Senegal - Amnesty International Report 2008

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF SENEGAL

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Head of State : Abdoulaye Wade
Head of government : Cheikh Hadjibou Soumaré (replaced Macky Sall in June)
Death penalty : abolitionist for all crimes
Population : 12.2 million
Life expectancy : 62.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) : 124/118 per 1,000
Adult literacy : 39.3 per cent

Hundreds of civilians fled to neighbouring countries to escape sporadic fighting in the southern Casamance region. Torture and ill-treatment continued to be used in detention centres and at least one detainee died as a result. Supporters of opposition parties, human rights defenders and journalists continued to be harassed and some were detained in an attempt to stifle freedom of expression. Despite formal commitments by the authorities, no real progress was made in the long-awaited trial of former Chadian President Hissène Habré.

Background

In March, President Abdoulaye Wade was re-elected in the first round of elections. There were accusations of fraud by his political opponents and clashes between supporters of rival candidates. In June, President’s Wade ruling coalition won legislative elections marked by a low turnout and a boycott by most opposition parties.

Sporadic fighting in Casamance

Three years after the December 2004 general peace accord, no progress had been made in the peace process in southern Casamance where sporadic fighting resumed. In January, armed elements of the Democratic Forces of Casamance Movement (Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance, MFDC) launched attacks along the border with Guinea-Bissau against Senegalese soldiers in a protest against mine clearance operations which the MFDC perceived as a pretext to attack their bases.

The long-standing internal divisions between different factions of the MFDC were exacerbated by the death in January of the MFDC’s historic leader, Father Augustin Diamacoune Senghor. In March, violent clashes resumed between two rival factions of the MFDC, resulting in the flight of hundreds of civilians to neighbouring Gambia. Despite appeals from members of the government and some MFDC officials, talks to implement the peace accord had not resumed at the end of the year.

Torture and death in detention

Torture and ill-treatment of criminal suspects in police stations continued to be reported. At least one detainee died in detention.

  • In April, Dominique Lopy, aged 23, was arrested in Kolda, some 600km south-east of Dakar, by police officers who suspected him of stealing a television. His family saw him with visible marks of beatings when he was brought back to his home for a house search. He died in detention the following day. Following protests, the authorities agreed to conduct an autopsy, but by the end of the year no results had been made public.

Freedom of expression under attack

Supporters of opposition parties, human rights defenders and several journalists were arrested and harassed in an attempt to stifle freedom of expression and criticism of the President.

  • In January, a banned peaceful demonstration organized by opposition parties was broken up and some political leaders were beaten and briefly detained.
  • In July, Alioune Tine, Secretary General of the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, RADDHO) was briefly detained after weapons were found at the organization’s headquarters. These arms appeared in fact to be decommissioned weapons handed over by the Senegalese army to be burned in the context of an international campaign against the proliferation of arms. Alioune Tine was released without charge.

International justice – Hissène Habré

In July 2006, the AU had called on Senegal to try Hissène Habré, living in exile in Senegal, for torture and other crimes committed during his rule (1982-1990). However, by the end of 2007 an investigating judge had not been appointed, despite the Senegalese government’s announcement that it would allow the Dakar Assise Court to organize a possible trial of Hissène Habré and, to this end, to receive financial and logistical support from foreign countries, such as Switzerland and France.

In November, experts of the UN Committee against Torture said that the case was progressing too slowly. The Committee urged the Senegalese authorities to speed up the implementation of the Committee’s May 2006 decision, which called upon Senegal to start criminal proceedings against Hissène Habré. Senegal promised the Committee that it would open an investigation in the coming months, while continuing to stress that it needed international funding and support for the trial. In the same month the AU decided that the case was moving too slowly and appointed former Benin minister Robert Dossou as its special representative to speed up proceedings.

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