Burkina Faso

Status : Abandoned process or policy

In Burkina Faso, a law was adopted in 2017 on the protection of human rights defenders. This law was rendered ineffective, however, by a coup d’état and the establishment of a military junta1 in 2022. This change in power puts human rights defenders at risk. [1]

The draft bill on the protection of human rights defenders was initiated by the government of former President Blaise Compaoré. Law N° 039-2017 was adopted by the National Assembly on 27 June 2017. The law sets the rules for the protection of human rights defenders in Burkina Faso and determines the State responsibilities. Despite efforts by civil society, the law does not provide specific protection for women human rights defenders (ISHR, 2017).

The democratically elected government was overthrown by a military junta in January 2022. After the coup, Burkina Faso was suspended from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union’s decision-making bodies. On 1 March 2022, a national conference authorised the ruling junta to hold power for three years in order to organise elections.

The suspension from ECOWAS and the African Union means that since 2022, Burkina Faso is not included in the mandate of the African Union’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa. Previous to these events, the office did not publish any reports or press releases on Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso remains included in the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, but the current or previous rapporteurs have not yet visited the country. A report published by the Special Rapporteur concerning Observations on communications transmitted to Governments and replies received states that communications to Burkina Faso about excessive force, arbitrary arrest, torture and hostage taking were met with no response from the Burkina government. In this report, the office of the Special Rapporteur repeated their concern regarding the restrictions imposed on journalists and human rights defenders.

The Civicus Monitor 2022 categorises Burkina Faso as “obstructed, which means that “civic space is heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights“. The Freedom House Democracy Index rates Burkina Faso as “partly free, but this does not yet take into account the 2022 coup d’etat. Before the coup, the main security risk for human rights defenders appeared to stem from violence by armed groups.

[1] A military junta is a group of military officers who rule the country after seizing power.

Updated on 19/08/2022

Assemblée Nationale
On June 27th 2017, the government of Burkina Faso adopted Law No. 039-2017/AN on the protection of human rights defenders....
In a welcome development, Burkina Faso has adopted a national law for the protection of defenders. The adoption follows a...