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Sep-24-2010 15:02printcomments

Senegal: Torture with Impunity

Senegal’s contempt for the rule of law is demonstrated by its failure to bring former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre to trial.


(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Incessant use of torture is leading to detainee deaths by Senegal’s security forces, leaving the many in custody terrified for their lives.

“For decades Senegalese men and women have been subjected to cruel and elaborate torture and ill-treatment at the hands of those who should be protecting them,” said Salvatore Saguès, West Africa researcher at Amnesty International. “Senegal’s disregard for human rights can be judged by its failure to live up to its international human rights obligations. It does not even apply the guarantees set out in its own national legislation.”

Amnesty International released their report “Senegal: Land of Impunity” last week documenting the past three decades within the Senegalese justice system. The systematic use of torture to extract confessions remains openly condoned in court and perpetrators are seldom held accountable when their victims die as a result.

Based on comprehensive research conducted between 1998 and May 2010 the report contains testimonies from common law detainees or groups of people arrested because of their alleged political opinions or sexual behavior; they describe being electrocuted, burned and asphyxiated while in custody.

On July 14 2010, 29-year-old Abdoulaye Wade Yinghou was arrested as he walked past a demonstration in a Dakar suburb on his way to buy animal feed. Witnesses saw police beat Yinghou with rifle butts at the time of his arrest and again on arrival at the police station. The following day, Yinghou’s family were told by police officers that his body was in the hospital morgue because he had died following a seizure or illness. However an autopsy revealed facial injuries, broken ribs and a death aggravated by assault with hard and blunt objects.

In some cases, the Senegalese authorities have chosen to use a general amnesty, contrary to international law, in an effort to avoid investigating and indicting the perpetrator even when witnesses have been present. Another loophole within this justice system: magistrates must obtain a prosecution order from the responsible Ministry in an effort to call a security force member before a court of law. This serves as a major obstacle and effectively grants de facto power of veto to the interested Ministry, leaving the judiciary helpless and the victims' families without any hope of justice.

Senegal’s contempt for the rule of law is demonstrated by its failure to bring former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre to trial. He fled to Senegal after being forced from power in 1990. Up to 40,000 Chadians are estimated to have been killed during his eight year rule. Despite repeated injunctions from the UN Committee against Torture and a call by the African Union, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade continues to make excuses for the lack of justice.

“For common law detainees, groups arrested because of their alleged political opinions or sexuality and victims of Hissène Habré alike, victims find their way blocked by a wall of impunity,” said Salvatore Saguès. “Until that wall is broken down, the people of Senegal can have no confidence in the country’s police, judiciary or government.”

Sources: Amnesty International

Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at:

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Luke Easter September 25, 2010 8:58 am (Pacific time)

Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, Amin, Hussien. Mucho before and after these names.

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