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ACHPR: Situation of human rights defenders in Senegal

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 1 November 2011
Cite as Article 19, ACHPR: Situation of human rights defenders in Senegal, 1 November 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4eba913d2.html [accessed 22 October 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.

50th Ordinary Session, Banjul, The Gambia, October 2011. Statement by Rencontre africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (RADDHO) And ARTICLE 19 Under the agenda Item number 9 b Activity reports of Members of the Commission and special Mechanisms 

Madam Chairperson,

Honourable Commissioners,

Distinguished delegates representing States Parties and international human rights organizations 

The NGOs La Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (RADDHO) and ARTICLE 19 West Africa wish to express their deep concern about the lack of respect for democracy and the work of human rights defenders to promote and protect human rights in Senegal.

On Thursday, October 20, 2011, Malick Noël Seck, Secretary General of the " Convergence Socialiste" mouvement affiliated to the Socialist (opposition) Party was sentenced for making "death threats" and "contempt of court" after filing together with members of his association a letter addressed to the Constitutional Council asking the members of that body not to accept the candidacy of President Wade for a third term and to take their responsibilities. 

 Malick Noël Seck was sentenced for expressing political opinions, in line with the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Article 10 of the Senegalese Constitution. (Enclosed for your appraisal is the statement for which he was unjustly convicted).

 The letter written by Malick Noël Seck cannot justify prosecution for the above-mentioned offences. Indeed, the letter delivered to the Constitutional Council does not contain any death threats addressed to the members of that body. Further, the letter does not constitute any "contempt of court" and is simply the expression of a citizen's views criticizing public organs that have a certain duties and should be accountable. All the facts surrounding this case demonstrate that the conviction was motivated by political reasons.

 This politically motivated trial took place in a special context because in four months (February 2012) Senegal will be holding presidential elections. This is happening amidst a big legal and political debate on the candidacy of President Abdoulaye Wade for a third term. This situation has also sparked major demonstrations especially in Dakar since 23 June, 2011 when a constitutional amendment bill tabled before the National Assembly making it possible to elect the President and Vice President on a ticket in the first round with 25% of the votes. This bill was rejected by the Senegalese, after a massive mobilization by the people who demonstrated in front of Parliament. On the day it was expected to be passed, the bill was withdrawn just in time.

 Since then, stakeholders organised around the Movement of the 23 (M23), made up of more than 149 civil society organizations, political parties, citizen movements and eminent individuals, have come together for the purpose of taking all legal, democratic and non-violent measures to prevent the violation of the Constitution of Senegal by President Abdoulaye Wade who is doing all he can to run for a third unconstitutional term.

On 23 August, 2011, M23 organized a Forum that brought together five academics specialized in constitutional law including Professor Emeritus Babacar Gueye, a member of the Drafting Committee of the 2001 Constitution and Barrister Doudou Ndoye, a member of the Steering Committee of the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais (PDS). According to the opinions expressed by the legal experts who took part in that forum, both the spirit and letter of the 2001 Constitution limit the number of terms to 2 and do not allow the outgoing President of the Republic to seek re-election in 2012.

 The uncompromising position of President Wade's regime that is seeking a third term by ignoring the Constitution encourages the aggressive behaviour of his supporters who, on 23 June 2011, violently attacked the President of RADDHO, Alioune TINE and his colleague, Oumar Diallo, who is in charge of Protection and Emergency Response within the organization and a member of the General Assembly of the OMCT. Following this aggression, both human rights defenders were taken to hospital where they were admitted for emergency treatment. These attacks are an example of the many cases of violence against journalists and defenders that have remained unpunished.

Madam Chairperson, as you know, human rights defenders and the media are more exposed in the course of their work in the period before, during and after elections.

Today, the President of RADDHO, Mr. TINE, is the subject of threats, intimidation and harassment on a daily basis. The President of the Republic has publicly threatened RADDHO, asking it not to observe the upcoming presidential elections, and promised to have its President prosecuted. Members of the government and their allies of the ruling party are waging a smear campaign against most of the human rights defenders.     

Madam Chairperson, in view of the urgency of the situation and the imminent risks that threaten the rule of law in Senegal, peace and national stability, we appeal:

To the African Commission

  • To closely monitor the tense situation in Senegal and the recurrent threats to human rights defenders; and accompany the electoral process.
  • To use all the available procedures in the Commission to draw the attention of the African Union and activate the early warning mechanisms to prevent the conflicts and irreparable harm that still haunt the memory of the African peoples.
  • To request the Commissioner in charge of Senegal to engage the authorities about the need to respect the Constitution of Senegal and protect human rights.
  • To request the government of Senegal to stop the physical and verbal threats and judicial harassment against human rights defenders and civil society who have mobilized to defend the Constitution and democratic achievements of Senegal.

Thank you

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