International advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) believes security forces in Burkina Faso summarily executed 31 unarmed detainees earlier this month during operations against Islamist militants.
The bullet-riddled bodies of the Fulani men were found in Djibo on April 9, after they were arrested by security forces and taken away witnesses and people with knowledge of the situation told HRW.
A government spokesman did not respond to repeated requests from Reuters for comment about the incident, including questions about HRW’s report.
The day after the incident, a researcher from Amnesty International tweeted that, according to multiple witnesses, security forces executed 29 men in Djibo.
Government is struggling to contain jihadist groups in northern Burkina Faso who stoke ethnic conflict by associating with Fulani herders. As a result, Fulani civilians bear the brunt of reprisals by soldiers and vigilantes, rights groups say.
Since 2017, armed Islamist groups, some with ties to al Qaeda and Islamic State, killed more than 300 civilians in Burkina Faso, while government killed several hundred men for alleged support of these groups, according to HRW.
Burkinabe officials promise to investigate allegations previously. Rights groups say government has not done enough to hold perpetrators accountable.
“Burkinabe security forces apparently executed 31 men in a brutal mockery of a counter-terrorism operation that may amount to a war crime and could fuel further atrocities,” said Corinne Dufka, HRW’s director for the Sahel region in West Africa.
“Government should stop abuse, fully investigate this incident and commit to a rights-respecting counter-terrorism strategy,” Dufka said in the report.