Burkina Faso – Free Human Rights Defender Daouda Diallo and End Discriminatory Conscription of Independent Voices

More than fifty days since Dr Daouda Diallo, Secretary-General of the Collective Against Impunity and Community Stigmatization (CISC), was forcibly disappeared, Amnesty International today calls on the Burkina Faso authorities for his safe return to civilian life and to end the use of conscription as a tool to silence dissent.

Dr Diallo was abducted by security agents on 1 December 2023 as he left the passport office in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, and taken to an unknown destination. A few days later, in an image shared on social media, he was shown in the back of an army truck wearing military uniform. The government has not officially acknowledged his detention nor his whereabouts, but his family and lawyers believe he is now on the frontline.

“The military authorities must immediately release Dr Daouda Diallo, and the enforced disappearance of human rights defenders and activists under the guise of conscription must end. Human rights defenders must not be subjected to harassment, intimidation, and violence by the state,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

“Amnesty International calls on the military authorities to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of everyone in the country. The authorities must be transparent about the entire conscription process. Amnesty International condemns the discriminatory use of the April 2023 decree on national mobilization to conscript independent public voices in Burkina Faso.

“Amnesty International also urges the military authorities in to allow individuals under conscription to regularly communicate with their families and relatives.”

Background

At the time of his enforced disappearance, Dr Diallo was subject to a call up for military duty, along with several other civil society and media figures, under a decree being used increasingly against critics of the country’s transitional government.

Dr Diallo is just one of more than a dozen prominent activists and journalists critical of the Burkina Faso transitional government to have been conscripted recently under an April 2023 decree “on general mobilization and safeguarding” that allows the call up for military service for most Burkinab√® adults. The conscription process is not clear, and the number of conscripts is not public, nor are the options to challenging them. Most of the known cases involve human rights defenders and activists who have been critical of government policies.

On 6 December 2023, a court in Ouagadougou, responding to a complaint by three conscripted people against their requisition orders, ruled their conscriptions were unlawful and ordered their suspension. The court also ordered the army to immediately refrain from carrying out those orders.

This has been ignored. On 24 December 2023, former Foreign Affairs Minister Ablassé Ouedraogo was arrested at his home after returning from a trip abroad. He was singled out for conscription along with Dr Diallo and several members of the civil society, human rights defenders, activists, and journalists in November.

The week prior to these conscriptions was marked by tensions between the government and several civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and activists, who were planning to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the October 2014 revolution. On 6 December, a court ordered the suspension of the conscription orders of journalist Issiaka Lingani plus Bassirou Badjo and Rasmane Zinaba, members of the Balai Citoyen grassroots citizens movement, ruling that it violated their rights to freedom of expression and movement and caused a risk to their physical integrity. These three were the only ones among 14 public Burkinabè figures, who were properly served conscription orders in November.

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