Senegal: condemn ‘draconian’ anti-terrorism laws

Anti-terrorism laws that were passed by Senegal's National Assembly in October, are "draconian" and could "restrict freedom of expression and roll back the rule of law in Senegal," according to a report (PDF) released April 3 by Amnesty International. The laws in question were passed as part of the government's efforts to deal with the rise of terrorism in the region, including Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria and Mali. Recognizing the country's need to address terrorism, AI claims the vagueness of the laws are problematic, as violations such as "insults" and affronts to "morality" could be interpreted in a way that suppresses dissident opinions. Other provisions of the new laws criticized by AI include those designed to prevent "defamation of the President of the Republic," "the dissemination of false news," and acts likely to "cause serious political unrest."

The report explained that:

These laws also contain provisions that threaten the right to a fair trial and create conditions conducive to the use of torture and ill-treatment, in particular against people accused of acts of terror, by extending the period of police custody to up to 12 days and not explicitly establishing that the right of access to a lawyer applies as soon as a person is deprived of their liberty and also includes that lawyer’s presence during all interrogations.

AI has called on the Senegalese government to reverse the laws, and offered recommendations for reversions that would comply with Senegal's obligations under international human rights laws.

From Jurist, April 3. Used with permission.