Burkina Faso: drone strikes on civilian targets

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report Jan. 25 bringing attention to three military drone strikes conducted by Burkina Faso’s government, supposedly targeting Islamist fighters. The strikes took place between August and November 2023 and resulted in significant civilian casualties at crowded markets, and a funeral, according to the report. A minimum of 60 civilians are found to have lost their lives, with numerous others injured.

The incidents occurred at a pubic markets in Bouro village, a funeral gathering in Bidi, and a market near Boulkessi, on the border with Mali. The report relies on eye-witness accounts, alongside an analysis of photographs, videos and satellite imagery.

The Burkina Faso military allegedly utilized Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones, equipped with MAM-L laser-guided bombs, known for their precision. HRW suggested that these actions may violate laws-of-war prohibitions against attacks that fail to distinguish between civilian and military targets. Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines both "intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population" and "intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects" as war crimes. HRW called for an immediate, independent, and transparent investigation by the Burkinabè government into the strikes.

Despite HRW's attempts to engage with the Burkina Faso authorities, a letter sent on Dec. 20, 2023, detailing the findings, received no official response. 

Burkina Faso has been under increased scrutiny for alleged human rights violations since the 2022 coup that put current "transitional president" Ibrahim Traoré in power, leading to the country’s suspension from the African Union. In October, Traoré canceled the upcoming 2024 elections after claiming the country is "at war."

From Jurist, Jan. 27. Used with permission.

Double massacre in Burkina Faso

Dozens of people were shot dead at a mosque in Burkina Faso's east on Feb. 25, the same day a Catholic church was attacked. The gunmen, believed to be jihadist insurgents, surrounded the mosque in the town of Natiaboani during morning prayers. At least 15 people were also killed in the church attack during Sunday mass in the village of Essakane in the country's north. (TNH)