In a statement released on Friday, Mr Türk said the authorities’ decision to investigate the deaths was encouraging, but added that it should be “swift, thorough, impartial and transparent”. “I have sent a letter to the foreign minister to underline this message,” said the High Commissioner. “The victims and their loved ones owe no less.”
The 28 bodies were found in the northwestern town of Nouna, in the province of Kossi, in the Boucle du Mouhoun region. According to local sources, the victims, all men, were killed when members of the Volontaires pour la Défense de la Patrie (VDP), armed auxiliaries of the defense and security forces, raided the city, apparently in retaliation for an earlier attack on the military base of the group the previous night by suspected members of the armed group Jamāʿat nuṣrat al-islām wal-muslimīn (JNIM).
Burkina Faso has been gripped by political instability for several years and its population has suffered a series of deadly terrorist attacks. The country’s severe humanitarian crisis has displaced more than a million people from their homes, victims of ongoing conflict and poverty.
At the start of its investigation on January 2, Burkina Faso’s transitional government stated that it is “fundamentally opposed to any form of abuse or human rights violations on any basis” and reiterated its commitment to protect all citizens without discrimination.
Mr Türk has previously raised concerns directly with the authorities about the potential risks to human rights associated with the recruitment, arming and deployment of auxiliary forces in Burkina Faso.
The statement noted the urgent need to strengthen their vetting procedures, pre-deployment training on international human rights and humanitarian law, their effective oversight by the security and defense forces, and to ensure inclusion and transparency during their recruitment.