OUAGADOUGOU / GENEVA (12 April 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, today cautioned that Burkina Faso remains vulnerable to the threat of terrorist attack, the spread of armed conflict across its borders, and the emergence of religious intolerance, radicalization and violent extremism among its population.
“Any significant attack on the infrastructure or security of Burkina Faso would undermine social cohesion within the country, impair inward investment, and further de-stabilise the region,” said the expert assigned by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, at the end of a five-day visit* to the country.
“The international community needs to ensure that the material and other resources necessary to protect this small and peaceful State, from both external and internal threats, are made available to it,” Mr. Emmerson said, urging the European Union, the UN and other international donors, to maintain and increase global support for Burkina Faso.
The independent expert recommended donors to target their support for measures that contribute to securing stability and social justice, as well as the protection of the country’s borders, and to the alleviation of poverty, and the promotion of inward investment and job and wealth creation in the country.
“It would be naïve to assume that the country is not at risk,” the expert said, noting Burkina Faso geographical proximity to the conflict in northern Mali, the length and insecurity of its borders with Mali and Niger, and the economic instability of the country and its lack of natural resources. He also drew attention to the current social and political tensions, particularly among the youth aged 18 to 25 who suffer the highest levels of unemployment, and the fact that nearly half of the population falls beneath the poverty line.
“It is essential that a vulnerable State in such an exposed geographical location, has the tools at its disposal to ensure the security of its borders, maintain the security of inward investment that it is essential to its development, and address the economic, social, political and human rights concerns that can so easily become conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism,” Mr. Emmerson underscored.
The rights expert praised the country’s commitment to peaceful negotiation and co-existence within a sub-region that has been driven by conflicts in neighbouring states. He also recalled Burkina Faso’s role as chief peace negotiator for many of the major conflicts in the region, “largely due to a long and deeply-held tradition of religious and ethnic tolerance, dialogue and co-operation among its people.”
“Burkina Faso plays a critical role in promoting peace and dialogue within the sub-region,” Mr. Emmerson said. “It will almost certainly occupy an important mediating position in the forthcoming negotiations concerning the future of Mali, and will significantly contribute to the maintenance of any settlement that is reached.”
During his five-day visit, the rights expert met with Government officials from a number of relevant ministries, including foreign affairs, human rights, interior and justice, as well as representatives of the judiciary and law enforcement, and with prosecutors. Mr. Emmerson also held talks with parliamentarians, representatives of the international community and non-governmental organizations, and visited detention centres relevant to his mandate.
Based on the information collected during the visit, the Special Rapporteur will prepare a report to be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2014.
Ben Emmerson (United Kingdom) is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. On 1 August 2011, he took up his functions on the mandate that was created in 2005 by the former UN Commission on Human Rights and renewed by the UN Human Rights Council for a three year period in September 2010. As Special Rapporteur he is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Terrorism/Pages/SRTerrorismIndex.aspx
(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13227&LangID=E
UN Human Rights, country page – Burkina Faso: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/BFIndex.aspx
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