No impunity for Burkina troops who shot civilians: Amnesty

Soldiers of Burkina Faso's loyalist troops stand guard near the Naba Koom II barracks, the base of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) in Ouagadougou on September 30, 2015 (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou) (AFP/File)

Ouagadougou (AFP) - Amnesty International on Wednesday said there can be no impunity for Burkina Faso troops who shot dead unarmed civilians including children in the days following their September 17 coup.

The troops from the west African nation's presidential guard, the RSP, "displayed a cold-blooded disregard for human life, killing 14 unarmed protestors and bystanders and wounding hundreds more with automatic weapons," the rights group said in a statement.

It said two children were among the 14 dead, six of them shot in the back.

Citing eyewitnesses, Amnesty said that on several occasions soldiers had opened fire without warning on protestors holding their hands in the air.

Many of the 271 people hurt in post-coup violence were injured by live ammunition while eyewitness testimony confirmed others had been whipped and beaten by the RSP.

One pregnant woman was shot in the stomach while standing in her home September 18. A midwife told Amnesty that doctors had to perform a caesarean delivery. "The child was born with a gunshot wound on the left buttock," she said.

While coup leader General Gilbert Diendere, and former foreign minister General Djibril Bassole, have been arrested and charged with crimes including attacking state security and murder, members of the presidential guard "are being reintegrated into the national army."

Members of the presidential guard loyal to ousted longtime leader Blaise Compaore took the president and government hostage in September, but the putsch failed when people rose up in protest.

The regiment has since been disbanded.

Amnesty said it had called for the expansion of a planned Commission of Inquiry to investigate the killings and other human rights violations.

"Burkina Faso’s transitional authorities must ensure that all human rights violations committed by the security forces, including crimes under international law, are independently and impartially investigated through an expanded Commission of Inquiry,” said Amnesty's west Africa director, Alioune Tine.

“Only by doing so can the country make a clean break from its past and send a clear signal that in future such human rights violations will not be tolerated.”