Human Rights in Africa: Review of 2019 - Senegal [AFR 01/1352/2020]


Authorities continued their crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Impunity persisted for cases of excessive use of force by police against protesters. Conditions of detentions remained harsh and deaths in custody continued to be reported.


President Macky Sall was re-elected in March to a second term. During campaign rallies, two people were killed and many others, including journalists, were injured in violent clashes between supporters of opposing candidates.

Khalifa Sall, a former Mayor of Dakar, and Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, were excluded from running in the 2019 presidential election. Khalifa Sall, who in 2018 was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud of public funds, was released on 29 September following a presidential pardon. Two of his co-defendants were also released.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

In December, the National Assembly unanimously passed a bill toughening sentences for rape and child sex abuse. However, definitions did not comply with international standards and could be used to target teenagers under the age of 16 who engage in consensual sexual relations.

Freedom of expression

The authorities continued to unduly restrict the right to freedom of expression by prosecuting and detaining people who express dissent.

On 25 February, Abdou Karim Gueye, a rapper and activist was arrested after publishing a live video on social media which encouraged people to join him in a peaceful protest following the unofficial announcement of the presidential election results. He was charged with “calling for an unauthorized protest without weapons” and “insults by means of press”. On 4 March, he received a one-month suspended prison sentence and was fined XOF 50,000 (EUR 76).

In the aftermath of the presidential election, at least 17 opposition supporters were arrested for “public disorder and provocation of revolt”.

On 16 July, activist Guy Marius Sagna was arrested and questioned over his Facebook posts about the lack of adequate medical facilities in Senegal and for a publication on Facebook about French military presence in Africa. On 5 August, he was charged with “false alert of terrorism” and detained at Rebeuss prison in Dakar. He was released on bail on 16 August.

Adama Gaye, a journalist, was arrested on 29 July after publishing Facebook posts which criticized President Sall. He was charged with “offending the Head of State” and ‘‘acting to compromise public security’’ before being released on bail on 20 September.

On 22 November, Oudy Diallo, an environmentalist, was arrested and detained at Kedougou prison after publishing a Facebook post in which he denounced the quotas of lands allocated to administrative authorities. He was given a two-month suspended sentence and released on 2 December.

Freedom of assembly

Restrictive legislation on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly remained in place. The 2011 decree banning assemblies in city centre areas of Dakar still provided for a blanket ban on peaceful demonstrations. The Supreme Court rejected Amnesty International appeal against the decree.

On 14 June, authorities banned a demonstration in Dakar organized by opposition parties and civil society organizations in protest against alleged corruption practices implicating the Guediawaye Mayor, who is the President’s brother, relating to oil and gas extraction projects in the country. At least 20 protesters were arrested.

Guy Marius Sagna, Prof. Babacar Diop and seven other activists were arrested on 29 November at a peaceful protest. They were charged with “participation in an unauthorized gathering”. Sagna, out on bail from his July arrest over Facebook posts, was charged with “provocation of gathering” and “rebellion”. On 20 December, Prof. Diop and four others were released on bail.

Detention and deaths in custody

Insanitary conditions and overcrowding continued in prisons. According to government statistics released in September, Senegal's 37 prisons held 11,547 people despite a capacity of 4,224.

Pre-trial detainee Louis Dieng died on 20 February at the Mbour prison reportedly from an asthma attack. He was sharing his cell with 87 inmates.

On 2 May, detainee Serigne Fallou Ka, 24-year-old, died at the Diourbel correction center. Three police officers and a security officer in Mbacké were arrested and charged with “assault and battery resulting in unintentional homicide”

On 29 August, detainees Babacar Mané and Cheikh Ndiaye died from electrocution at Rebeuss Prison after a fan malfunctioned, according to a statement from the Minister of Justice.

Internal armed conflict

Twenty-five people remained in custody after 14 people were killed on 7 January 2018 in the forest of Boffa-Bayotte, in Casamance, Southern Senegal. Sixteen of them were detained in Dakar, far from their families and a permit from a judge in Ziguinchor was required for visits. They were transferred to Ziguinchor, southern Senegal, on 26 December. One detainee died in custody.

Abdou Elinkine Diatta, the leader of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), was shot dead on 27 October. Three other people were wounded, one fatally. Authorities announced the opening of an investigation.

Rights of Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Senegal reiterated before the UN Committee against Torture that it would not decriminalize “unnatural acts”. At least 11 individuals were arrested on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Nine of them sentenced to between six months and five years in prison.

Human rights defenders working on LGBTI rights were victims of smear campaigns and death threats. Several defenders had to flee the country in fear for their safety.

Children's rights

Despite having strong domestic laws banning child abuse, Senegal failed to establish a coordinated system of care for children forced into begging to protect them from exploitation and abuse.

On 6 April, a 12-year boy died allegedly due to a beating. His Qur’anic schoolteacher was arrested.

On 23 November, five boys were found enchained in a Qur’anic school. Six suspects, including their parents and a teacher, were arrested. They were released on 4 December after receiving two-year suspended sentences for endangering life, “violence and assault” and “complicity”.