In southern Casamance a resumption of sporadic fighting between people alleged to be members of a separatist movement and the Senegalese army resulted in the displacement of hundreds of people. Torture against detainees was used by the police and condoned by the judiciary. Repression of gay men increased. Independent media and journalists were harassed in an attempt to stifle freedom of expression. The trial of former Chadian President Hissène Habré did not begin.
A resumption of sporadic attacks against military targets by people alleged to belong to the Democratic Forces of Casamance Movement (Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance, MFDC) undermined the fragile status quo in southern Casamance reached after the 2004 peace agreement. In September and October, several soldiers were killed. In response, the Senegalese air force bombed areas thought to include MFDC bases.
In March, an opposition coalition won local elections against a background of protests against rising food prices, shortages of key commodities and power cuts.
Internally displaced people – Casamance
The resumption of intermittent hostilities in Casamance led to the displacement of hundreds of people from their homes in the outskirts of Ziguinchor, the main city in Casamance. Some people fled areas that were bombed by Senegalese military airplanes. Others, notably around Baraf village near Ziguinchor, were forcibly expelled from their homes by alleged members of the MFDC and forbidden from returning to cultivate their fields.
Freedom of expression
Independent media and journalists were targeted in an attempt to stifle freedom of expression and criticism of President Abdoulaye Wade and his government.
- In March, three community radio stations in Dakar were suspended for two months for commenting on the local elections. The authorities withdrew the suspension after four days on condition that the stations stopped commenting on political issues during election campaigns.
- In August, three journalists with Le Quotidien newspaper were summoned by police for interrogation for two days after publishing an article criticizing President Wade and government ministers.
Discrimination – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
Men faced harassment, arbitrary arrest, torture and unfair trial because of their suspected engagement in consensual same-sex sexual relationships.
- In January, nine men were sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for “indecent conduct and unnatural acts and conspiracy” on the basis of confessions extracted by security forces under torture. The men had been arrested following anonymous accusations about their sexual behaviour. They were all released in April after the Dakar Appeal Court overturned the convictions.
- In June, three men and a teenage boy were arrested in the city of Darou Mousty, Louga region, after being anonymously denounced for alleged sexual acts “against nature”. The teenager was released and the three adults were sentenced in August to prison terms ranging from two to five years’ imprisonment. The men lodged an appeal, which had not been heard by the end of the year.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Several cases of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in police stations were documented. Confessions extracted under torture were used to convict people after unfair trials.
- In January, more than 20 students and young people detained after riots in the gold-mining town of Kédougou, about 700km south-east of Dakar, were reportedly tortured in order to extract confessions and incriminate others. Some of the detainees were given electric shocks. Others were beaten, kicked and punched while naked. Although several detainees told the court during their trial that they had been tortured, the judges and the prosecutor did not order an inquiry into the allegations. Nineteen defendants were sentenced to prison terms on the basis of their “confessions”. They were pardoned in March by President Wade.
International justice – Hissène Habré
The authorities asserted throughout the year that the trial of Chad’s former President Hissène Habré could not begin until they had received a certain amount of financial assistance, which international donors considered excessive. In 2006, the AU had called on Senegal to try Hissène Habré, who was living in exile in Senegal, for torture and other crimes committed during his rule.
In February, President Wade threatened to lift the judicial surveillance under which Hissène Habré had been placed and to remit him to the AU. A few days later, Belgium filed a case against Senegal before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) asking the ICJ to compel Senegal to take measures to prevent Hissène Habré from fleeing the country and to either prosecute him or extradite him to Belgium for trial. In May, the ICJ rejected the Belgian request.
In September, Hissène Habré’s complaint against Senegal started to be examined before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice for violations by Senegal of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, notably relating to the principle of non-retroactivity of penal legislation. The Court had not taken a decision on the issue by the end of the year.
Amnesty International visit/report
- In April, an Amnesty International delegation visited Senegal to research human rights issues.
- Senegal: Authorities must protect nine men at risk of homophobic attack, 27 April 2009