Burkina-Faso: lawyer Guy Hervé Kam arbitrarily arrested and detained
30 January 2024
Between Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 January 2024, Guy Hervé Kam was arrested by a group of undercover men at Ouagadougou airport, who then took him away in an unmarked car. An hour later, he called his wife to tell her that he was at the National Police, but no further news of his whereabouts or state of health has been forthcoming since. The reasons for his arrest remain unknown. The lawyer representing the family of former head of state Thomas Sankara had just returned from a trip to Bobo Dioulasso.
Burkina Faso has experienced growing instability over the past few years. Several opponents of the current regime have been kidnapped since the coup in September 2022. Burkina Faso’s former foreign minister, Ablassé Ouédraogo, and the former head of police, Lieutenant-Colonel Evrard Somda, were also recently abducted.
Mr Kam is the national coordinator of the “Servir et non se servir” (SENS) movement and leader of civil society in Burkina Faso. The lawyer believes that it is necessary to “encourage and support independent candidacies throughout the country so that the voice of those who have remained on the sidelines is now heard in the body [of Burkina Faso]” following the impeachment of former head of state Blaise Compaoré. Following the coup in 2022, Mr Kam was quick to denounce the management of the transition. Mr Kam is a member of the legal group that succeeded in having several military requisitions invalidated as illegal by the Burkinabe courts.
Guy Hervé Kam is the second political leader to be kidnapped by security forces. Claiming to be “thwarting attempts to undermine” the regime, Ibrahim Traoré’s government is seriously infringing the rights of the people of Burkina Faso.
The SENS movement felt that the authorities “[had] the obligation to protect citizens throughout the country”.
The Burkina Faso Bar Association issued a press release denouncing a “gross, serious and deliberate attack on the rules guaranteeing the freedom and independence of lawyers”.
The Observatory supports the Burkina Faso Bar Association in condemning the attack on the practice of the legal profession.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and detention of Guy Hervé Kam.
The Observatory urges the Burkinabe authorities to release Mr Kam immediately and unconditionally.
The Observatory calls on Burkina Faso to comply with Article 9(1) of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”
The Observatory recalls that, in accordance with the basic principles of the United Nations relating to the role of the Bar, in particular principles 16, 17 and 23:
Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (…)”
Principle 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
Principle 23: “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. (…)”
 Le Monde, « Burkina Faso : l’avocat Guy Hervé Kam enlevé, son mouvement accuse les autorités de transition », op. cit.