Burkina Faso adopts law against foreign terrorist fighters

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The government of Burkina Faso adopted an updated counter-terrorism law in December 2015. The new law features provisions to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters (FTF), a rising concern for Sahel countries and the international community at large. Indeed, the United Nations estimates that over 25,000 youths left their home countries to join the ranks of the various terrorist and armed groups operating in the region, North Africa and the Middle East in recent years.

As part of its on-going counter-terrorism assistance to Burkina Faso, UNODC assisted the Burkinabè legal drafters and legislators to ensure the inclusion of the FTF phenomenon in December 2015 updated law. As noted by one of the beneficiaries, "UNODC played a direct role in incorporating provisions related to FTFs...most notably thanks to a workshop on FTFs held in Dakar in October 2015, as well as through the delivery of a number of activities in the framework of the Sahel Judicial Platform [established with the support of UNODC]." The Office's legal experts have also supported the drafting of the 2009 counter-terrorism law, and will continue their efforts to ensure the alignment of current and future laws with international norms and standards, including especially those related to human rights.

Despite the counter-terrorism efforts of the national government, Ouagadougou, the capital of the country, remains exposed to terrorist threats, as evidenced during the 15 January attacks. This tragedy confirms that terrorist cells operate within the country, which shares a border with Mali. Recent events in the region testify that terrorists are expanding their sphere of influence, increasingly targeting Sahel countries.

A crime scene reconstruction during the national workshop in April 2016
A crime scene reconstruction during the national workshop in April 2016

UNODC also provides on-going assistance for building up the knowledge and skills of the criminal justice officials and law enforcement agencies. For instance, UNODC recently organized its first national training workshop on Rule of Law-based investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases. The workshop took place in Ouagadougou from 19 to 22 April 2016 and gathered 30 criminal justice and law enforcement officials. Two more training workshops are planned for June 2016. This series of workshops aims at enhancing national capacities, and especially investigators', judges' and prosecutors', to effectively investigate and prosecute terrorism cases in compliance with the Rule of Law.

During his opening speech, the representative of the Minister of Justice, Pascal Bamouni, Director General for Criminal Policy stated that to respond to the regional and national challenge related to terrorism, "Burkina Faso has undertaken structural reforms aimed at establishing a judicial division and a police unit specialized in the fight against terrorism. To be fully operational and efficient, these structures must be run by actors experienced in treating such cases." Indeed, the workshops are intended for future potential actors of change, by giving them the essential tools to conduct effective judicial investigations and prosecution of terrorism cases.

The April workshop also featured practical exercises and case studies led by UNODC experts on the collection of forensic evidence on crime scenes, suitable investigation techniques and joint investigations.

This activity took place in the framework of the UNODC Contribution to the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel ( Sahel Programme) following up on a workshop on investigating terrorism cases (June 2015) and a training on the legal framework against terrorism (February 2014). This activity was made possible thanks to the contributions of the governments of France, Japan and the United States.