Burkina Faso: France cancels the extradition of François Compaoré

“The context has changed

Burkina Faso: France cancels the extradition of François Compaoré

“The context has changed. » It is with these few words that the president of the extradition chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal justified, on December 13, the annulment by France of a 2020 ministerial decree, authorizing the extradition of François Compaoré to Burkina Faso. The brother of former President Blaise Compaoré, overthrown in 2014, has been the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by Ouagadougou since 2017, although he is suspected of having ordered the assassination of journalist Norbert Zongo.

To cancel his extradition, although validated by the Council of State in 2021, French justice does not rule on the merits of the case, but on “the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of September 7, 2023 which concluded that there had been a violation of Article 2 in the event of extradition of the applicant to Burkina Faso,” indicates the Ministry of Justice. The article in question indeed requires that “no one may be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment.” While opponents and human rights defenders are forcibly requisitioned in Burkina Faso in the name of the fight against jihadist groups, the risk of seeing François Compaoré, almost 70 years old, be used as an example of the inflexibility of the military power was evident according to his advice.

“A huge disappointment”

The extradition of François Compaoré to Burkina Faso posed “serious risks for his fundamental rights. However, France is bound by its commitments before the ECHR. The cancellation of the extradition of our client is therefore not a surprise,” underline his lawyers, Clara Gérard-Rodriguez and Pierre-Olivier Sur. “There are no longer any proceedings in progress and nothing justifies its placement under judicial supervision,” they also assure. Now retired, François Compaoré lives in Paris surrounded by his wife and children.

In Ouagadougou, on the other hand, for all those waiting for his trial, "it's a huge disappointment", as Boureima Ouédraogo, the director of the newspaper Le Reporter, confides, ready however to settle for a trial in absentia. The national press center Norbert Zongo, for its part, deplored December 21 as “a black day for defenders of freedom of expression and the Burkinabe people.” “Norbert’s loved ones must be devastated. There were a lot of expectations behind this procedure,” said Prosper Farama, the family’s lawyer who, since 1998, has been waiting for light to be shed on this assassination and for justice to be done.

If the decision of the French justice satisfies, unsurprisingly, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), the party of Blaise Compaoré, the arguments of the ECHR also resonate with those who defended the necessity of this trial . “They are consistent with the political-judicial situation in Burkina,” admits Souleymane Ouédraogo, a member of the civil society movement Balai Citoyen, while deeming the current outcome of this diplomatic-judicial soap opera “regrettable”. “The prosecution will soon be submitted to the Ministry of Justice according to announcements from the transitional government. Judicial independence is violated,” he underlines. Asked by Le Monde, the Burkinabe authorities did not respond.

If the possibility of extradition of François Compaoré to Burkina Faso today seems to be receding, the memory of Norbert Zongo remains alive in his country. “Today,” concludes Souleymane Ouédraogo, “he is a national hero. There is even a university named after him. »