africa with ruling presidents evading term limits and muzzling their opposition and pro-democracy groups, CIVICUS said ahead of presidential elections in Guinea (18 October) and Côte d’Ivoire (31 October).

    Over the next six months a series of elections will take place across Francophone West Africa. Voting kicks off in Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire later this month, followed by elections in Burkina Faso (November), Niger (December-January) and Benin (April). Togo already had a contested presidential election in February 2020.

    In Togo, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, violence and political tensions are being fuelled by presidents refusing to step down. In Benin, recent changes in eligibility requirements mean that members of the opposition may not be able to run for presidency, while Côte d’Ivoire, Niger and Burkina Faso are confronting or emerging from violent armed conflicts which are being used to justify repressive laws and policies. In addition, the restrictions introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and armed groups spilling over from the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea are making the political situations more volatile.

    In this tense political environment, the new report “Civic space backsliding ahead of elections in Francophone West Africa” examines the tools of repression being used to undermine opposition groups, human rights defenders, activists and journalists. with a focus on Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Togo.

    It documents recent Internet disruptions, the arrest of hundreds of pro-democracy activists and journalists and the killing of dozens of peaceful protesters in demonstrations organised over the last three years. Governments are using restrictive laws, over-complicated registration processes, judicial harassment and excessive use of force to clampdown on civil society, particularly when dissent is expressed online or during protests.

    “Instead of working with civil society groups to create an enabling environment for free and fair elections, authorities across Francophone West Africa have resorted to muzzling human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists. In the hope of stamping out all opposition, they have created a climate of fear which fuels political violence, erodes the rule of law and undermines regional stability,” said François Patuel, senior researcher on West Africa and author of the report.

    In Guinea, where President Alpha Condé will run for a third term on 18 October 2020, over fifty people were killed since October 2019 in protests organised by the political opposition and pro-democracy group Front National de Défense de la Constitution (National Front for the Defence of the Constitution, FNDC). In March 2020, the constitutional referendum which opened the way to Alpha Condé running for a third term was marred with a social media shutdown and intercommunal clashes in the Guinea Forest region which left over 30 people dead. Dozens of FNDC supporters and journalists have been detained since the creation of the movement in April 2019.

    In Côte d’Ivoire, at least 12 people were killed in protests and clashes between political supporters following President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to run for a third term for the presidential election scheduled on 31 October 2020. Public protests have been banned since August 2020. The authorities have adopted laws criminalising false news and used them to target journalists, bloggers and politicians expressing dissent, including members of parliament such as Alain Lobognon who remains in detention since December 2019. In gross contempt to regional institutions, Côte d’Ivoire has been ignoring orders from the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to release pro-Soro supporters and allow Guillaume Soro and Laurent Gbagbo to stand for elections.

    “Local human rights groups do not take up sensitive political cases for fear of reprisals. Even lawyers are scared.” --Woman human rights defender, Abidjan, 15 May 2020.

    “On paper, the right to freedom of expression is supposed to be protected. But in practice, journalists are intimidated when they write on sensitive topics such as land rights, police brutality and corruption.” -- Interview with a human rights defender, Lomé, 14 May 2020.

    With civic freedoms backsliding across West Africa Francophone, civil society organisations need support from regional and international partners to remain safe, to ensure their voice is heard in international and regional fora and to increase the pressure on national authorities for positive human rights change. ECOWAS and the African Union, in particular, must step-up their response to the authorities’ disregard for regional standards and instruments, including their efforts to undermine the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights.


    To arrange interviews, please contact: 
    François Patuel, Consultant & Senior Researcher on West Africa for CIVICUS, , +221 77 693 78 46


  • Civil Society “Contested and Under Pressure”, says new report

    Read this press release in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish

    Civil society around the globe is “contested and under pressure” according to a 22-country research findings report released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The report, Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries, brings together insights from Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) conducted around the world between 2013 and 2016.


  • Country recommendations on civic space for the UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 30th UPR session (May 2018). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations. Countries examined include: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan:

    Bangladesh (Individual/Joint): In this UPR, CIVICUS draws attention to a range of legislative restrictions which have been strengthened and imposed to curtail the operation of independent civic groups in Bangladesh. Of particular concern, are new restrictions on groups seeking funds from abroad, as well the repeated use of the penal code to arrest HRDs and place blanket bans on meetings and assemblies. We further examine the spate of extrajudicial killings against secular bloggers and LGBTI activists which is illustrative of Bangladesh’s downward spiral with respect to civic freedoms and systemic failure to protect civil society.

