(This report covers the period January-December 1997)

Dozens of students who appeared to be prisoners of conscience were detained briefly without charge. Some were ill-treated. There was no progress in bringing to justice those responsible for human rights violations in previous years. Demonstrations early in the year by students at the University of Ouagadougou, the capital, in support of demands for improved conditions, resulted in the detention of dozens of students who appeared to be prisoners of conscience. On 31 January two student leaders, André Tibiri, President of the Association nationale des étudiants burkinabè, National Association of Burkinabè Students, and Abou Dao, were arrested at their homes and imprisoned in Ouagadougou until 8 February. In early February students and school pupils peacefully demonstrating against the detention of their colleagues were arrested and held for three days. More students were arrested later that month; most were released without charge after a few days. In March the government announced that all students had been released. Students arrested in early February were reported to have been beaten while held at the Direction de la sûreté nationale, the criminal investigation department of the police. Another student, Barthélemy Tenkodogo, was reported to have been abducted from the university in mid-February by unidentified armed men believed to be members of the security forces, put into the boot of a car and then beaten and abandoned several kilometres from Ouagadougou. There was no official investigation into the death of a soldier who was killed in late December 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Sergeant Arzouma Ouédraogo, who had been among 25 soldiers arrested in October 1996 and accused of breaches of military discipline, died a few days after the release of the detainees was officially announced. Military authorities said that he had died in a road accident while being transferred from Ouagadougou to Gaoua, Poni Province. However, no details of the incident were provided and the exact circumstances of his death remained unclear. The findings of official investigations into apparent extrajudicial executions in 1995 of seven men from Kaya Navio, Nahouri Province, and into the killing of two school pupils during a demonstration in 1995 at Garango, Boulgou Province, were still not made public (see Amnesty International Reports 1996 and 1997). Amnesty International received no response to a letter to the government in January calling for a full and independent inquiry into the death of Sergeant Arzouma Ouédraogo.

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