Director of Amnesty International’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Samira Daoud, has called on the authorities and security forces in Senegal “to respect and protect the right to peaceful assembly and refrain from resorting to excessive use of force.”
Daoud was responding to protests held in Dakar on 4 February 2024 where chaos erupted as thousands of demonstrators opposed the suspension of the presidential elections process.
“The government’s abrupt shutdown of internet access via mobile data and Walf TV’s broadcasting, along with the revocation of its license, constitutes a blatant assault on the right to freedom of expression and press rights protected by Senegal’s constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Senegalese authorities must urgently protect and uphold peoples’ right to information,” the Director said.
“The authorities must also ensure that demonstrators and political opposition figures are not arbitrarily arrested at demonstrations,” she added.
On 3 February, President Macky Sall announced the suspension of presidential elections, originally scheduled for 25 February 2024. The public and political opposition rejected the suspension of the upcoming presidential elections and called for mass demonstrations.
On 4 and 5 February, protests were held near the Saint-Lazare cemetery, Liberté VI and downtown Dakar. Police reportedly disrupted the gathering by firing teargas at the crowd.
Aminata Touré and Anta Babacar Ngom, two prominent opposition figures at the protests, were arrested and detained for several hours by the gendarmerie.
Senegal has obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression, including the right to information, and the right to peaceful assembly under articles 9 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as under articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the human rights organisation underscored.
Between March 2021 and August 2023, at least 56 people were allegedly killed by the Senegalese police and gendarmerie during demonstrations. To date, no one has been prosecuted for these deaths.