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TITLE:  BURKINA FASO HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                          BURKINA FASO


President Blaise Compaore continued to dominate the Burkina 
Faso Government, assisted by members of his party, the 
Organization for Popular Democracy/Labor Movement (ODP/MT), and 
to guide the process of establishing new institutions in 
accordance with the 1991 Constitution.  After the highly 
controversial presidential (1991) and legislative (1992) 
elections, the President and the ODP/MT benefited by a period 
of relative political calm, highlighted by much of the 
political opposition's accepting, albeit reluctantly, the 
legitimacy of the new Government, known as the Fourth 
Republic.  The ODP/MT Government includes representatives from 
the country's three major opposition parties, and it controls 
the National Assembly (78 out of 107 seats) in which other 
opposition parties are represented.  The National Assembly 
approved the Government's proposals for defining the 
constitutionally mandated Second Chamber of the National 
Assembly (which will play a purely consultative role), and 
setting in motion a decentralization program involving the 
election of local governing councils by the end of 1995.

Burkina Faso's security apparatus consists of the armed forces 
and the paramilitary gendarmerie (controlled by the Ministry of 
Defense) and the police (controlled by the Ministry of 
Territorial Administration).  There were recurrent instances in 
which police and security forces used excessive force.

Over 85 percent of the 9.5-million population is engaged in 
subsistence agriculture which is highly vulnerable to rainfall 
variations.  Frequent drought, a limited communications and 
transportation infrastructure, and a low literacy rate are 
longstanding problems.  Per capita income is only about $300 
per year.  In 1993 the Government obtained approval from the 
International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an enhanced structural 
adjustment facility (ESAF) to reinforce reforms implemented 
over the past 3 years.  The ESAF program seeks to limit 
government spending, especially on salaries and transfers, open 
the economy to free market forces, promote the private sector, 
and encourage foreign investment.

Despite the constitutional changes since 1991, human rights 
violations continued to occur.  The Government did not hesitate 
to employ its powers to control the political evolution, 
notably in 1993 by using the 1990 Information Code and the 
court system to intimidate the increasingly vocal independent 
press.  There were also new instances of the security forces' 
committing extrajudicial killings, abusing detainees, and 
resorting to excessive force in controlling demonstrations 
(generally committed with impunity).  At the same time, the 
Government held no political detainees or prisoners at the end 
of 1993 and abolished during the year the unfair Popular 
Revolutionary Tribunals system.  On December 30, the National 
Assembly also amended the Information Code in favor of greater 
press freedom.  Despite governmental efforts to counter the 
practice, violence against women continued to be a problem.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings by 
security forces of suspected criminals.  During disturbances at 
the University of Ouagadougou in February, police arrested a 
passer-by, who subsequently died in police custody.  Credible 
reports indicated that he had been tortured by the security 
services.  The Government made no apparent effort to 
investigate the incident or the violence at the University or 
the violence that occurred at a local high school in the 
capital the next day, despite calls by the Burkinabe human 
rights movement to do so (see Section 2.b.).

There were also reports that at least one detainee, who was 
seeking refugee status, died as a result of mistreatment while 
in the custody of the gendarmerie. 

Despite pressures from international and local human rights 
groups, the Government again failed to complete the official 
investigation into the 1991 assassination of Clement Ouedraogo, 
a prominent opposition leader, or to account for the 1989 and 
1990 "disappearances" of Professor Guillaume Sessouma, detained 
for allegedly participating in a coup plot, and medical student 
Dabo Boukary, detained following student demonstrations in May 
1990.  Credible reports indicated that elements of the security 
forces tortured and killed both men.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reported new disappearances.


     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

While legally prohibited, torture and mistreatment of 
detainees, often to extract confessions, have been documented 
for a number of years in Burkina Faso.  No known disciplinary 
action has been taken against those responsible.  In 1993, for 
example, police detained a Burkinabe youth, Doin Yedan, on a 
civil matter, near Bobo-Dioulasso.  The next day he was found 
by the roadside in a coma and later died without regaining 
consciousness.

Prison conditions are harsh and characterized by overcrowding.  
For instance, the institution in Bobo-Dioulasso, built in 1947, 
housed in 1993 about 1,000 prisoners, although it was designed 
to hold less than half that number.  Given the poor prison diet 
and the prevalence of malaria and other diseases, prison 
conditions can be life threatening.  Inmates must often rely on 
supplemental food from relatives.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Since the June 1991 adoption of the Constitution, which 
provides for the right to expeditious arraignment and access to 
legal counsel, there have been no known cases of prolonged 
arbitrary arrest or detention.  The law permits detention for 
investigative purposes without charge for a maximum of 72 
hours, renewable for a single 72-hour period.  In practice, 
these provisions are rarely observed, particularly in sensitive 
cases.  The Military Code takes precedence over the Civil Code 
in national security cases.

