Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced recent extrajudicial executions of 180 people in Djibo, northern Burkina Faso.
In a Wednesday report based on testimonies from local residents, the human rights organization said “mass graves containing at least 180 bodies have been discovered in recent months, and available evidence suggests the involvement of government security forces in mass extrajudicial executions.”
According to residents of Djibo, the dead, all of them men, were left in groups of between three and 20 along main roads, under bridges, and in fields and wastelands.
The bodies were buried in mass graves “in March and April” by local residents “with the approval of the military and local authorities,” HRW explained.
According to testimonies, the majority of victims were men belonging to Fulani ethnic groups, mainly recruited by the jihadist groups that have been bleeding Burkina Faso for the past five years.
“Authorities in Burkina Faso should urgently reveal who has turned Djibo into a site of summary executions,” HRW West Africa Director Corinne Dufka, said according to the report.
“Existing information points to government security forces, so impartial investigations are essential,” she said.
In response to the allegations, the government has committed to open an investigation, saying the killings may have been carried out by armed groups using army uniforms and logistics stolen during attacks, according to HRW.
Djibo is located in one of the regions most affected by jihadist attacks.
Over the past three years, Burkinabe law enforcement officials have been repeatedly accused of serious abuses and extrajudicial killings of civilians in their fight against jihadist groups.
On 12 May, 12 of the 25 people arrested on suspicion of terrorism died in their cells at the Tanwalbougou (east) gendarmerie on a high-profile charge.
According to relatives of the victims, including a member of parliament, and NGOs, the 12 were civilians caught in a round-up who were summarily executed with a bullet to the head, the prosecutor ruled out this hypothesis.
Burkina Faso is plagued by frequent jihadi attacks, sometimes intertwined with inter-community conflicts.
These attacks have killed more than 1,100 people since 2015, and forced nearly a million people to flee their homes.