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Burkina Faso’s transitional parliament on 16 February pass A bill to enhance the role of provost marshals, who are responsible for maintaining discipline in the armed forces and the rights of prisoners during military operations and at military posts.

Under Article 241 of the Military Justice Code of Burkina Faso, provost marshals previously served mainly in military command centers and rarely accompanied troops on military operations. These restrictions undermined their main function of protecting the rights of detainees and reducing abuse. In addition to expanding their role, the law grants provost marshals the status of judicial police officers, who are trained in judicial investigations.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly Stressed on The essential role of Provost Marshals and Burkinabé officers to increase their presence in military operations, to ensure that they monitor and respond to any abuses, and to liaise with relevant judicial authorities.

The security situation in Burkina Faso is fragile. Attacks by armed Islamic groups on civilians have jumped Since 2022 while state security forces and pro-government armed groups have carried out several operations offensive anti-terrorist operation, violence has forced 1.9 million people from their homes.

Burkina Faso’s Minister of Defense and Veterans, Col.-Maj. Kassoum Coulibaly, Said Local media reported on 16 February that with an increase in attacks by armed groups and an increase in military operations, “the risk of human rights violations is on the rise,” making the deployment of provost marshals “essential.”

The expansion of the role of Provost Marshals is a positive step towards ensuring that the armed forces respect basic rights in military operations and that prisoners are treated humanely and are afforded due process before law. However, concerns remained about the misconduct of the gendarmes, among whom the provost marshals would be selected. Human Rights Watch have documented Serious abuses by the Burkinabe gendarmerie during counter-terrorist operations in both Burkina Faso and Mali, including summary executions of suspects.

The authorities must ensure that provost marshals are thoroughly vetted so that those convicted of serious crimes do not end up in this new pool. Strong, effective vetting is critical to developing provost marshals who are willing to take steps to prevent abuse and support national efforts to build more disciplined, rights-respecting security forces that protect civilians from violence and protect against abuse.

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