Prior to adoption of the Constitution, the earlier Popular 
Front government held a large number of its opponents in 
custody, but there were no known political detainees or 
prisoners in Burkina Faso at the end of 1993.

Although some intellectuals, military officers, and former 
government officials remained in self-imposed exile abroad, a 
number repatriated themselves since 1991.  Among those 
returning in 1993 was Antoine Dakoure, a former minister and 
prominent leader of an overseas Burkinabe opposition group.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides the right to public trial, access to 
counsel, and appeal.  While these rights are generally 
respected, the ability of citizens to obtain a fair trial 
remains conditioned by weaknesses in the judicial system, 
including a serious shortage of trained magistrates to process 
a growing caseload.  The 1991 Constitution reestablished the 
Supreme Court at the apex of the formal judicial system.

Under the Constitution, the judiciary is independent of the 
executive, but the President has extensive appointment and 
other powers over judicial officials, and the executive branch 
has strong influence on the judiciary.

The military court system is even more susceptible to executive 
manipulation.  Military courts exercise jurisdiction in 
security cases and are convened on an ad hoc basis.  They have 
no set form, rarely have appeal procedures, and instead use 
flexible procedures rendering them susceptible to executive 
influence.  However, such courts were apparently not active in 
1993.

The Government finally abolished in 1993 the parallel court 
system of Popular Revolutionary Tribunals (TPRS), which lacked 
many constitutional safeguards.  The politicized tribunals had 
been created by the ruling National Revolutionary Council in 
1983 to try former government officials on corruption and other 
charges.  In mid-1993, Burkina's courts began hearing appeals 
of verdicts handed down by the tribunals and set aside most 
convictions on procedural grounds.

In addition to the formal judiciary, customary or traditional 
courts, presided over by village chiefs, handle many 
neighborhood and village-level problems, such as divorce and 
inheritance disputes.  These court decisions are generally 
respected by the population, but citizens may also take the 
case to a formal court.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Government authorities generally do not interfere in the daily 
lives of ordinary citizens, but monitoring of private 
correspondence or telephones does occur in suspected national 
security cases.  By law, homes may be searched only under the 
authority of a warrant issued by the Minister of Justice.  In 
national security cases, however, a special law permits 
surveillance, searches, and monitoring of telephones and 
correspondence without a warrant.


Some observers expressed concern that local committees, 
proposed by President Compaore's ODP/MT, would ultimately 
replicate the functions of the old Popular Front's 
revolutionary committees in intimidating villagers.  While 
authorized by the party's April Congress, the ODP/MT committees 
did not form in 1993 due to interparty differences regarding 
their viability.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press are provided for in the 1990 
Information Code but are still limited in practice.  The 
President and his Government are highly sensitive to 
criticism.  The Code established the right of private 
publication, but it also gave the Government strong legal 
powers to intimidate the press through a broad interpretation 
of defamation:  "...any allegation, or imputation of a fact, 
which injures the reputation or the consideration of the person 
or body to which the fact is imputed."

The Government used this power in 1993.  Most notably it 
targeted a regional paper in Bobo-Dioulasso that alleged 
corruption in the Ministry of Justice and the prosecutor's 
office in Bobo-Dioulasso.  The Government immediately 
prosecuted the newspaper's publisher and editor on defamation 
charges in June, and the court sentenced both to 6 months' 
imprisonment.  These sentences were suspended by an August 4 
(Revolution Day) amnesty, and both journalists have since 
resumed their positions at the newspaper.  However, the 
verdicts, the first time journalists had been sentenced for 
Code offenses (under the previous government, treason was the 
usual charge) served as a warning and all newspapers practiced 
some degree of self-censorship.

The Burkinabe Movement for Human Rights and Peoples (MBDHP) led 
public criticism of the Information Code during the year, 
especially a section which prevented journalists from providing 
evidence in court.  In response, the the ODP/MT-led National 
Assembly on December 30 finally passed amendments to the Code, 
allowing journalists to introduce evidence to defend themselves 
in a court of law when charged with slander by a government 
official and also stipulating that "offenses in words (threats) 
or action against journalists in the exercise of their 
profession are punishable under the law."


Notwithstanding the controversy over the Code, the independent 
press continued to expand rapidly in 1993.  In addition to two 
dailies, Burkina boasted nearly a dozen weekly newspapers, and 
a weekly newsmagazine by year's end.  Although official media 
outlets, including the daily newspaper Sidwaya and National 
Radio, displayed a lingering progovernment bias, the presence 
of independent competition led the official media to give more 
coverage to the political opposition.

