Saďdou Sore runs a business that sells construction materials. He is 35 years old and lives in Houndé, Burkina Faso. Some time ago he was suddenly arrested by the local police, on false accusations. Through Diakonia's support to the organisation MBDHP he could claim his rights, and the police was forced to change its custody practice.
Locked up for 18 days
“I bought two steel bars from a builder’s apprentices. Six months later, the police came and asked me questions regarding this purchase. I was locked up for eighteen days. They accused me of having stolen the material and I had to reimburse it. I was then transferred to court in Boromo, where I was judged and released.”
The Diakonia partner organisation and Burkinabe human rights movement MBDHP helped Saďdou to prove that he had committed no crime, and at the same time started a process to make the local police change its custody practice. According to the law, the maximum duration to keep someone in police custody in Burkina Faso is five days
Lacks in democracy leads to violations of human rights
Lacks in democracy and good governance lead to many human rights violations in Burkina Faso. Impunity, bribes and corruption are frequent.
The following mapping made by MBDHP shows the way things used to happen in Houndé before 10th February 2009:
Result: A change in the way people are kept in police custody
After having done this mapping, MBDHP could see that the case of Saďdou was not an isolated one. The organisation went to the superintendent to discuss the issue. Since this lead to no change, MBDHP warned the state prosecutor regarding this issue. The local prosecutor then required explanations from the MBDHP and the superintendent. The national direction of the police sent some inspectors to check the situation in Houndé’s police station.
Usually this kind of situation leads to the elaboration of a confidential report from the national authority to the local authorities. Therefore, in this specific case, it is expected that a confidential report has been sent to all the provincial directions of the police to inform and warn them to avoid this kind of errors in the future. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for organisations of the civil society like MBDHP to get this kind of documents.
But this time, MBDHP succeeded in making the authorities run an open and transparent process. On 10th February 2009 MBDHP and the superintendent were standing in front of the state prosecutor to give their explanations regarding this police custody. The outcome was clear: The law regarding conditions for keeping people in custody must be followed and the police in Houndé had acted illegally.
Now MBDHP continues, with support from Diakonia, to monitor that the judgment of the state prosecutor becomes a natural part of the daily police work.
"I have equal rights"
For Saďdou and other Burkinabe's the support from Diakonia and the persistent work of MBDHP give hope that it is possible to change society for the better. That a correct application of existing laws can be possible, despite that Burkina Faso is at general social unrest, and that the majority of the people suffer greatly from poverty.
– I never went to school but I know that organisations that work for human rights can help people. And I know that every man, woman and child has the right to life and justice, concludes Saďdou Sore.