Burkinabe Court justifies forced conscription of journalists, other civilians

The Administrative Court of Ouagadougou has rejected a petition by a group of civilians against a conscription order aimed at forcibly enlisting them (the petitioners) into combat units of the armed forces.

The court’s ruling follows an urgent petition filed by three conscripts, including journalist Issaka Lingani, a regular columnist on the political show “Presse Echos” on BF1 TV, as well as activists and bloggers Rasmané Zinaba and Bassirou Badjo of the movement Le Balai citoyen, seeking a stay of enforcement of their conscription order.

On November 2, 2023, the military government issued an order to conscript into the army a dozen Burkinabè, including journalists Issaka Lingani and Yacouba Ladji Bama, a politician, blogger-activists, opinion leaders from civil society organisations and trade unions.  The conscription orders called for them to “participate in operations to secure the national territory” within the armed forces.

The lawyers for the petitioners argued that the conscription orders lacked valid grounds, were arbitrary and punitive in nature. However, the Administrative Court, citing Article 50 of Law N°01-2016/AN of April 26, 2016, rejected the conscripts’ application on substantive grounds. The said article specifies that an application for the suspension of orders may not be granted when the contested decision is related to public order, security, peace or health.

Despite the court’s decision, the conscripts have not joined military operations, where they were supposed to report since November 7, 2023. Lawyers for the petitioners declared that they would appeal the decision.

Earlier in March 2023, the authorities forcibly conscripted Boukaré Ouédraogo, leader of the Appel de Kaya movement. Mr Ouédraogo, who is visually impaired, was deployed to the frontline after he criticized the war efforts at a press conference in Kaya on March 16, 2023.

It is apparent that the conscription is targeted at the junta’s critics and has as principal objective to silence them and future dissenters. The MFWA is therefore disappointed at the Administrative Court’s decision and calls on the Burkinabe authorities to immediately revoke the conscription orders.

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