Academic freedom is recognized.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association.  The Government lifted a 2-year-old ban on 
political marches, imposed following violent demonstrations in 
1991.  Since early 1990, political parties have been permitted 
to organize and hold meetings and rallies without seeking 
government permission.  While some parties organized press 
conferences and congresses, most of Burkina Faso's 60 political 
parties were inactive.

The authorities used excessive force at Ouagadougou University 
in mid-February when police attempted to break up a student 
sit-in demonstration protesting cuts in student scholarships.  
In the ensuing melee, the police wounded several students.  
While the Government initially insisted that gendarmes and 
police had only fired in the air to break up the demonstration, 
it ultimately admitted that several students had in fact been 
fired upon.  The Government promised a commission of inquiry, 
but none was formed.

There are nonpolitical associations for business, religious, 
cultural, and other purposes.  They experience no difficulty in 
obtaining permission to meet or associate with international 
associations in their fields.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Burkina Faso is a secular State.  Islam, Christianity, and 
traditional religions operate freely without government 
interference.  Neither social mobility nor access to modern 
sector jobs are linked to, or restricted by, religious 
affiliation.


     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Travelers within Burkina Faso are routinely stopped for 
identity and customs checks at police and military 
checkpoints.  There is no restriction on foreign travel for 
business or tourism.  Exit permits are no longer required.  
Refugees are accepted freely in Burkina Faso, and the 
Government attempts to provide for their care in cooperation 
with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  There 
are over 6,000 refugees and displaced persons, mostly Tuareg 
refugees from Mali, in Burkina Faso.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Despite the greater political freedoms allowed by the Fourth 
Republic, the first multiparty elections in 1992 left in doubt 
whether Burkinabe citizens have the right and ability to 
transfer power peacefully to a democratically elected 
opposition, if they so desired.  Power remained in the hands of 
President Compaore and his political party, the ODP/MT, most of 
whose members also played prominent roles in the ruling 
National Revolutionary Council (1983-87) and Popular Front 
(1987-91).  The Government's framework was new, however, and 
included a strong Presidency, a Prime Minister, a Council of 
Ministers presided over by the President, a two-chamber 
National Assembly, and an independent judiciary.  The Compaore 
Government does not face new elections until 1997 (for the 
legislature) and 1998 (for the Presidency).

The President has the support of the military.  He continues to 
give priority to the the military budget, despite structural 
adjustment requirements to emphasize health and education 
requirements.

The transition period from military regime to civilian 
government was marked by controversy in both the presidential 
elections in 1991 and the legislative elections in 1992.  The 
opposition chose to boycott the presidential balloting, 
following President Compaore's refusal to convene a sovereign 
national conference, but later 27 parties, including all of the 
country's major opposition parties, elected to participate in 
the legislative balloting after receiving assurances that the 
elections would be free and fair. 


In the legislative vote, President Compaore's ODP/MT held an 
advantage because of its financial resources, opposition 
disunity, and control of the Burkinabe administration.  It took 
78 of 107 seats in the National Assembly.  Opposition parties 
protested numerous election irregularities but ultimately 
decided to participate in the National Assembly and in the 
first government of the Fourth Republic, preferring to work for 
change within the system rather than outside it.  Independent 
observers agreed that numerous violations occurred in the 1992 
elections but that they did not seriously affect the outcome.

There are no restrictions in law or practice on the 
participation of women or minorities in the political process.  
However, there are few women in positions of responsibility; 3 
of the 25 ministers and 6 of the 107 National Assembly deputies 
are women.  Women are also represented in subcabinet level 
positions of responsibility.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government's reaction to local human rights groups has been 
mixed.  It continued to tolerate the activities of the 
Burkinabe Movement for the Rights of Man and Peoples (MBDHP), 
an independent group composed mostly of professionals and led 
by a ranking Burkinabe magistrate.  The MBDHP advocated the 
release of opposition supporters detained following 
election-related violence in 1991.  The Government released 
those persons, but it ignored continuing MBDHP demands that it 
account for the disappearances of Boukary Dabo and Guillaume 
Sessouma.

The Government is rarely responsive to investigations by 
international nongovernmental organizations.  At year's end, 
there were no known outstanding investigations by outside 
organizations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or ethnic origin 
is illegal under the 1991 Constitution.  Minority ethnic groups 
are as likely to be represented in the inner circles of the 
Government as are the majority Mossi, and government decisions 
do not favor one group over another.


     Women

In the absence of constitutional and other legal protections, 
women face extensive discrimination.  In general, women 
continue to occupy a subordinate position and face 
discrimination in such areas as education, jobs, property, and 
family rights.  In the modern sector, however, women make up 
one-fourth of the government work force, although usually in 
lower paying positions.  Women still do much of the subsistence 
farming work in rural areas.

