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Burkina Faso: Prominent Rights Activist Abducted

Investigate Possible Politically Motivated Conscription of Daouda Diallo

Human rights defender Daouda Diallo © 2023 AP Photo/Sophie Garcia

(Nairobi) – The government of Burkina Faso should immediately investigate and provide information on the whereabouts of the prominent human rights activist Daouda Diallo, Human Rights Watch said today.

On December 1, 2023, at about 4 p.m., four or more unidentified men abducted Diallo, the secretary-general of the Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities (Collectif contre l'Impunité et la Stigmatisation des Communautés, CISC) in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. Diallo had just left the government’s passport office after a meeting with officers to renew his passport. The CISC issued a statement the same day saying that men in civilian clothes pushed Diallo into a vehicle and drove off. His whereabouts remain unknown.

“Burkina Faso authorities should urgently and impartially investigate the abduction of Daouda Diallo and release him if he is in government custody,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Sahel researcher at Human Rights Watch. “We are deeply concerned for Diallo’s safety and the safety of everyone working to improve respect for human rights in Burkina Faso.”

Diallo, 41, winner of the 2022 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, has long been known for denouncing abuses by government security forces and for demanding accountability. In early November, the Burkinabe security forces used a sweeping emergency law aimed at silencing dissent and notified at least a dozen journalists, civil society activists, and opposition party members, including Diallo, that they would be conscripted to participate in government security operations across the country. Diallo spoke out against these politically motivated conscriptions.

On December 2, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, raised serious concerns about Diallo’s abduction. In a December 3 statement, The People’s Coalition for the Sahel, an alliance of civil society organizations, said that “the abduction of a prominent activist in broad daylight […] demands an immediate government response,” and called on the military authorities to take action.

Since it took power in an October 2022 coup, Burkina Faso’s military junta has increasingly cracked down on peaceful dissent and the media, shrinking the civic space in the country. National and international journalists, as well as civil society members, face increasing harassment, threats, and arbitrary arrests. On December 2, the military authorities announced the suspension of “all distribution methods” of the French newspaper Le Monde daily, claiming an article published on Le Monde’s website on December 1 about a deadly attack by an Islamist armed group on a military base in Djibo, Sahel region, on November 26, was “biased.”

“The Burkina Faso government should not be combatting an insurgency by abusively conscripting activists and journalists to keep them quiet,” Allegrozzi said.

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