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Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Senegal

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 18 June 2009
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Senegal, 18 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a5f300fc.html [accessed 1 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Political context

Politics in the year 2008 were dominated by the launch by the opposition parties of a National Dialogue (assises nationales) in June. By boycotting the parliamentary elections in June 2007, the opposition parties had indeed allowed President Abdoulaye Wade's Senegalese Democratic Party (Parti démocratique sénégalais – PDS) to win the National Assembly and the Senate with an overwhelming majority. Faced with the country's worsening economic situation and Government tensions, on June 1, 2008 these parties grouped together as the Front Siggil Senegal and launched a national dialogue that was also joined by trade unions, employers' organisations, various civil society and human rights organisations, such as the African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights (Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'Homme – RADDHO) and the National Human Rights Organisation (Organisation nationale des droits de l'Homme – ONDH), and personalities from all kinds of domains. The organisers explained that this was not a subversive exercise or a plot and that the President was invited to take part, but they did not hide the fact that the intention was to examine his achievements and to prepare for the local elections in March 2009, which had been delayed on two occasions. Nevertheless, the social climate was increasingly tense during the year. For instance, violence occurred in October on the periphery of a protest against the high cost of living and against electricity cuts.

In 2008, human rights defenders continued to denounce the use of torture that persisted in places of detention and the willingness of placing the judiciary under supervision notably through reinstating the Supreme Court and abolishing the Constitutional Court. Furthermore, the right of magistrates to form a trade union was still not recognised, and their ability to command respect for their rights and their independence was therefore restricted. Civil society organisations that fight for respect of human rights also contested the fact that, two years after the solemn undertaking by Senegal to implement the decision of the African Union mandating it to "ensure that Hissène Habré is tried, on behalf of Africa", no proceedings had been opened against the former Chadian dictator, who was accused of crimes against humanity, crimes of war and torture.

In this context, the Government became extremely sensitive to any criticism, particularly with regard to journalists, who were assimilated with political opponents. On July 26, 2008, during a news broadcast of the Radio télévision sénégalaise (RTS), Mr. Farba Senghor, Minister of Craft Trades and Air Transport and PDS National Secretary, who is close to the President, called on his militant supporters to boycott the media that supported the opposition. He also called on public sector companies and the administrative authorities to "suspend all advertising contracts" with these media and assimilated journalists with politicians.1 He was subsequently identified as instigating the vandalising of the premises of the private daily newspapers L'As and 24 heures during the night of August 17 to 18, 2008. Following these serious, repeated attacks on the independent media's freedom of expression (death threats, vandalising of offices, arrests, etc.), Mr. Senghor was dismissed from the Government so that the judiciary could question him.2

In addition, although Senegal hosted the 15th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) from December 3 to 7, 2008 and, as host country, undertook to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on sexual minorities, this remained contradicted by its laws, which continued to treat homosexual relationships as crimes. On December 21, 2008, police officers arrested nine men who were preparing to carry out activities for HIV prevention. On January 6, 2009, these nine men were given eight years' prison sentences3 and a fine of 500,000 CFA francs (around 762 Euros) for "indecent or unnatural acts with a person of the same sex" and for "forming a criminal association".4

Repression of journalists who denounced human rights violations

Against the background of the deterioration of the political situation and of respect for rights, journalists who denounced human rights violations have become a favourite target for repression. For instance, Mr. El Malick Seck, Publishing Director of 24 Heures, was jailed on August 28, 2008. On September 15, 2008, Mr. Seck was sentenced at the first hearing to three years in prison for "disseminating false news". His newspaper had claimed that President Abdoulaye Wade and his son, Karim Wade, were involved in laundering money stolen in a hold-up at the Central Bank of West African States (Banque centrale des Etats de l'Afrique de l'ouest – BCEAO) in Bouake, Côte d'Ivoire, in August 2002.5 Furthermore, several journalists were the target of repeated, unexpected summons by the Criminal Investigation Division (Division des investigations criminelles – DIC), as was the case for Mr. Madiambal Diagne, General Director of the Future Communication Group (Groupe avenir communication), who was summoned to appear by the Brigade of General Affairs on July 14, 2008. On July 13, 2008, in a broadcast on Radio Futurs Média (RFM), Mr. Diagne had stated that he was in possession of information showing that the writer and journalist Mr. Latif Coulibaly, a special correspondent with the newspaper Sud Quotidien, would be summoned by the judge to be notified that he was charged with "concealing documents".6 Mr. Latif Coulibaly is being prosecuted after the publication of his latest book Loterie nationale sénégalaise : Chronique d'un pillage organisé, in which he denounced the serious cases of corruption in management of the Senegalese National Lottery (LONASE) following the return of Baîla Alioune Wane as Executive Director. On July 1, 2008 he received a summons to appear before the judge of the first examiner's office for the Dakar Regional Tribunal on July 12 and 17. Since then, he must appear before the judge at least once a month and as of the end of 2008 the case against him was still pending.7

Unexpected police raids on publishing offices to demand copies of forthcoming editions of newspapers that contravened requirements for legal registration were also registered, as was the case of the newspaper Le Populaire in August 2008. The Managing Director of the Com 7 press group that edits the newspaper filed a complaint for assault and violation of a residence against one of the police officers, who were formally identified. The newspaper possessed sensitive information relating to cases of corruption involving Mr. Farba Senghor. The case was still pending as of the end of 2008.8

In addition, members of the Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) carried out operations on Senegalese territory to intimidate exiled journalists despite the fact that it is the responsibility of the State of Senegal to protect all persons under its jurisdiction. On March 10, 2008, three NIA agents appeared at the Dakar home of Mr. Yahya Dampha, a former journalist with the daily newspaper Foroyaa, with the intention of taking him away to "talk about his activities", a kidnapping attempt that was short-lived thanks to the intervention of his neighbours. After the security forces made a new visit to his family, Mr. Dampha left Senegal to go to Sweden, where he obtained refugee status in June 2008. He had been arrested in Banjul in October 2007 when he accompanied an Amnesty International mission to investigate arbitrary arrests, attacks on freedom of the press and torture in detention. He had been released by the Gambian authorities after a few days without charge but, because of the repeated visits to his home by NIA agents and fearing for his safety, he had had to leave Gambia to take refuge in Senegal. Members of the Gambian security forces also obtained information concerning Mr. Mohamed Oury Bah, a former Sierra Leonean journalist for The Independent newspaper, who fled Gambia on January 20, 2008 after being arrested several times and threatened by the intelligence services, because of his fight for press freedom.9 In particular, they questioned his neighbours about his movements.

Urgent Intervention issued by The Observatory in 200810

Names of human rights defendersViolationsIntervention ReferenceDate of Issuance
Mr. Yahya DamphaKidnapping attempt / Fear for safetyUrgent Appeal SEN 001/0308/OBS 040March 19, 2008

1 See Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Release, July 30, 2008.

2 See Jeune Afrique, September 7, 2008.

3 The Prosecutor had called for a five years' prison sentence.

4 See RADDHO. As of the end of 2008, the nine men were still held at the Dakar prison camp.

5 See RADDHO and ONDH.

6 See Le Quotidien, July 15, 2008.

7 See RADDHO.

8 Idem.

9 See RSF Press Release, March 14, 2008.

10 See the Compilation of cases in the CD-Rom attached to this report.

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