Violence against women, especially wife beating, occurs 
frequently.  Cases of wife beating are usually handled through 
customary law and practice.  Such cases are sometimes mediated 
by a "popular conciliation tribunal" composed of community 
representatives.  The Government is attempting to educate 
people on the subject through the media.

     Children

Children's rights are enshrined in the Constitution.  The 
Government announced its commitment to improving the condition 
of children by adopting a national policy to revitalize primary 
health care and improve access to primary education.  In March 
it issued a report on the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Females constitute approximately one-third of the total student 
population in the primary, secondary, and higher educational 
systems.  Schools in rural areas have disproportionately fewer 
female students than schools in urban areas.

Female genital mutilation (FGM, circumcision) has been 
condemned by health experts as damaging to physical and 
psychological health.  While the Government has made a strong 
commitment to eradicating FGM through educational efforts, FGM 
is still widely practiced in Burkina Faso, especially in many 
rural areas, and is usually performed at an early age.  
According to an independent expert in the field, the percentage 
of Burkinabe females who have undergone this procedure may be 
as high as 70 percent.  Another form of mutilation, 
scarification of the faces of both boys and girls of certain 
ethnic groups, is gradually disappearing.

     People with Disabilities

While there is a modest program of government subsidies for 
workshops for the disabled and for bicycles and wheelchairs, 
there is no government mandate or legislation concerning 
accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers, including civil servants, traditionally have enjoyed a 
legal right to association which is recognized in the Fourth 
Republic's Constitution.  There are a large number of trade 
unions and five trade union federations.  Although unions are 
independent of the Government, in the past the Government has 
limited their freedom of action to ensure compliance with 
government labor policy.  Essential workers--police, fire, and 
health workers--are prohibited from joining unions.

Once the most powerful political force in the country, 
organized labor--approximately 60,000 nonagricultural 
workers--lost much of its influence under the earlier Sankara 
and Compaore military regimes.  The labor movement participated 
in the drafting of the 1991 Constitution, and the return to 
constitutional government led to full restoration of labor 
union rights that had been severely curtailed during the 
Sankara period.  An accurate percentage figure of the unionized 
work force of Burkina Faso is not known since few unions have 
fully paid up membership records.

The right to strike is provided for in the Constitution, and 
workers have used strike actions to achieve labor goals.  Labor 
unrest increased after the Government embarked on an economic  
structural adjustment program with the World Bank and IMF in 
1991.  The program resulted in a number of significant 
austerity measures, leading several unions to stage warning and 
other strikes in 1993, including ones by customs agents and 
secondary school and university teachers.

Labor unions freely affiliate with international trade union 
bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions have the right to bargain for wages and other benefits, 
both directly with employers and with industry associations.  
These negotiations are governed by minimums on wages and other 
benefits contained in the Interprofessional Collective 
Convention and the Commercial Sector Collective Convention, 
which are established with government participation.  If no 
agreement is reached, employees may exercise their right to 
strike.  Either labor or management also may refer an impasse 
in negotiations to labor tribunals.  Appeals may be pursued 
through the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court, whose 
decision is binding on both parties.

Collective bargaining is extensive in the modern wage sector, 
which encompasses only a small percentage of the population.

The Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination.  Complaints 
about such discrimination are handled by Labor Ministry 
Inspectors and may be appealed to a labor tribunal in the 
Ministry.  If the worker's complaint is upheld, he or she must 
be reinstated.  Union officials believe that this system 
functions adequately.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by law and is not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code, which was approved by the National Assembly in 
March, sets the minimum age for employment at 14, the average 
age for completion of basic secondary school.  However, the 
Ministry of Employment, Labor, and Social Security, which 
oversees labor standards, lacks the means to enforce this 
provision adequately, even in the small wage sector.  Most 
children actually begin work at an earlier age on small, family 
subsistence farms and in the traditional apprenticeship system 
and informal sector.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code mandates a minimum monthly wage, a standard 
workweek of 40 hours with at least one 24-hour rest period, and 
establishes safety and health provisions.  The current minimum 
wage in the formal sector is $85 (25,000 CFA); it does not 
apply to the large subsistence agriculture sector, which 
employs more than 85 percent of the population.  The minimum 
wage was last set by the Government in 1983 and is not adequate 
for an urban worker to support a family.  Wage earners usually 
supplement their income through reliance on the extended family 
and subsistence agriculture.


A system of government inspections under the Ministry of Labor 
and labor tribunals ensures that health and safety standards 
are applied in the small industrial and commercial sectors, but 
they are not applicable in the subsistence agricultural 
sector.  If a workplace has been declared unsafe, for any given 
reason, by the government labor inspection office, workers have 
the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations 
without jeopardy to continued employment.  (###)



[end of document]

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