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President Blaise Compaoré's visit to France: RSF activists beaten up in front of Socialist Party headquarters; fourteen members of the organisation arrested

(RSF/IFEX) - On 15 October 2001, RSF activists went to the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste, PS) headquarters on Solférino Street in Paris, just as Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré was arriving to meet the party's first secretary, François Hollande. RSF was hoping to draw the attention of the first secretary, and French officials who were expected to meet with Compaoré, to the Burkina Faso president's responsibility in the death of journalist Norbert Zongo. RSF is asking Hollande to denounce the violent assaults on RSF activists in front of the Socialist Party headquarters.

As Compaoré was getting out of his car, RSF members threw leaflets in his path. The leaflets said, "Norbert Zongo, assassinated journalist; No to impunity in Burkina Faso." Two activists were then brutally held down by police officers in civilian clothes. Thrown to the ground, they were kicked and beaten repeatedly and their faces were sprayed with tear gas. The other members of the organisation who were present were arrested by police.

On 12 October, RSF filed a civil suit against President Compaoré, who is currently on an official visit to France. RSF wants the French courts to examine his responsibility in acts of torture that were committed by members of the presidential guard, of which the president is the direct authority. French legislation integrated the convention against torture into its national law in 1984. French judges now have the authority to try those responsible for acts of torture, even if the torture was not committed in France.

On 13 December 1998, Norbert Zongo, director of "L'Indépendant" newspaper, and three of his companions were assassinated in Sapouy (100 kilometres south of Ouagadougou). The journalist had long been investigating the death of David Ouédraogo, the chauffeur of François Compaoré, presidential advisor and the head of state's brother. Suspected of robbery, Ouédraogo was arrested in December 1997 by guardsmen who were close to Blaise Compaoré. He died as a result of the torture to which he was subjected while inside the buildings which house the presidential guard.

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