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SENEGAL: Torture in custody

November 2010

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In April 2007, Dominique LOPY, aged 25, died in custody at the Central Police Station of Kolda, southeast of Dakar. He had been arrested for the theft of a television.

His mother said: “On the morning of his arrest, the police came to my house with Dominique. He was handcuffed and bare-chested. They searched the house and then left taking Dominique with them. As he left, one of the police officers said that Dominique would be beaten to death if he did not return the television set. When I went to see him at the police station, my son told me that he had been beaten while in detention and his body showed signs of a beating. The next morning, I went again to the police station but they refused to let me see my son. I later learned that his body had been taken to the mortuary.”

Dominique LOPY’s death provoked great public indignation in Kolda. His family lodged a complaint and an investigation was opened but, three years later, the family of the deceased are still waiting for justice to be done.

For decades, in Senegal, the systematic use of torture to extract “confessions” has remained openly condoned in court proceedings. Perpetrators are seldom held to account, even when their victims die as a result of mistreatment.

Many people, persecuted during the past conflict that goes on sporadically in Casamance, common law detainees, or individuals arrested because of their alleged political opinions or sexual behaviour, describe being electrocuted, burned and asphyxiated while being held by security forces.

In the last three years, at least six people arrested for common law crimes have died in custody, apparently from the effects of torture. In at least four of these cases, investigations were not opened or completed and the police officers and gendarmes implicated in these acts of torture were not brought to justice.

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