Senegal – Adoption of Amnesty Law Would Be an Affront to Victims of Deadly Protests and Reinforce Impunity

The draft law on amnesty submitted to the Parliament by the Senegalese government relating to protests between March 2021 and February 2024, in which more than 60 people were killed, is an affront to victims of the violence and a troubling endorsement of impunity, Amnesty International said today.

The adoption of the amnesty law by the Parliament would constitute a failure by the state to meet its obligation under international law of providing justice, truth and reparation for the families of more than 60 people killed during demonstrations. Fifteen families have filed complaints before the courts and are still waiting for justice.

“This draft law would be a denial of justice for victims, as well as their families, who are waiting for justice, truth and reparations. By passing such a law, the Senegalese state would not only fail in its national and international obligations, but also promote impunity for blood crimes,” Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Samira Daoud, said.

Amnesty laws for serious human rights violations have been denounced by various regional and international human rights protection bodies.

The Senegalese authorities must not use this law as an excuse to ignore the crimes that have been committed. Amnesty International’s Samira Daoud

In a ruling relating to an amnesty law for acts committed during the April 2019 legislative elections in Benin, the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights ruled that such “amnesty laws cannot exonerate the State that adopts them from its international obligations (… ) and that prohibiting the prosecution of perpetrators of serious human rights violations through amnesties would not only lead States to promote impunity, but would also remove any possibility of investigating these abuses and deprive the victims of these crimes of an effective remedy for reparations”.

Amnesty International has been calling for the Senegalese government to uphold the right of people to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful expression and assembly as part of its “Protect the protest” campaign.

It is also calling for swift, thorough and impartial judicial investigations into the use of force by defence and security agents during demonstrations, and for those suspected of unlawful killings to be brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts.

“Although the amnesty law may effectively end legal proceedings against people arbitrarily detained in connection with the demonstrations, it fails to prosecute those suspected of criminal responsibility for the deadly crackdown on protesters. This is not justice,” said Seydi Gassama, Executive Director of Amnesty International Senegal.

“The Senegalese authorities must not use this law as an excuse to ignore the crimes that have been committed. Instead, they must hold all those suspected of criminal responsibility of the excessive and lethal use of force against protesters to account. In addition, authorities must immediately and unconditionally release anyone arbitrarily detained and prosecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression or peaceful assembly.

Background

Prior to its submission to a parliamentary vote, the draft amnesty law was endorsed during the national dialogue of 26-27 February, which was convened in response to the political crisis the country following the President’s unilateral suspension of the presidential election process on 3 February 2024.

The draft law adopted by the Council of ministers on 28 February 2024, justified by “a spirit of national reconciliation” and the “preservation of the rule of law and the republic”, covers all facts that may be classified as a criminal or correctional offence relating to infractions linked to “protests or politcally motivated incidents, that took place between 1st February 2021 and 25 February 2024, in Senegal or abroad”.

Repression of demonstrations, voluntary blackouts and attacks on the media have become frequent in Senegal since March 2021. Amnesty International estimates that at least 60 people have been fatally shot by security forces during these demonstrations.

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