Senegal: Return to the rule of law is the only way to protect human rights, safeguard democracy and preserve stability

Press release
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Cem Ozdel / Anadolu / Anadolu via AFP

Senegal has been experiencing a particularly alarming democratic crisis since President Macky Sall decided to postpone the presidential election in defiance of democratic rules and the Constitution. A return to the rule of law is the only positive outcome for Senegal, long seen as an example of governance and stability in the region.

Paris, Dakar, February 7, 2024. The images of opposition members of Parliament forced out of the Chamber by the gendarmerie have outraged far beyond Senegal’s borders. On the night of 5 to 6 February, the Senegalese National Assembly adopted the law postponing the presidential election scheduled for 25 February to 15 December 2024, almost ten months after the legal date initially scheduled. A vote without the opposition, almost unanimously (105 votes in favor and one vote against) and in a noxious atmosphere: under surveillance by security forces, in a smell of tear gas, abundantly used against the opposition who were protesting in front of Parliament.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in Senegal, the Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO), the Organisation Nationale des Droits de l’Homme (ONDH) and the Ligue Sénégalaise des Droits de l’Homme (LSDH), condemn this postponement which violates the Constitution and the regional and international commitments of the State of Senegal. FIDH, RADDHO, ONDH and LSDH express their deep concern about the worsening of tensions, the repeated attacks on fundamental freedoms and the risks of exacerbating a political crisis, which is undermining democracy and the rule of law in Senegal, and more broadly in the West African region

"To be genuine, lasting and credible, democracy must be anchored in respect for legal and institutional provisions at national level, as well as regional and international commitments. This postponement of the presidential election is a dangerous precedent that risks aggravating the period of instability, political tension and crisis of confidence that the country has been experiencing for several years. We call on the Senegalese authorities to re-establish the electoral timetable and to maintain dialogue with the entire political class and civil society", declared Alice Mogwe, FIDH President.

It was during a speech to the Nation, delivered on Saturday, February 3, 2024, the day before the start of the official electoral campaign, the President of the Republic, that Macky Sall, announced "the repeal of the decree convening the electorate for the presidential election". To justify this decision, Macky Sall described the various elements of what he described as "murky conditions that could harm the credibility of the election by planting the seeds of pre- and post-election litigation", including the conflict between the Constitutional Council and the National Assembly and the establishment of a parliamentary commission to investigate the electoral process.

Following this speech, on 4 February, public demonstrations called by the opposition were repressed by the security forces, including by firing tear gas, and marked by the arrest of nearly 151 activists including Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister and presidential candidate, and Anta Babacar Ngom. She is also a candidate. They were both released on 5 February. On February 4, the Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital announced in a press release the temporary suspension of Internet and mobile data. On 5 February, the Ministry of Communication definitively revoked the licence of the private media group Walf TV for "incitement to violence".

"We denounce these serious attacks on the freedoms of demonstration, peaceful assembly, expression and the press. The State of Senegal has committed to protecting these freedoms, both in its national legislation and by acceding to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We call on the Senegalese authorities to take concrete measures to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and thus contribute to the appeasement of the current situation," said Alassane Seck, LSDH President .

The organisations express their deep concern about these human rights violations, in particular the numerous arrests followed by illegal detentions. The Senegalese authorities bear the primary responsibility for the protection of human rights.

"Our organisations urge the international community, in particular, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations to coordinate their mobilisation to contribute to the strengthening of the rule of law and the smooth running of the electoral process in Senegal. Today, these efforts are all the more necessary to participate in the promotion of democratic culture and respect for human rights in West Africa," said Sadikh Niass, RADDHO Secretary General.

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