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[Press Release] Senegal: Authorities must exercise restraint in the maintenance of public order

February 2012

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Dakar/Paris, Wednesday 15 February 2012—Following the Senegalese authority’s ban of today’s opposition march in Dakar and their dispersion of additional demonstration attempts with tear gas, our organizations call upon the Senegalese authorities to exercise restraint in their maintenance of public order.

As representatives of the law, the police must respect the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials as well as the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. According the Leonie Mondang, President of ACAT Senegal, “the police should avoid using excessive force in cases of conflict and confrontation with demonstrators. No lives should be endangered by anyone.”

From Sabrina Aït-Aoudia, Secretary General of FIACAT: “Respect for human rights and the freedoms of association, assembly and expression is especially important for a legitimate and fair electoral process. No one can ignore these rights. However, the guarantees necessary to ensure the right to public assembly and expression have yet to be secured.

The last few weeks have been marked by an escalation of political violence in Senegal. At least four people, including one police officer, have been killed. Many others have been injured during public demonstrations. An unknown number of opposition sympathizers have been arrested, and several remain in prison.

Rising tensions are of great concern in light of the first round of presidential elections scheduled to take place on Sunday 26 February 2012. The current situation risks tarnishing the electoral process and plunging the country into an unprecedented crisis.

All incidents resulting in human rights violations must be appropriately investigated and the perpetrators of these acts, be they demonstrators or law enforcement, must be brought to justice,” said Clement Boursin, African Programs Director for ACAT France.

To prevent any future violation of human rights, ACAT Senegal, FIACAT and ACAT France call upon the Senegalese authorities to:

-  Designate a central office to ensure the protection of human rights before, during and after the elections; Develop a security plan, in compliance with international standards of respect for human rights, to ensure the safety of all persons and property before, during and after the elections;

-  Strongly remind law enforcement that they should in no way commit human rights violations, and warn officers that those who do so will face legal proceedings;

-  Guarantee, without exception, freedom of association, assembly and expression; No ‘exception circumstances’ should be introduced that limit or suspend fundamental freedoms, as these situations are favorable to human rights violations; Release all persons arrested for their political beliefs;

-  Assure, before, during and after elections, the right to information and freedom of circulation to allow journalists, national and international observers, and human rights defenders to cover without restriction the integrity of the electoral process; Call upon journalists and the media to comply with the rules of professional ethics in their election coverage;

-  Ensure that independent, impartial and transparent investigations are conducted for all incidents of human rights violations so that their perpetrators are brought to justice;

-  Guarantee credible, free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections; Guarantee, for all candidates and political actors throughout the electoral process, equal access to Senegal territory and state media; Ensure the ability of all Senegalese citizens to participate freely and without intimidation in the presidential election;

Our organizations urge all candidates to refrain form statements and actions that could provoke further violence.

Lastly, our organizations urge the international community to make clear that it will not tolerate the perpetration of human rights violations and will hold accountable those responsible for such acts.

Press Contacts:

ACAT Senegal: Léonie Mandang – acatsenegal@yahoo.fr - +221 77 17 68 031
FIACAT: Sabrina Aït-Aoudia – saa@fiacat.org - +33 1 42 80 01 60
ACAT France: Ophélie Latil – ophelie.latil@acatfrance.fr - +33 1 40 40 40 24

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