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Troubles in Senegal: Amnesty speaks of 23 dead and calls for an investigation

Troubles in Senegal: Amnesty speaks of 23 dead and calls for an investigation
A riot police officer stands next to burnt tyres during a demonstration in...   -  
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Leo Correa/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


Amnesty International said on Thursday it had counted 23 dead in the unrest that shook Senegal last week, more than the official toll of the authorities, and demanded an independent investigation.

Senegal was plagued from June 1 to 3 with its worst troubles for years after the condemnation of opponent Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison in a sex scandal. The announcement of the sentence sparked violence which officially claimed 16 lives.

The court decision makes, in the current state, ineligible for the presidential election of February 2024 a personality popular in youth and underprivileged circles.

Through 18 interviews, authenticated videos and death certificates and autopsy reports attesting to gunshot wounds, Amnesty gives an increasing human toll and denounces excessive use of force as well as attacks on the freedom of expression and information.

"Almost 23 dead, according to our figures, including several by bullets, were recorded between Dakar and Ziguinchor" (south), Amnesty said in a press release. Three were minors, the NGO said.

Bassirou Sarr, 31, in Dakar, Fallou Sall, 25, and Ousmane Badio, 17, all three died as a result of gunshots, reveal testimonies from their relatives collected by Amnesty.

For its part, Mr. Sonko's party, Pastef, reported Thursday 26 deaths through the voice of its spokesperson, El Malick Ndiaye, reported the information site Dakaractu .

Amnesty says it has noted, in videos it has analyzed, the presence, alongside the police, of armed men in civilian clothes who violently attack demonstrators.

"The State must not allow the presence of individuals not identified as part of the security forces for law enforcement operations, nor the use of force. These are clear violations of international law " said Seydi Gassama, executive director of Amnesty Senegal, in the statement.

The organization denounces attacks on freedom of expression. The authorities suspended access to popular social networks and internet access via mobile phones for several days.

Asked by AFP, the government did not react. He previously justified the use of force by the need to restore order in the face of what he presented as an attempt to destabilize the state, including by armed men.

Prior to Amnesty, Human Rights Watch also criticized the authorities' response to the unrest and called for an investigation.

The authorities have banned two opposition marches scheduled for Friday and Saturday against President Macky Sall, the first for non-compliance with the deadlines for requesting authorization, the second for risk of disturbing public order, the prefecture said.

Concern is widespread of a new conflagration. It is fueled by uncertainties about the fate of Mr. Sonko, likely to be arrested after his conviction, and whether or not the president will run for a third term.

Mr. Sonko is generally presented as not being able to appeal his sentence. The young woman who had filed a complaint against him for rape, charges finally reclassified as "corruption" of a person under 23, appealed the verdict, said one of his lawyers, Me El Hadji Diouf.

The positions of the lawyers diverge as to the consequences of this appeal and the possibility of a new trial.

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