Security forces use excessive force during protests: one student killed

Peaceful Assembly

Protests against changes in the Electoral Code and the Constitution

On 19th April, police used tear gas to disperse an opposition protest that had gathered hundreds of people in front of the National Assembly, while a massive deployment of security officers in Dakar aimed to prevent people from gathering. Protesters had mobilsed against changes in the Electoral Code and the Constitution, due to be debated in the National Assembly that day, even though the actions had previously been banned by the prefect of Dakar. According to media reports, some protesters erected barricades and threw stones at a police car, while police arrested dozens of protesters. Among those arrested were the opposition leaders Idrissa Seck of Rewmi, Malick Gakou of Grand Parti, and Thierno Bocoum, president of the Agir Party, along with members of civil society, including rapper Kilifa of the civic movement Y en marre.

The amendments to the Electoral Code would require presidential candidates to acquire signatures from one percent of registered voters in at least seven regions. Members of the opposition view such a move as an attempt to silence opponents, while President Sall's supporters say the amendments will simplify the presidential elections. Presidential elections are due to take place on 24th February 2019. The bill was passed despite the opposition boycott of the the vote.

Prior to the planned anti-government protests, Francois Patuel of Amnesty International stated:

“Peaceful opposition protests in Senegal have previously been arbitrarily banned and met with unnecessary, excessive force by the police. The authorities must remember that peaceful protest and freedom of expression are human rights that must be respected”.

Student protests: security forces use live ammunition, killing one student

On 15th May 2018, security forces used live ammunition in clashes with students during a protest at the University Gaston Berger (UGB) in Saint-Louis, killing one student, Mouhamadou Fallou Sene, and injuring several others. The students planned a protest action against the delay in the payment of scholarships. During the action, students would not pay for items in university restaurants for 48 hours, which led the university administration to call in security forces to prevent the protest action. Following the death of 25-year old Mouhamadou Fallou Sene, clashes between students and security forces occurred in several universities in the country, and students of public universities went on a strike, demanding justice for the killing and calling for the resignation of several ministers. 

Weeks earlier, police officers used tear gas and physical force to disperse a student protest at Macky Sy High School in Thiès, during which one student was injured, according to the Media Foundation for West Africa. Police officers also attacked two journalists covering the protest and damaged their camera. 

Association

On 1st May 2018, the Investigation section of the Gendarmerie of Colobane detained Ibrahima Sall, president of Association pour le Soutien et la Réinsertion Sociale des Détenus (ASRED - Association for the Support and Social Reintegration of Detainees) in Rufisque. Sall was accused of spreading false information on detainees in Senegalese prisons. He was released days later, according to Seneweb.com. 

Expression

In the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, Senegal moved up eight places in its ranking to 50 out of 180 countries. Although instances of intimidation and harassment of media outlets are relatively rare, there have been such cases. Additionally, the 2017 Press Code failed to decriminalise press offences. The Code also is worrisome in that it "allows for the confiscation of equipment and material and even the closure of media outlets for threats to state security".