Senegal: Killing of demonstrators must be investigated

Riot police around the house of an opposition leader

ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns deadly repression by security forces during demonstrations in Senegal on 17 June 2022, causing the death of four demonstrators, several injuries and the arrest of political opponents. We urge the Senegalese authorities to guarantee fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and opinion, to release arrested political opponents, and to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the killing of the demonstrators. 

On 17 June 2022, demonstrations in several cities in Senegal were met with deadly repression by law enforcement officials.  Recent media reports confirm the death toll from this bloody crackdown to be four: two in the capital, Dakar, and two in the south of the country in the region of Ziguinchor – one in the city Bignona and one in the city of Ziguinchor.  Several injuries were also reported, as well as the arrest of four members of the opposition, including Ahmed Aïdara, Déthié Fall, Mame Diarra and Guy Marius Sagna. Ahmed, Déthié and Mame Diarra were later charged with participating in an unlawful assembly, among other charges.

Earlier the same day, authorities had deployed riot police around Dakar, mainly outside the homes of two key opposition leaders, Ousmane Sonko and Barthelemy Diaz, who had called for people to protest the exclusion of the leaders of the coalition ‘Yewwi Askan Wi’ from the list for the July 2022 legislative elections.  On 15 June, the authorities had refused to authorise the demonstration, reportedly on the basis of the possible ‘threats of disturbance to public order’. Authorities further alleged such a demonstration would violate the Electoral Code, particularly article L.61, which prohibits any propaganda ‘disguised’ in the 30 days prior to the opening of an election campaign.

“Authorities must understand that the freedom to demonstrate is a constitutional right that is not subject to any authorisation but to a simple notification to the Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, an authorised and controlled demonstration is more likely to be peaceful and free of violence, as it was for the demonstration organised on 8 June by this same group of people. ARTICLE 19 condemns the unjustified use of lethal force during a demonstration,” stated Jeanne Irène Nguidjoi, Senior Programme officer at ARTICLE 19 West Africa

Senegalese authorities must protect the right to peacefully demonstrate, as enshrined in Article 8 of the constitution, and ensure that security forces do not resort to unnecessary use of force during demonstrations.  They have an obligation to ensure the security of demonstrations as required by international standards.  In fact, the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, explicitly state, ‘Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result.’  The Guidelines for the Policing of Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa further provide that ‘Law enforcement officials must be subject to accountability mechanisms, and noncompliance by law enforcement officials with laws and regulations governing assemblies must be treated as an offence. In particular, the use of arbitrary and excessive force and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment should be treated as a criminal offence under national law. Furthermore, disciplinary and criminal procedures for law enforcement officials must accord with the principle of procedural fairness.’

For more information, please contact:

Maateuw Mbaye, Program Assistant, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa

Email:  T: +221785958337

Aissata Diallo Dieng, Office Manager, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa

Email:  T:+221338690322