AI condemns ‘draconian’ Senegal anti-terrorism laws
AI condemns ‘draconian’ Senegal anti-terrorism laws

Anti-terrorism laws that were passed by Senegal’s National Assembly [official website] in October, are “draconian” and could “restrict freedom of expression and roll back the rule of law in Senegal,” according to a report [text, PDF] released Monday by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. The laws in question were passed as part of the government’s efforts to deal with terrorism in the region, including Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria and Mali. Recognizing the country’s need to deal with terrorism, AI says that Senegalese officials could have enacted legislation that dealt with the problem and also protected its citizens’ human rights. AI claims the vagueness of the laws are likely to be problematic, as violations such as “insults” and affronts to “morality” could be loosely interpreted in a way that suppress dissident opinions. Other provisions of the new laws criticized by AI include those designed to prevent “defamation of the President of the Republic,” “the dissemination of false news,” and acts likely to “cause serious political unrest.” The report explained that:

These laws also contain provisions that threaten the right to a fair trial and create conditions conducive to the use of torture and ill-treatment, in particular against people accused of acts of terror, by extending the period of police custody to up to 12 days and not explicitly establishing that the right of access to a lawyer applies as soon as a person is deprived of their liberty and also includes that lawyer’s presence during all interrogations.

AI has called on the Senegalese government to reverse the laws, and offered recommendations for reversions that would comply with their obligations to international human rights laws.

Numerous humanitarian crises have arisen as countries in Africa try to deal with the threat of terrorism and other causes of civil unrest. Last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres confirmed [JURIST report] that the remains of two human rights investigators were found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last month a UN rights expert urged [JURIST report] the international community to help protect civilians in the northern and central regions of Mali amid growing violence and crime sprees. In January, Gambian lawmakers ended a state of emergency [JURIST report] and revoked the extension of power for Yahya Jammeh, who lost in the last election. A UN human rights expert in February urged [JURIST report] the Cameroonian government to restore Internet access to the country’s English-speaking populations. In his statement, Special Rapporteur David Kaye called the delay in restoring Internet access, which had been cut-off since January 17, “an appalling violation of their right to freedom of expression.”