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TITLE:  BURKINA FASO HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                          BURKINA FASO


President Blaise Compaore continued to dominate the Government 
of the Fourth Republic, assisted by members of his party, the 
Organization for Popular Democracy/Labor Movement (ODP/MT).  In 
spite of the existence of more than 60 political parties, there 
is little viable opposition to the President and his 
Government, which includes representatives from three small 
self-described opposition parties.  The ODP/MT controls the 
National Assembly with 79 of the 107 seats.  Several opposition 
parties, meanwhile, have modest representation.  Although the 
National Assembly approved in 1993 the Government's proposals 
for a constitutionally mandated (though purely consultative) 
second chamber, such a body has still not yet been appointed.

Burkina Faso's security apparatus consists of the armed forces, 
the paramilitary gendarmerie, controlled by the Ministry of 
Defense, and the police, controlled by the Ministry of 
Territorial Administration.  In 1994 the Government initiated a 
military reorganization that is ultimately intended to remove 
the gendarmerie from the military chain of command.  Security 
forces continued to commit human rights abuses.

Over 80 percent of the population of 9.5 million engage in 
subsistence agriculture, which is highly vulnerable to rainfall 
variation.  Frequent drought, limited communication and 
transportation infrastructures, and a low literacy rate are 
longstanding problems.  Per capita income is about $300 per 
year.  The January devaluation of the CFA franc by 50 percent 
added to the existing economic hardship, in conjunction with a 
structural adjustment program directed by the International 
Monetary Fund under way since 1991.  That program seeks to 
limit government spending, especially on salaries and 
transfers, and open the economy to market forces, including 
privatization and reduction in the size of many inefficient 
state companies.

On balance, 1994 reflected some progress in the movement 
towards greater democratization and decentralization, with 
preparations for the February 1995 municipal elections, the 
first since independence in 1960.  However, serious human 
rights abuses persisted, including abuse and extrajudicial 
killings by police and penal authorities in a climate of 
impunity fostered by failure to prosecute abusers.  The 
independent press continued to gain strength following 
amendment of the prejudicial provisions on libel in the 
Information Code.  Violence against women also persisted, although several positive measures were taken in the campaign 
against female genital mutilation.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Security forces continued extrajudicial killings of suspected 
criminals and convicts.  During December 1993 and January 1994, 
security forces launched "Operation Punch," a campaign against 
resurgent urban and rural banditry.  They shot and killed 
scores in the capital and in several other towns.  Newspapers 
carried photos of many of the dead, often lying beside the 
weapons they were allegedly carrying while resisting arrest.  
Some popular support was expressed in certain city districts 
for such ruthless policing action.  In August, however, the 
main Burkinabe human rights organization, the Burkinabe 
Movement for Human Rights and Peoples (MBDHP), issued a 
condemnation of these and several other extrajudicial killings.

In July guards savagely beat two young arrivals at Maco Prison 
in Ouagadougou and subjected them to degrading treatment.  One 
of the two died the same day of internal hemorrhaging.  A 
police investigation of the incident has come to a close 
without calling for the punishment of those responsible.

Also in July, the press reported that an influential 
businessman implicated in a corruption scandal, Youssouf 
Sawadogo, allegedly shot himself when the police arrived to 
question him.  Several days later, a suspect in the case, Cisse 
Ousseni, died in police custody, allegedly of a heart attack.  
An internal investigation cleared the police of any 
wrongdoing.  The Attorney General is reportedly conducting a 
separate investigation, the results of which had not been 
released at year's end.  Human rights monitors claim the 
autopsy performed on Ousseni provides evidence he died from 
abuse.

Although international and local human rights groups pressured 
the official commission investigating the 1991 assassination of 
Clement Ouedraogo, a prominent opposition leader, to submit a 
report of preliminary findings to the Prime Minister, the 
report has not yet been made public.  The case remains open, as 
do the 1989 "disappearance" of Professor Guillaume Sessouma, 
detained for allegedly participating in a coup plot, and of 
medical student Dabo Boukary in 1990, detained following 
student demonstrations.  Credible reports indicated that 
security forces tortured and killed both.  The Government 
continued to make no real effort to investigate the fate of a 
Ghanaian detainee, reportedly killed in 1993 while in police 
custody.

