Delegates sit at the opening of the 41th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 24, 2019. © 2019 Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP

Thank you, Madam President.

Human Rights Watch welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur and the recommendation to adopt a strong political declaration on strengthening the protection of civilians from the harm arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The declaration should commit countries to avoid using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in such circumstances and comprehensively address the humanitarian impact from explosive weapons used in populated areas. 

Special Rapporteur, it has been one year since your report on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Following a trial that concluded in December 2019, you commented that “those who ordered the executions not only walk free but have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial...at no point did the trial consider the responsibilities of the State.” Moreover, the climate of impunity and intolerance for dissent that led to Khashoggi’s murder remain, leaving women defenders, journalists and others in Saudi Arabia at continued risk. What should the Council do to bring more systematic scrutiny to the rights situation in the country?

Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned about the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Burkina Faso, including alleged unlawful killings by armed Islamist groups, state security forces, and pro-government militias. These violations, targeting both civilians and suspected fighters, have provoked widespread displacement, deepened ethnic tension and undermined confidence in the state.

Since 2017, we have documented the killing of 407 civilians by armed Islamist groups. Seeking to justify killings by linking victims to the government, the West, or Christian beliefs, these armed groups have attacked churches, mosques, cafes, aid convoys and schools with unmitigated cruelty.   

In response to the growing presence of armed Islamist groups, the state security forces have themselves perpetrated unlawful killings. We have documented the alleged killing of over 500 suspects, the vast majority found dead after having last been seen in the custody of the security forces. In 2019, a local human rights group credibly documented an additional 60 executions. 

Pro-government self-defense groups, which were in January institutionalized by the Burkinabe government, stand accused of numerous violations including the killing of at least 49 men in 2019 and at least 43 men in March 2020. 

The killings by the security forces and government-backed groups is driving recruitment into the armed Islamist groups. The lack of progress on investigations into these violations seems to entrench impunity and deepen the security crisis. We urge the Council to address this serious situation.