    Burkina Faso (EN/FR): CIVICUS, the Burkinabé Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and the West African Human Right Defenders Network examine unwarranted limitations on freedom of expression and assembly. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    Cameroon: CIVICUS, Réseau des Défenseurs Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) highlight Cameroon’s fulfilment of the right to association, assembly and expression and unwarranted persecution of human rights defenders since its previous UPR examination.  We assess the ongoing judicial persecution and detention of human rights defenders on trumped up charges, the use of anti-terrorism legislation to target journalists and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.  

    Colombia(EN/SP): CIVICUS highlights the hostile environment for human rights defenders, social leaders and unions workers who are routinely subject to physical attacks, targeted assassinations, harassment and intimidation by state and non-state actors. CIVICUS examines the increased number of attacks against journalists as well as the government’s lack of effective implementation of protection mechanisms to safeguard the work of journalists and human rights defenders.

    Cuba (EN/SP): CIVICUS and the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) highlight the constitutional, legal and de facto obstacles to the exercise of the basic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. The submission discusses the situation of CSOs, HRDs, journalists and bloggers, who face harassment, criminalisation, arbitrary arrests, searches of their homes and offices and reprisals for interacting with UN and OAS human rights institutions. The submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled both in the streets and in the media, offline and online. 

    Djibouti (EN/FR): CIVICUS, Defend Defenders and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) submission describes how the government of Djibouti has patently ignored the 14 recommendations made during the second UPR cycle related to the protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Instead, in the intervening period, authorities in Djibouti have continued their campaign against dissent, regularly detaining human rights defenders, journalists and trade union activists because of their criticism of the government or human rights activists.  

    Russia: CIVICUS and Citizens’ Watch address concerns regarding the adoption and application of several draconian laws that have resulted in the expulsion and closure of numerous CSOs and restrictions on the activities of countless others. The submission also lays out the increasing criminalisation and persecution of dissenting views by means of growing restrictions, in both law and practice, on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. 

    Turkmenistan: CIVICUS highlights restrictions to freedom of association in Turkmenistan including recent amendments to the 2014 Law on Public Associations which further limit CSOs’ ability to register, operate independently and receive funding from international sources. Additionally, we assess the use of the arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders as well as unwarranted limitations to online and offline freedom of expression.

    Uzbekistan: CIVICUS, The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and the International Partnership for Human Rights assess the conditions of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Uzbekistan. We highlight the lack of progress made in implementing recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle. It particular, we note that although there have been some notable improvements to the environment for civic space, the situation for human rights activists and journalists remains deeply constrained.


  • Un nouveau rapport montre que les libertés civiles et politiques sont en recul en Afrique de l’Ouest à l’approche des élections présidentielles.

    Les libertés civiles et les normes démocratiques enregistrent un net recul en Afrique de l’Ouest francophone avec des présidents au pouvoir contournant les limites de mandat et muselant les militants pro-démocratie et les opposants, a déclaré CIVICUS, à l’approche les élections présidentielles en Guinée (18 octobre) et en Côte d’Ivoire (31 octobre).

    Au cours des six prochains mois, une série d’élections se tiendra dans plusieurs pays d’Afrique de l’Ouest francophone.  Les élections débuteront en Guinée et en Côte d’Ivoire en octobre, puis au Burkina Faso (novembre), au Niger (décembre-janvier) et au Bénin (avril).  Le Togo a déjà organisé une élection présidentielle contestée en février 2020.

    Au Togo, en Guinée et en Côte d’Ivoire, la violence et les tensions politiques sont alimentées par le refus des présidents de ne pas se retirer à la fin de leur mandat. Au Bénin, des changements récents dans les conditions d’éligibilité signifient que les membres de l’opposition pourraient ne pas être en mesure de se présenter à la prochaine présidentielle, tandis que la Côte d’Ivoire, le Niger et le Burkina Faso sont actuellement confrontés ou sont en train de sortir  de conflits armés violents qui sont utilisés pour justifier des lois  et politiques répressives. En outre, les restrictions introduites en réponse à la pandémie COVID-19 ainsi que l'avancée de groupes armés du Sahel vers le golfe de Guinée rendent la situation plus instable.

