Senegal: Amnesty International Calls for Independent Enquiry Into Deadly Crackdown on Protests

The Senegalese authorities must immediately carry out an independent and transparent investigation into the deaths of at least 23 people, including three children, during the violent demonstrations of 1 and 2 June 2023, and shed light on the presence of armed civilian personnel operating alongside the security forces, Amnesty International said today after collecting testimonies and documenting the deaths that took place during the demonstrations.

According to Amnesty International, at least 23 people have been killed during the violent protests that have broken out in Dakar and Ziguinchor since 1 June, and a further 390 have been injured, according to the Senegalese Red Cross. The demonstrations have been marred by a number of human rights violations, including excessive use of force and attacks on freedom of expression and information, with access to social media and mobile Internet being suspended.

Amnesty International spoke to 18 people, including witnesses to the fatal use of force and relatives of the victims. The organisation also documented human rights violations by analysing videos and other documents, such as death certificates and autopsy reports attesting, in particular, to the gunshot wounds that led to the deaths of several demonstrators.

Bloody repression

According to our figures, at least 23 people died in Dakar and Ziguinchor during the violent demonstrations of 1 and 2 June, several of whom were shot. A number of public buildings and private businesses were ransacked by the demonstrators, including the University of Dakar and Pikine Town Hall. Amnesty International spoke to the relatives and families of those injured and killed.

Bassirou Sarr, 31, a tailor and resident of Pikine Guinaw-Rails (a Dakar suburb), died after being shot in the head on 2 June. According to his brothe Issa.

“Bassirou had his workshop near Camp Thiaroye and, on Friday 2 June, there were spontaneous demonstrations in the area. Like several others, he had gone out to see the crowd of gendarmes and demonstrators near the workshop when he was shot in the head. He died instantly and the soldiers from the Thiaroye camp took his body back to the camp. They told the gendarmes and demonstrators who were right in front of their camp to clear off. We lost our brother and we want justice. We haven’t even been able to recover his body and bury it properly since Friday.”

Amnesty International was able to view Bassirou Sarr’s death certificate, issued by the Idrissa Pouye General Hospital in Grand-Yoff, which states that his death was the result of a “head trauma caused by a firearm”.

Like Bassirou Sarr, rapper-producer Abdoulaye Camara, known as “Baba Kana”, 38, also lost his life in the protests.

“On Saturday 3 June, Abdoulaye had gone to visit one of his friends in Ouagou Niayes. On the way back to Niarry Tally, he encountered a crowd of demonstrators and police and was shot. In videos that have circulated widely on social media, we can see that he was then beaten by police officers from the HLM police station while on the ground and dragged into the street. Throughout the day on Sunday, we went back and forth to the HLM and Dieuppeul police stations to find out if he was there but it was the Dieuppeul fire brigade who told us that a body supposedly ‘picked up in the street’ had indeed been deposited there by the police on Saturday evening. Finally, on Monday, we found his body at the morgue of the Dalal Jamm hospital in Guediawaye,” Djiby*, a relative of Abdoulaye Camara, told Amnesty International.

Amnesty International was able to analyse several videos showing the police beating Abdoulaye Camara while he was on the ground and visibly in a bad state.

Fallou Sall, a 17-year-old scrap metal worker from Thiaroye-sur-Mer, was shot on Friday 2 June on his way home from work. According to his father, who spoke to Amnesty International, he succumbed to his injuries the following day. He had been shot in the neck and, according to his father, lay in hospital for a whole day without being operated on. His family are awaiting the results of the autopsy.

In Ziguinchor, Souleymane Sano (25) and Ousmane Badio (17) were shot by police during demonstrations on 1 and 2 June.

Issa, a friend of Souleymane Sano, told Amnesty International: “I was with Souleymane Sano near the Complexe Cia Hotel when a police officer crouched down and shot him. We had left the Lindiane neighbourhood at around 5pm on 2 June to demonstrate. Near the hotel, the police called for reinforcements and fired tear-gas grenades to disperse us, causing us to flee. Souleymane found himself up a blind alley and was hiding behind a lamppost when the police officer came down from the main road, took aim and shot him. He was wounded in his side. I went over to him and shook him but he didn’t respond. Along with other demonstrators, he was taken on a Jakarta motorbike to the regional hospital, where he was pronounced dead.”

Amnesty International was able to consult Souleymane Sano’s death certificate, which concluded that he “died violently from chest trauma caused by the impact of a firearm projectile”.

Ousmane Badio, aged 17, was also fatally shot on 1 June in Ziguinchor during the demonstrations. According to his uncle and grandfather, Ousmane was shot 200 metres from his home in Korentas (a district of Ziguinchor), where demonstrations were taking place. “Ousmane left the house at 5pm on Thursday 1 June. 15 minutes later, people came to tell us that Ousmane was on the ground. He didn’t last long outside. He had been hit in the chest and was losing a lot of blood. He was taken to Silence Hospital but lost a lot of blood on the way. He was pronounced dead on arrival. There were demonstrations near our home; young people were throwing stones and the police were responding with tear gas. Witnesses told us that it was one of these police officers who had shot Ousmane and that, later, another individual, Souleymane Sarr, was shot by the same officers. His father has been in a state of shock and unable to speak since that day; Ousmane was his eldest son.”

Armed men in civilian clothes alongside the security forces

The organisation also noted the presence of armed men dressed in civilian clothes alongside the security forces. These men, holding weapons and violently attacking the demonstrators, were clearly identified in videos circulating widely on social media and which Amnesty International has been able to analyse. At a press conference held on Sunday 4 June, Chief Inspector Ibrahima Diop, Director of Public Security, denied the presence of members of the defence or security forces dressed in civilian clothes and accused elements of “hidden forces” from abroad of having infiltrated the demonstrators.

Amnesty International recalls that the Guidelines of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) stipulate that officers deployed in connection with demonstrations must wear visible individual identification markings while in operation.

Infringements of the right to freedom of expression

Between 4 and 6 June, the authorities decided to suspend Internet access via mobile data. Access to social media was suspended between 2 and 7 June. On 1 June, Walf TV’s signal was cut off without prior notification (as required by Article 192 of the Press Code), interrupting their coverage of the demonstrations. The National Council for Audiovisual Regulation (CNRA) has denied any responsibility for this blackout, the third since March 2021. Walf TV’s YouTube channel, on which the channel had tried to broadcast its programmes following this suspension, was also disrupted.

In 2020, in a decision concerning Togo, the ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled that the deliberate restriction of Internet access during demonstrations was a violation of the right to freedom of information and expression.

“These restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and information constitute arbitrary measures contrary to international law, and cannot be justified by security requirements. We call on the authorities to restore the signal of Walf television and to refrain from restricting access to social media,” said Samira Daoud.

Background

On Thursday 1 June, political opponent Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison for “corrupting young people”. Spontaneous and violent demonstrations broke out that same day in a number of towns, including Dakar, Ziguinchor and Kaolack.