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Press Release -- International Justice for Sankara Campaign
Press Release -- International Justice for Sankara Campaign


International Justice for Sankara Campaign

The members of the CIJS salute the memory of the martyrs of the revolution of October 2014 in Burkina Faso, the development of the transition charter as well as the swearing in of the interim executive which was designated. The CIJS has been skeptical, conscious that the two main leaders of the executive are linked to the geopolitical powers that have a grip on the region. Nevertheless, together they are, for the moment patriotically fulfilling the aspirations of the popular uprising that got rid of a heinous regime. The CIJS respects the choice of the “college of designation” and also believes a spirit of tolerance and vigilance is essential during this one-year period of transition.

Profiting from this regime of exception, the interim President Kafando declared the following when he was sworn in:

“In the name of reconciliation, I have also decided, by the power of Prince, that the investigations to identify the remains of Sankara will no longer be subject to judicial decision but will be the responsibility of the government, and at this moment, authorization is granted to undertake these investigations”.

While we praise this declaration, the CIJS is of the view that these investigations must respect legal and legislative procedures and should not be limited to a simple identification of the remains of President Sankara, but also address the circumstances of his assassination and that of his colleagues. The historical page of impunity can then finally be turned and reconciliation take place. It is natural that identifying the President’s tomb, be followed by the identification and prosecution of his assassins.

To review the facts, in 1997 the CIJS exhausted all the legal recourses available in Burkina and was shamefully blocked at the Supreme Court by a judiciary controlled by the Compaore regime. The UN Human Rights Committee, on application by the CIJS, considered that : following judgment No 46 of the Supreme Court of Burkina Faso of June 19, 2001, rendering definitive decision No. 14 of the Court of Appeal, declaring the jurisdictions of common law incompetent, the authorities of Burkina Faso refused to send the case to jurisdictions of the Ministry of Defense in order to begin judicial proceedings before the military tribunals, as provided by article 71(1) and (3) of the Code of Military Justice and that the prosecutor wrongfully stopped the CIJS procedure.
The Committee stated the following :
« The family of Thomas Sankara, has the right to know the circumstances of his death…The Committee considers that the refusal to conduct an investigation regarding the death of Thomas Sankara, the official non-recognition of the location of his remains, the non-rectification of his death certificate, constitute inhumane treatment regarding Ms Sankara and her sons, contrary to article seven of the Pact.

With respect to paragraph 3(1) of article 2 of the Pact, the State party is required to ensure a useful and effective recourse for Ms Sankara and her sons consistent notably with the official recognition of the location of his tomb and damages for the pain and anguish that the family has undergone.

The State party cannot explain the delays at issue and on this point, the Committee considers that, contrary to the arguments of the State, no prescription can invalidate the action before the military tribunal, and from this point, the decision regarding non-denunciation of the matter before the Minister of Defense returns to the prosecutor, who has the sole authority to do so.

The Compaore regime proposed different non-contentious recourses : the College of Wise men, the Commission of national reconciliation, the Fund for the compensation of victims of political violence, the Mediator of Faso. However, these were not effective recourses. Having escaped justice due to the complacency of certain UN experts, the Compaore government found itself confronted with the determination of CIJS lawyers. We demanded the designation of an expert or that an independent and respected laboratory proceed with the identification of the DNA.

A procedural calendar was established for February 9, 2011. On March 11, 2011, the State of Burkina Faso objected to the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Ougadougou’s jurisdiction to proceed, that the demand was inadmissible. Then the presumed tomb of Thomas Sankara was vandalized on June 20, 2011. The Compaore regime claimed that it was someone with a mental disorder that committed this act and announced the deployment of police at the site to ensure the security of the presumed tomb. Yet two years and four months later, the presumed tomb was once again vandalized, in spite of the presence of police in front of the main door of the cemetery. By judgement dated April 30, 2015, the CIJS motion regarding DNA identification was rejected due to the Tribunal’s alleged lack of jurisdiction.

Blaise Compaore was also President of the Superior Court of the Magistrature. The magistrature was so infected by impunity that it was voluntarily excluded from the process of transition. Only a judiciary with integrity can ensure that the struggle against impunity is effective, with courts and tribunals that are impartial and vigilant regarding the protection of collective and individual liberties. A constituted assembly could correct the serious deficiencies that are the result of the submission of the judiciary to the executive. It could also supervise the reform of the army. Notwithstanding this requirement, and the courageous position taken to authorize an investigation regarding the identification of the body of President Thomas Sankara, our lawyers recommend that this takes place in conformity with the rule of law to ensure impartiality and that the burden of evidence is not in any way tainted with irregularities.

The CIJS hopes that the transitional authority will democratically find the judicial system of probity and impartiality to enable its lawyers to complete their work of eighteen years, so that the truth and justice bear fruit. The CIJS reiterates its demand that the civil societies in France, the U.S.A and Cote d’Ivoire help to pressure the Burkina state to divulge who was responsible for the assassination of Thomas Sankara. We thank the people of Burkina Faso for their support and joint them in playing a role of supervision and vigilance to ensure that the struggle against impunity continues.