Another disturbing trend was the increase in reported cases of 
vigilante killings by the public.  There were numerous 
documented incidents of summary mob justice meted out to 
thieves caught by the citizenry, mostly in urban centers.  To 
date, the authorities have provided no explanation of the death 
of Doin Redan, who was found dead the day after being detained 
by police.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no new reports of 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.  There are credible reports that 
officials at Maco Prison continue to employ torture and 
degrading treatment, including beatings, cold showers, exposure 
to hot sun, and forcing persons to eat their own feces, as 
occurred in the case of the two internees cited in Section 
1.a.  The Government is not known to have taken any 
disciplinary action against those responsible.

Prison conditions are harsh, overcrowded, and can be 
life-threatening.  The federal government prison in 
Bobo-Dioulasso, built in 1947, housed about 1,000 prisoners, 
although designed to hold less than half that number.  The 
prison diet is poor, and inmates must often rely on 
supplemental food from relatives.

In July Police Trainee Commissioner Roger Zango, in an address 
at the Police Academy, strongly criticized abuse of detainees.  
However, the climate of impunity created by government failure 
to prosecute abusers remains the largest obstacle to ending 
torture and other abuses.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Although the Constitution provides for the right to expeditious 
arraignment and access to legal counsel, and the law limits 
detention for investigative purposes without charge to a 
maximum of 72 hours, renewable for a single 48-hour period, in 
practice, police rarely observe these provisions.  The normal 
average time of detention without charge is 1 week.  There were 
no known political detainees or prisoners at year's end.

Although some intellectuals, military officers, and former 
government officials remain in self-imposed exile abroad, 
increasing numbers repatriated themselves.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for the right to public trial, access 
to counsel, and has provisions for bail and appeal.  While 
these rights are generally respected, the ability of citizens 
to obtain a fair trial remains circumscribed by ignorance of 
the law (70 percent of the population is illiterate) and by a 
serious shortage of magistrates.

The Constitution provides that the Supreme Court is the highest 
court in the country.  Beneath it are two courts of appeal and 
ten provincial courts ("de grande instance").  The Constitution 
also provides for a High Court of Justice, with jurisdiction to 
try the President and senior government officials for treason 
and other serious crimes, but it has not yet been established.

According to the Constitution, the judiciary is independent of 
the executive.  The President has extensive appointment and 
other judicial powers.  The National Assembly passed 
legislation reforming the military court system, which had been 
susceptible to considerable executive manipulation.  At year's 
end, this court system had not yet been staffed.

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 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

The Constitution provides for these rights, and, in practice, 
the authorities generally do not interfere in the daily lives 
of ordinary citizens.  In national security cases, however, a 
special law permits surveillance, searches and monitoring of 
telephones and private correspondence without a warrant.  By 
law and under normal circumstances, homes may be searched only 
with the authority of a warrant issued by the Minister of 
Justice.  Except in certain cases, such as houses of 
prostitution and gambling dens, such warrants must be executed 
during "legal hours," defined as between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The 1990 Information Code provides for freedom of speech and 
press.  In practice, these freedoms still remain circumscribed 
by a certain degree of self-censorship.  The President and his 
Government remain sensitive to criticism.  However, provisions 
in the Code granting the Government strong legal powers to 
intimidate the press through a broad interpretation of 
defamation were removed in December 1993.  Journalists now 
charged with libel may defend themselves in court by presenting 
evidence in support of their allegations.  Perhaps as a result, 
the independent press exercised greater freedom of expression.

The independent press now includes four dailies, a dozen weekly 
newspapers, and a weekly newsmagazine.  Although the official 
media, including the daily newspaper Sidwaya and the national 
radio, display progovernment bias, the presence of independent 
competition led it 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.  Permits must, however, be obtained from municipal 
authorities for political marches.  Applicants must indicate 
date, time, duration, and itinerary of the march or rally, and 
authorities may alter or deny requests on grounds of public 
safety.  However, denials or modifications may be appealed 
before the courts.

Labor unions and others held several large and peaceful 
marches.  Since early 1990, political parties have been 
permitted to organize and hold meetings and rallies without 
seeking government permission.  The authorities sent security 
forces to control disorders at Ouagadougou University on 
February 8 during a demonstration by some students protesting 
nonreceipt of their stipends.  They arrested several students 
for pelting passing city buses on the highway near campus.  
Police later released them and did not press charges.

     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

Gendarmes routinely stopped travelers within the country for 
identity and customs checks and the levying of road taxes at 
police and military checkpoints.  There is no restriction on 
foreign travel for business or tourism.  Refugees are accepted 
freely in Burkina Faso.  Due to civil unrest in neighboring 
countries, there are nearly 50,000 refugees and displaced 
persons, mostly Tuaregs from Mali and Niger.

