Saturday, June 23, 2012

Amnesty urges Senegal to end impunity for rights abuses

A Senegalese police officer aims his tear gas rifle during clashes with protestors in Dakar (AFP/File, Issouf Sanogo)
(AFP) – Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Senegal's new government to deal with rights violations which have gone unpunished for years in the West African nation.

"After years of impunity, the population has great expectations regarding justice," Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International's West Africa researcher, said in a statement on a new report entitled 'Senegal: An agenda for human rights'.

The statement noted that in the past two decades, hardly any investigation into rights violations committed by Senegal's security forces have led to justice or sentences proportional to the crime.

Earlier this year, at least six people were killed as opposition protests broke out against former president Abdoulaye Wade's disputed bid for a third term as president, and were violently repressed.

Amnesty said the unrest fuelled other serious human rights violations such as protesters being arrested and tortured.

"During the pre-election period the security forces used methods such as arbitrary detention, beatings, simulated drowning and electric shocks to repress protesters," said Mootoo.

He also said no-one has been held accountable for numerous atrocities committed by both government forces and armed groups during the 30-year separatist conflict in the southern Casamance.

"The new authorities must put an end to the culture of impunity that serves as both weapon and shield for security forces," said Mootoo.

He noted recent comments by new Justice Minister Aminata Toure that victims of recent human rights abuses were entitled to justice and reparation and that the authorities were determined to prosecute those responsible.

Mootoo also welcomed moves by the new government to organise the long delayed trial of former Chadian President Hissene Habre for crimes against humanity in his home country.

"The authorities must live up to their promises and turn their back on practices which constitute a negation of all of the human rights commitments made by Senegal," said Mootoo.

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