    Dans ce climat politique tendu, le nouveau rapport «L’espace civique en recul à l’approche des élections en Afrique de l’Ouest francophone» examine les outils de répression utilisés pour affaiblir les groupes d’opposition, saper le travail des défenseurs des droits humains, des militants et des journalistes, avec un accent sur le Bénin, la Côte d’Ivoire, la Guinée, le Niger et le Togo.

    Ce rapport documente les récentes perturbations d’Internet, l’arrestation de centaines de journalistes et d’activistes pro-démocratie ainsi que les homicides de dizaines de manifestants pacifiques lors des manifestations organisées au cours des trois dernières années. Les gouvernements utilisent des lois restrictives, des processus d’enregistrement trop complexes, le harcèlement judiciaire et un recours excessif à la force pour réprimer la société civile, en particulier lorsque la divergence d’opinion est exprimée en ligne ou lors de manifestations.

    «Plutôt que de travailler avec la société civile pour créer un environnement propice à des élections libres et équitables en Afrique de l'Ouest, les autorités répriment les défenseurs des droits humains et les militants pro-démocratie. Dans l’espoir d’éradiquer toute opposition, elles ont créé un climat de peur qui alimente la violence politique, érode l’état de droit et mine la stabilité régionale », a déclaré François Patuel, chercheur principal sur l’Afrique de l’Ouest et auteur du rapport.

    En Guinée, où le président Alpha Condé se présentera pour un troisième mandat le 18 octobre 2020, plus de cinquante personnes ont été tuées depuis octobre 2019 lors de manifestations organisées par l’opposition politique et le groupe pro-démocratie Front National de Défense de la Constitution (FNDC).  En mars 2020, le référendum constitutionnel qui a ouvert la voie à la candidature d’Alpha Condé pour un troisième mandat a été marqué par la fermeture des réseaux sociaux ainsi que par des affrontements intercommunautaires en Guinée forestière qui ont fait plus de 30 morts.  Des dizaines de sympathisants du FNDC et de journalistes ont été arrêtés depuis la création du mouvement en avril 2019.

    En Côte d’Ivoire, au moins 12 personnes ont été tuées lors de manifestations et d’affrontements entre militants politiques à la suite de la décision du président Alassane Ouattara de se présenter pour un troisième mandat à l’élection présidentielle prévue le 31 octobre 2020. Les manifestations publiques sont interdites depuis août 2020. Les autorités ont adopté des lois criminalisant les fausses nouvelles et les ont utilisées pour cibler des journalistes, des blogueurs et des politiciens exprimant leur divergence d’opinion, y compris des parlementaires comme Alain Lobognon qui est en détention depuis décembre 2019. Au mépris des institutions régionales, la Côte d’Ivoire a ignoré  les ordonnances de la Cour Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples exigeant la libération des sympatisants de Guillaume Soro et demandant aux autorités  de permettre à Guillaume Soro et Laurent Gbagbo de se présenter à la présidentielle.

    «Les groupes locaux de défense des droits humains ne prennent pas en charge les affaires politiques sensibles par peur de représailles.  Même les avocats ont peur. »  –Une femme défenseure des droits humains, Abidjan, 15 mai 2020.

    «Sur le papier, le droit à la liberté d’expression est censé être protégé. Mais dans la pratique, les journalistes sont intimidés lorsqu’ils écrivent sur des sujets sensibles tels que les droits fonciers, la brutalité policière et la corruption. »  - Entretien avec un défenseur des droits humains, Lomé, 14 mai 2020.
    Avec le recul des libertés civiques dans toute l’Afrique de l’Ouest francophone, les organisations de la société civile ont besoin du soutien des partenaires régionaux et internationaux pour rester en sécurité, pour s’assurer que leur voix est entendue dans les forums internationaux et régionaux et pour augmenter la pression sur les autorités nationales pour un changement positif en matière de droits humains.  La CEDEAO et l’Union africaine, en particulier, doivent affermir leur réponse face au mépris des autorités pour les normes et instruments régionaux, y compris les efforts de ces dernières visant à affaiblir la Cour Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples.

    Pour organiser des entretiens, veuillez contacter:
    François Patuel, consultant et chercheur senior sur l’Afrique de l’Ouest pour CIVICUS, , +221 77693 78 46