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

Burkinabe citizens have the constitutional right to change 
their government through multiparty elections.  In practice, 
however, they have been unable to exercise that right.  Power 
remained in the hands of President Compaore and 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 includes a strong Presidency, a 
Prime Minister, a Council of Ministers presided over by the 
President, a two-chamber National Assembly, and the judiciary.  
The Compaore Government faces new legislative elections in 1997 
and presidential elections in 1998.  The first round of 
municipal elections is scheduled for February 1995.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that an elected deputy in the 
National Assembly is not bound to the political party under 
which that person was elected and may change party affiliations 
as a representative in the legislature.  This practice has been 
labelled "political nomadism" and is responsible for much of 
the factionalism in opposition parties.

There are no restrictions in law or practice on the  
participation of women or minority group members in politics.  
However, there are few women in positions of responsibility; 3 
of the 25 ministers and 6 of the 107 National Assembly deputies 
are women.

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

The Government's attitude toward local human rights groups has 
been mixed.  It continued to tolerate the activities of the 
MBDHP, an independent group with representation in all 30 
provinces.

The Government is 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

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, 
religion, or ethnic origin.  Minority ethnic groups, like the 
Majority Mossi, are represented in the inner circles of the 
Government, and government decisions do not favor one group 
over another.

     Women

There are no constitutional or other legal protections for 
women, who face extensive discrimination.  In general, women 
continue to occupy a subordinate position and experience 
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.

Violence against women, especially wife beating, occurs fairly 
often.  Cases of wife beating are usually handled through 
customary law and practice.  A "popular conciliation tribunal" 
composed of community representatives usually mediates such 
cases.  The Government is attempting, using education through 
the media, to change attitudes toward women.

     Children

The Constitution nominally protects children's rights.  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.

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

Female genital mutilation (FGM), which has been condemned by 
health experts as damaging to physical and psychological 
health, is still widely practiced, 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.  The Government has made a strong commitment to 
eradicate FGM through educational efforts, and a newly formed 
national committee launched a campaign against the practice 
with United States Government assistance.  Nevertheless, FGM is 
still widely practiced.  At year's end, it was evident that the 
Government had taken an important first step via its 
sensitization campaign regarding the deleterious effects of 
this practice.  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, there is no government mandate or 
legislation concerning accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

A new labor code is currently before the National Assembly for 
review.  Notwithstanding this pending legislation, workers, 
including civil servants, traditionally have enjoyed a legal 
right to association which is recognized under the 
Constitution.  There are 6 major labor confederations and 12 
autonomous trade unions linked together by a National 
Confederal Committee.  They represent a wide ideological 
spectrum, of which the largest and most vocal member espouses a 
Socialist doctrine.  Essential workers--police, fire, and 
health workers--may not join unions.

The Constitution provides for the right to strike, and workers 
use strike actions to achieve labor goals.  The union movement 
made a call for a national strike on April 6-8 to protest 
further austerity measures in the wake of devaluation of the 
CFA franc.  Strikers demanded a 50 percent increase in wages 
and price freezes.  About half the union movement responded.

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 but encompasses only a 
small percentage of workers.

The Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination.  The Labor 
Ministry handles complaints about such discrimination, which 
the plaintiff may appeal to a labor tribunal.  If the tribunal 
sustains the appeal, the employer must reinstate the worker.  
Union officials believe that this system functions adequately.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor and it is not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code now in effect 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, in the traditional 
apprenticeship system, and in the 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 
monthly wage in the formal sector, about $48 (25,000 CFA), does 
not apply to subsistence agriculture, employing about 85 
percent of the population.  The Government last set the minimum 
wage in April.  It 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 the Labor Tribunals is responsible for overseeing health 
and safety standards in the small industrial and commercial 
sectors, but these standards do not apply in the subsistence 
agricultural sector.  In December 1993, the Center for Worker 
Education in Ouagadougou reported that since 1991 there were 
2,399 recorded workplace accidents (1,476 in the manufacturing 
sector, 215 in construction, and 192 in transport and 
communications sectors).  Every company is required to have a 
work safety committee.  If a workplace has been declared unsafe 
by the government labor inspection office for any reason, 
workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work 
without jeopardy to continued employment.  In practice there 
are indications that this right is respected, but such 
declarations are relatively rare.

(###)

[end of document]

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