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Burkina Faso: European Court suspends extradition of François Compaoré

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Burkina Faso

The European Court of Human Rights on Friday suspended the extradition from France to Burkina Faso of François Compaoré, brother of deposed President Blaise Compaoré and a defendant in the 1998 murder of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo, the ECHR announced.

"The Court has decided to indicate to the French government, under Article 39" of the ECHR rules governing "interim measures", that Mr. Compaoré "should not be extradited to Burkina Faso for the duration of the proceedings before the Court", the Council of Europe's legal arm said in a laconic statement, referred to it by the applicant's lawyers after the French Council of State validated the extradition last Friday.

The French Council of State had earlier on Friday validated the extradition of François Compaoré to Burkina Faso.

France's highest administrative court rejected François Compaoré's appeal against the extradition decree signed in March 2020 by then French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

This decree "grants the extradition of Mr. Compaoré to the Burkinabe authorities for acts of incitement to murder that are not of a political nature," said in its decision the Council of State.

"It does not appear from the evidence in the file that the extradition was requested by the Burkinabe authorities for a purpose other than the repression, by the Burkinabe courts, of the common law offenses with which the person concerned is charged," the French court said.

Mr. Compaoré is "not entitled to claim that his extradition was requested for political purposes," it concluded.

Norbert Zongo, 49, a well-known investigative journalist and director of the weekly newspaper "L'Indépendant", was assassinated on December 13, 1998, while investigating the murder of François Compaoré's driver. His death caused a political crisis in the "country of men of integrity".

François Compaoré will not be extradited immediately, however, since his lawyers, François-Henri Briard and Pierre-Olivier Sur, have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) "so that it can thwart the planned extradition" and "sanction" what they consider to be "France's failure to protect him", they said.

Mr. Briard told AFP that he had received an email from French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti on Friday afternoon indicating that he "would not execute the decree until the emergency procedure before the ECHR is judged.

The ECHR has given France until August 3, at 6:00 pm (16:00 GMT) to provide guarantees that Mr. Compaoré is not at risk of torture, among other things.

Mr. Compaoré is "certainly exposed to such risks if he were to be handed over to Burkina Faso," his counsel said.

François Compaoré is the younger brother of Blaise Compaoré, who was ousted by the street in October 2014 after 27 years in power.

- Under judicial supervision -

In June 2019, the French Court of Cassation had already rejected the appeal of Mr. Compaoré against his extradition to Ouagadougou, where the case of the murder of Norbert Zongo, closed in 2006 after a "no case" in favor of the only accused, was reopened thanks to the fall of Blaise Compaoré.

The journalist, author of several high-profile investigations denouncing bad governance under the Compaoré regime, was killed along with three of his companions. The four bodies were found burned in the south of Burkina Faso.

François Compaoré had been arrested at the Paris airport of Roissy in October 2017, in execution of an arrest warrant issued by his country.

Questioned by AFP, Mr. Briard said that his client was "currently in France, subject to a judicial control that he strictly observes."

"The Burkinabe government is delighted with this victory because it was he who made the extradition request. We have learned that there are other appeals underway (before the ECHR, editor's note) but we are convinced of the validity of our request," Ousseni Tamboura, Minister of Communication and government spokesman, told AFP.

To date, François Compaoré has not been charged in his country, unlike three former soldiers of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), Blaise Compaoré's former Praetorian Guard.

In a statement, his lawyers said their client "is ready to face justice in Burkina Faso with dignity, honor and responsibility.

For its part, the Council of State points out that in letters dating from 2017 and 2019, the "Minister of Justice of Burkina Faso has made commitments on the place and conditions of detention of Mr. Compaoré."

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