Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Friday urged Burkina Faso’s authorities to ensure an independent and impartial inquiry into a massacre in the northern village of Karma that occurred on April 20. This reiterated an earlier call for an investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. All organizations noted that the deliberate killing of civilians violates international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime.
Witnesses interviewed by the two rights organizations alleged that the Burkinabe army, which is mandated to protect civilians, was involved in the killings of 156 civilians. The organizations urge independence and impartiality in the investigation process to ensure all those responsible are brought to justice.
Condemning the army’s attacks on civilians, Director of Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa office Samira Daoud said;
The Karma massacre is yet another example of violence against civilians in the conflict in Burkina Faso. After the killings in Nouna on 30 December and the attack on the displaced persons’ site at La Ferme in Ouahigouya on 13 February, the army has once again been found responsible for these attacks and killings, which deliberately targeted civilians. Such attacks on civilians must be halted immediately.
Echoing Samira Daoud on the need for thorough investigations, Africa Deputy Director at Human Rights Watch, Kaneza Nantulya said, “The Karma massacre will be even more devastating if the Burkinabè authorities don’t follow up on their commitment to ensure that the promised investigation is thorough, independent, and results in impartial prosecutions. Given the gravity of the crimes, the government should seek cooperation and assistance from the AU and UN to carry out the investigation.”
The attacks in Karma are part of many attacks that have taken place in Burkina Faso since 2015. These killings have been perpetrated by soldiers who are allegedly part of Burkinabe security forces and by paramilitary auxiliaries known as Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP). Affected civilians suspect that the attacks are fueled by the armed forces’ belief that they are supporting Islamist groups.