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Burkina Faso Rejects Human Rights Group's Complaint

Burkina Faso rejected a formal legal complaint against President Blaise Compaore by a Paris-based human rights organization as politically motivated. The complaint by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres) says Mr. Compaore must face charges for alleged torture and killings committed by his presidential guards.

Burkina Faso's Information Minister, Hien Kilmite Theodore said Friday the complaint by Reporters Without Borders is nothing more than a publicity stunt at the expense of President Compaore, who is currently on an official visit in France.

The minister said the Paris-based organization is following in the footsteps of the Burkinabe opposition, which, he added, has tried to use allegations of torture and killings for political purposes. Mr. Kilmite said the head of Reporters Without Borders, Robert Menard, is acting on what he called a "personal grudge" against the Burkinabe leader.

Reporters Without Borders filed a formal legal complaint against Mr. Compaore Thursday in Paris, only hours after a French prosecutor rejected the group's earlier request for an investigation.

In a statement, the press freedom group rejected the prosecutor's argument that a sitting head of state cannot face criminal charges. The statement said charges are permissible under both French and international law.

Critics of Mr. Compaore called for an investigation after members of his presidential guard were convicted of torturing and killing his brother's driver allegedly for stealing in early 1998.

Reporters Without Borders said the President must take responsibility for acts committed by a force over which he has close control.

The presidential guards were put on trial and convicted but neither President Compaore nor his brother has ever faced charges.

The matter did not stop there. A popular Burkina Faso newspaper editor, Norbert Zongo, was allegedly killed by presidential guards in December 1998 while probing the accusations of death by torture. Mr. Zongo's death has led to street protests and claims that the president ordered his killing.

President Compaore has denied the accusations.