Court asks govt to pay for death of journalist

Saturday June 20 2015

The Burkina Faso government has been ordered to pay the family of slain journalist Norbert Zongo $31,514.

In a historic ruling, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ordered the government to pay Burkinabe CFA 25 million ($15,757) to each of Zongo’s widows, and CFA 40 million ($25,211) as reparations for legal costs.

The Arusha-based court that was established by the African Union granted $5,195.37 as reparations for travel costs. It also ordered Burkina Faso to reopen investigations into Zongo’s death and arrest the perpetrators. The country was also ordered to publish the judgment on an official website and on the official gazette.

The judgment follows application No. 013/2011 by the beneficiaries of Norbert Zongo, Abdoulaye Nikiema, Ernest Zongo, Blaise Ilboudou and the Burkinabe Human and Peoples’ Rights Movement. 

The investigative journalist and director of the weekly paper, l’Indépendant was assassinated on December 13, 1998 while investigating the suspected implication of President Blaise Compaoré’s brother in his driver’s murder.

He was killed alongside Nikiema (Ablassé), Ilboudo and Ernest. Their burnt bodies were found in a car they were travelling on the road to Leo, in the south of Burkina Faso.


Rights violations

In their application, the applicants cited violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Burkina Faso. They argued that the perpetrators had not been identified and no justice had been rendered to the victims and their families.

Burkina Faso representatives rejected the allegations and accused the applicants of rushing to the African Court without exhausting local remedies.

The court concluded that Burkina Faso failed in its obligation to take measures other than legislative, to ensure that the rights of the applicants for their case to be heard by competent national courts are respected.

The court differed its decision on request for reparation and ordered the applicants to submit their brief on reparations within 30 days from the day of pronouncement of the judgement.

It also requested the respondent state to submit to the court its brief in response on the reparations within 30 days from the date of reception of the brief of the Applicants.