Sénégal : CREI a special court which does not guarantee the right to a fair trial

Press release
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As the trial of Karim Wade before the Court of Repression of Illicit Enrichment (CREI) has been set for 31 July 2014, our organisations regret that the legitimate fight against corruption is being conducted by a court that has all the attributes of a special court which violates the rights of the defence and does not guarantee the right to a fair trial in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

"The CREI does not guarantee the rights of persons it indicts", said Mr. Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and Head of the Litigation Action Group (LAG). "It is unfortunate that this outdated body was reactivated without being brought into compliance with the most basic principles of law and the rights of the defence", he added.

The Law of 10 July 1981 introduced the offense of illicit enrichment in the Senegalese Penal Code. In addition to this new offense, CREI, an ad hoc court - dormant since then - was reactivated in May 2012 by the Macky Sall Government. The court is "responsible for suppressing illicit enrichment and corruption offenses or related concealment." Upon denunciation, complaint, or "any other means provided by the law in force," including official action by the Special Prosecutor, the latter may initiate preliminary inquiries against any holder of an elected public office or government office, magistrates, civil, military state, or local government officials, heads of public institutions, or national companies suspected of enjoying illicit enrichment.

"Fighting against corruption and illicit enrichment by CREI is legitimate, but there is no possibility of appeal, and its rules and procedures reverse the burden of proof", said Mr. Assane Ndiaye Dioma, LSDH President and LAG lawyer. "All this to say that you are presumed guilty and it is up to you to prove your innocence", he added.

Eight people are being prosecuted by the CREI, including Karim Wade, former Minister and son of former Senegalese President. In April 2014, the Special Prosecutor declared that Karim Wade and his seven co-defendants suspected of a fraudulent financial wealth of 518 million dollars should stand trial.

On February 22, 2013, through an emergency procedure following the ban on leaving the country for four former Ministers, one of whom was Karim Wade, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a mixed ruling: it did not rule on the legality of two laws that created both the CREI and the illicit enrichment offense, but "ordered the State of Senegal to ensure strict compliance with international instruments and domestic laws within the boundaries of respect to the rights of its citizens."

Mr. Aboubacry Mbodji, Secretary General of the RADDHO opined “The CREI is a special court with procedural rules detrimental to the right to a fair trial."

"The CREI must be dismantled or at least made to comply with the principles of law to conform to the international commitments undertaken by Senegal", said Mr. Baudouin.

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