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Senegal: UN sees "dark precedent" in use of firearms

Senegalese Gendarmerie block a road after protests burned tires and blocked roads in Dakar, on June 3, 2023   -  
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JOHN WESSELS/AFP or licensors


The United Nations said on Tuesday it was "deeply concerned" by developments in the human rights situation in Senegal, and sees "a dark precedent" in the use of firearms by security forces against demonstrators.

"The use of firearms by security forces during demonstrations constitutes a dark precedent for Senegal", stresses the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in a press release.

"We note that the authorities have launched investigations, and we call on them to ensure that these are prompt, independent and thorough, and that they bring to account anyone found responsible for unjustified or disproportionate use of force, regardless of their status or political affiliation", the High Commissioner stresses.

From June 1 to 3, Senegal was in the grip of its worst unrest in years, following the sentencing of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison in a vice scandal. The announcement of the sentence triggered violence that officially left 16 people dead, but Amnesty International puts the death toll at 23.

For its part, the Office of the High Commissioner refers to "at least" 16 people killed, 350 injured and over 500 arrested during three days of demonstrations between June 1 and 3.

"We are also concerned by the continuing restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the wake of the demonstrations", insisted the High Commission.

It refers in particular to the case of Walfadjiri TV, a private channel that covered the demonstrations live and was suspended on June 1 "without clear legal justification and has still not been reinstated to this day".

The UN also points out that restrictions on internet access, which had been justified by the government to stop "the dissemination of hate and subversive messages", "must be based on a law that is unambiguous and accessible to the public".

President Macky Sall, who was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2019, remains vague about his intention to run for a third term in 2024.

As it stands, Mr. Sonko, a popular figure among young people and the underprivileged, can no longer run for president. He cries conspiracy to eliminate him politically.

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