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Burkina Faso: Arrest Warrant Issued for Former President

(Jan. 6, 2016) On December 21, 2015, Burkina Faso’s military court issued an international arrest warrant for the country’s former President, Blaise Compaoré. An international warrant was necessary because Compaoré has been living in the Cote d’Ivoire, a country on the southwestern border of Burkina Faso. He is charged with having a role in the assassination of Captain Thomas Sankara, a former revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso, together with 12 of Sankara’s supporters, in 1987. The killings took place during the coup through which Campaoré came into power; he has denied being involved in the assassinations. (Brahima Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso: Intl Arrest Warrant out for Exiled President for Killing of Ex-Leader Sankara, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT (Dec. 21, 2015).)

Sankara’s cousin, Mousbila Sankara, applauded the issuance of the warrant, but warned that “it will be difficult to have the Ivorians agree to arrest Compaoré and send him back home.” (Id.)


Compaoré held office as president for 27 years before his ouster, following a military-led uprising, in October 2014. At that time the investigation into the death of Sankara was reopened and remains believed to be the dead leader’s were exhumed for examination. (Id.; Justin Cosgrove, Burkina Faso Military Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Former President Compaore, PAPER CHASE (Dec. 22, 2015).)

Depending on the exact charges brought against Compaoré, under either the Code of Military Justice or the Penal Code he could face the death penalty. (Loi No. 24-94 ADP du 24 mai 1994 portant code de justice militaire [Law No. 24-94 ADP of May 24, 1994, Concerning the Code of Military Justice] (promulgated by Decree 94-221, June 13, 1994) & Loi 43-96 ADP du 13 novembre 1996 portant code penal [Law No. 43-96 ADP of November 13, 1996, Concerning the Penal Code] (promulgated by Decree 96-451 of Dec. 18, 1996, as amended by Law 6-2004 of Apr. 6, 2004) both available in print in VI CODES ET LOIS DU BURKINA FASO: CODE PENAL (Ouagadougou, 2005).)

The warrant for Compaoré is the latest development in ongoing internal disruption in Burkina Faso. An ally of Compaoré, General Gilbert Diendere, was arrested in October 6, 2015, and charged along with other Compaoré loyalists with staging a short-lived coup in September 2015. (Constance Johnson, Burkina Faso: General Charged in Coup Attempt, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 14, 2015).)