Reporters Without Borders pledged today to continue campaigning for justice in the 1998 murder of leading independent journalist Norbert Zongo after learning that the judge in charge of the investigation, Wenceslas Ilboudo, has dismissed the case against the only person ever charged.
“This is an outright scandal, a disgrace,” the press freedom organisation said. “After eight years of campaigning, this decision makes the reign of impunity in Burkina Faso official. It is a terrible blow for all those citizens who have ceaselessly demanded to know the truth about this murder.”
Reporters Without Borders continued: “This has always been a highly political case. Zongo was killed by members of the presidential guard. François Compaoré, the brother of President Blaise Compaoré, is implicated. The authorities never stopped protecting the killers. The president has got what he always wanted - injustice.”
The organisation added: “Despite this decision , we will continue to campaign for justice in this case. We will never forget Norbert Zongo and we will press on tirelessly with our campaign alongside his family and friends.”
Judge Ilboudo's decision to dismiss the case against presidential guard member Marcel Kafando - the only person ever charged with Zongo's murder - was issued yesterday at the request of the Faso public prosecutor, who claimed there was insufficient evidence against him.
Zongo family lawyer Bénéwendé Sankara said the decision meant the case was now closed and would remain so unless new evidence came to light. He intended to appeal, he added.
Zongo was an investigative journalist and editor of the weekly L'Indépendant. His charred body was found in his car on 13 December 1998. At the time of his death he had been investigating the circumstances in which David Ouédraogo, the chauffeur of President Compaoré's brother François, died at the hands of members of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) after being arrested on suspicion of stealing from his employer.
Kafando was one of three RSP members who were convicted in August 2000 of kidnapping Ouédraogo and torturing him to death. The public prosecutor charged him in February 2001 with murder and arson in connection Zongo's death. But despite the gravity of the charges, Kafando was allowed to continue living at his home.