[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson [official profile] on Friday called on the international community to protect Burkina Faso from terrorism [press release], warning that attacks on the country’s infrastructure or security would undermine social cohesion within the country, impair inward investment and further destabilize the region. Burkina Faso is particularly vulnerable due to its geographical proximity to the conflict in northern Mali [JURIST news archives], with which it shares a border. Emmerson described the country’s role in peace negotiations within the region, stating:
Burkina Faso plays a critical role in promoting peace and dialogue within the sub-region. It will almost certainly occupy an important mediating position in the forthcoming negotiations concerning the future of Mali, and will significantly contribute to the maintenance of any settlement that is reached.
There are additional sources of tension within the country which could contribute to radicalization and extremism, high unemployment and poverty in particular. The country faces unemployment rates reaching as high as 77% [CIA world factbook], and nearly half the population falls beneath the poverty line.
The primary source of concern for Burkina Faso is the ongoing conflict in northern Mali. Mali has drawn international scrutiny recently as more reports of political violence and human rights abuses come to light. In March, Malian Tuareg rebels called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate alleged war crimes [JURIST report] committed by Malian government forces during the conflict. In February Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Malian government to prosecute soldiers [JURIST report] who have allegedly participated in torture, summary executions and enforced disappearances against suspected Islamist rebels and their supporters. Earlier that month, the UN deployed a fact-finding mission to Mali to investigate potential violations [JURIST report] of humanitarian law in the form of retaliatory violence.