Amnesty International on Wednesday called on the governments of Senegal and Mauritania to ensure that opponents receive fair trials and are guaranteed their right to freedom of expression in the run-up to elections.
In Senegal, generally cited as a model of democracy in the region, the human rights organization in a statement cited the trial of mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall and presidential candidate of February 2019 election as an example of ‘‘unfair trials’‘.
Khalifa Sall, a socialist dissident has been in custody for more than a year following a five year prison sentence handed down to him for embezzling public funds.
These arrests and detentions constitute the worst signals of intimidation, harassment and repression by the Mauritanian authorities of dissenting voices in the run-up to the legislative, regional and local elections.
His verdict will be heard on August 30 before the Appeals Court of Dakar.
The statement summarized an Amnesty report on human rights in Senegal titled “Words Not Followed by Acts” which also highlighted the case of Karim Wade, former minister and son of President Abdoulaye Wade who ruled the West African nation from 2000-2012. Wade who is also vying for the presidency in the 2019 elections, was in March 2015 sentenced to six years in prison.
Amnesty said, his trial did not respect “international standards” because it did not provide for appeal.
Amnesty also cited the cases of other Senegalese opponents and that of jihadists allegedly convicted after “unfair” trials following “long periods of pre-trial and unassisted detention of their lawyers”.
The statement signed by François Patuel, and cited by AFP said “in the run-up to the 2019 elections, Senegal must guarantee journalists, opposition leaders, government opponents and human rights defenders their rights to freedom of expression and to organize peaceful demonstrations without fear or repression’‘.
In another statement, the International NGO also denounced the recent arrests of two opponents, an anti-slavery activists, Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid and Abdallahi Ould Housseine, and two journalists, Babacar Ndiaye and Mahmoudi Ould Saibout in Mauritania.
Patuel said ‘’ these arrests and detentions constitute the worst signals of intimidation, harassment and repression by the Mauritanian authorities of dissenting voices in the run-up to the legislative, regional and local elections” of 1 September’‘.
The Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, a former general, came to power through a coup in 2008 before being elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2014. Elections are scheduled for September.