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Burkina Faso11 October 2001

French courts refuse to accept a complaint against the president of Burkina Faso
Reporters sans frontières files a civil suit

Reporters sans frontières (Reportes without Borders; RSF) has acknowledged the decision of the French prosecutor’s office to dismiss their complaint, with no action taken, against the president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré. RSF is surprised by this decision, since the accusations against Mr. Compaoré are very serious and his responsibility is possible. The acts of torture that led to the death of David Ouédraogo were not the result of overzealous officers nor a simple blunder by the police; they were carried out by members of the presidential guard, under the direct responsibility of the head of state.

RSF points out that the ordinance issued by magistrate Vandermeersch, on 6 November 1998 in the case against Augusto Pinochet, specifies that, with respect to torture, "such criminal acts cannot be considered a normal part of the functions of a head of state, and one of his responsibilities is specifically to ensure the protection of his citizens."

In addition, RSF is surprised by the hesitancy of the French courts. Evolutions in international law demand that no difference be made between a head of state in function and one in retirement, and torture is an international crime that should be universally punished.

RSF has decided to file a civil suit against president Blaise Compaoré, This suit was filed on 12 October 2001 with the senior magistrate. RSF asks that, given the urgency of this situation, the prosecutor’s office immediately begin an investigation into this matter so a decision can be made by a magistrate before the departure of president Blaise Compaoré.

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