En full political transition, the specter of a prolonged halt had hovered over the trial of the assassination of President Thomas Sankara and his twelve companions in misfortune, with a suspension from the start of the pleadings of the defense lawyers . In question, counsel for the accused had lodged an appeal for unconstitutionality before the Constitutional Council of Burkina Faso. They had brandished provisions of the Penal Code relating to the offenses of attack and complicity in an attack on state security. Offenses constituting a coup that the Transition Charter, “superior to the Constitution”, does not expressly condemn. But in the end, the legal bottleneck was removed by the Council which, in a decision handed down on March 18, found the lawyers’ request to be unfounded. Enough to allow the resumption of the pleadings five days later, on March 22, and to arouse a sigh of relief among many impatient people who are awaiting the outcome of this long legal battle. A relief especially for the beneficiaries of the 13 victims of the bloody attack against the headquarters of the Council of the Entente, headquarters of the National Council of the Revolution, in Ouagadougou, on October 15, 1987.
Four days to convince and…
It took four days for the defense lawyers to unpack their arguments, to play the last cards in favor of their clients. The order of passage of the councils suggested a brotherly arrangement which reserves for the end the defense of the most emblematic defendants. In the absence therefore of the ex-president, Blaise Compaoré, and his former security chief, Hyacinthe Kafando – both accused but in exile – and their advisers, General Gilbert Diendéré is the star of the 12 accused. present, he who, at the time of the events, was responsible for the security of the Council of the Entente. It is up to his lawyers, a good half-dozen, to hold the spittoon last, to lighten the “heavy” charges weighing on him: “attack on state security”; “complicity in murder”; “concealment of a corpse” and “tampering with a witness”.
The very first of the battalion to come to the rescue of the “general” is Mr.and Latif Dabo. He demonstrated that his client, regarding the offense of “witness tampering”, never intended to confuse the file, via a co-accused, Tondé Ninda, who presents himself as an envoy of the general to another defendant, Abdouramane Zétyenga, to bring the latter to give testimony. Transcription of a sound piece in support, Mand Dabo points out the absence of “artificia, maneuvers, trickery, threats and assaults” in order to “withhold information or lie”. This is a simple request, argues the lawyer before hammering: “The law is clear, getting someone to tell the truth cannot be witness tampering”.
…escape heavy penalties
The other two offences, “attack on state security” and “complicity in murder”, particularly crystallized the pleadings in favor of Gilbert Diendéré, as for the other defendants who were accused of the same grievances. And this, especially since these facts are punishable by heavy penalties. This is what had prevailed for the military prosecution to request 30 years in prison against Blaise Compaoré and Hyacinthe Kafando, 20 years for Gilbert Diendéré and three other defendants, namely Nabonswendé Ouédraogo, Idrissa Sawadogo and Bossobè Traoré.
On “complicity in assassination”, Mand Paul Kéré is categorical: “There is no evidence to show that Gilbert was in the Council of the Entente and that he participated in the commando” which assassinated the president and his twelve companions in misfortune. By mouthing the same trumpet, Mr.and Mathieu Somé affirmed that “the offense is prescribed”. To give weight to his argument, the lawyer went back to the beginning of the procedure. First a complaint filed in 1997, a few days before the statute of limitations for the offense – almost ten years after the commission – which opened the legal battle with, as a major fact, a decision of the criminal division of the Court of Cassation which had closed the case in 2001. “This closure should trigger the principle of the authority of res judicata, at least make impossible any other new examination”, argues Mand Mathieu Some.
There is no complicity in murder…
Never mind, underlines the council, the reopening of the file in 2014, by the act of the prince, in full transition with President Michel Kafando, then the referral to the Burkinabè government commissioner in March 2015 had no reason to be. And Mand Somé to note the absence of an act of complaint since 2001, which means that “the file was reopened more than four years after the prescription”, “a procedure roughly sewn with white thread”, indignant the lawyer . And if the prosecution did not fail to recall that, in 2003, the UN human rights committee gave a favorable opinion that the case should not be buried, Mand Somé considers that “this opinion remains an opinion and has no binding value”. And to recall that “apart from genocide, war crimes and against humanity, any other offense is statute-barred”, before launching this joke at the accusation: “Let’s go back to what the law says, the rest is not is just chatter. »
…nor an attack on State security”
During its requisitions, the military prosecutor’s office explained that the offense of complicity in murder derives its constitution from several reasons, including the “passive” presence of Gilbert Diendéré at the Council of the Entente on the fateful Thursday and the non-existence of sanctions against the perpetrators of the irreparable. Arguments that Mand Somé dismantled one after the other. Selected excerpts: “Aliouna Traoré, the only survivor of the attack said that Diendéré was not at the Council of the Entente that day. “Lieutenant at the time of the events, Diendéré was not in a position to have the commando arrested. »
On the offense of attacking state security, the lawyers did not miss replies to the military prosecutor’s office, which had nevertheless demonstrated that it is sufficiently constituted. After having defined this grievance as the violent overthrow of a legal regime, Diendéré’s defense wanted to be categorical: “The CNR regime was not legal”, and to conclude: “There is therefore no no threat to state security […] the law being strictly interpreted”, according to Mand Mathieu Somé, who therefore requested that Gilbert Dienderé be acquitted.
See you on April 6 for the verdict
For the defence, which has, in its majority, pleaded the acquittal of the defendants, the judge’s decision must remain impartial. Clearly, it should not aim to satisfy public opinion which expects “a certain truth other than the truth of the facts”. Mand Mathieu Somé to address suggestions to the President of the Trial Chamber of the Military Tribunal, Urbain Méda: “Your decision should result from a dialogue with yourself […] this trial gives you the chance to play your historic role which will give credibility to our justice. »
At the end of the pleadings, a final appearance at the bar was authorized for the defendants. Some seized the outstretched pole to proclaim their innocence once again, others saw the opportunity to bow before the memory of the victims, to salute the holding of the trial, 34 years after the events.
The verdict of the Chamber’s judgment is expected on April 6. Then should intervene the opening of the international part of this file which had been divided.