Senegal: Torture: the Casamance case

April 30, 1990

Senegal: Torture: the Casamance case

Some 10 prisoners from the Casamance region are still held in jail. Five were convicted in January 1986 of violent offences. The remaining five were arrested in February 1988 in Guinea-Bissau and handed over to the Senegalese security forces. No formal extradition procedures were observed, despite the existence of an extradition convention between the two countries, ratified in 1978, which required that those concerned be referred to a court in Guinea-Bissau. The five men, including Mamadou Sané, known as "Nkrumah", a former political prisoner arrested in 1982 and released in December 1987 after serving a five year sentence, have been charged with "plotting against the internal and external security of the state and forming an unlawful association". They are still awaiting trial, more than two years after their arrest.

Many of those arrested in Casamance are alleged to have been tortured by members of the security service at the time of their arrest in Ziguinchor, in southern Senegal. No formal investigation has been carried out by the authorities into these allegations.

In May 1989 Amnesty International submitted to the Senegalese authorities a 13-page memorandum about reports of torture in Casamance. This text is attached. In October 1989 three representatives of the organization went to Senegal to have talks with government ministers. The Amnesty International delegates were received by President Abdou Diouf and had talks with the Minister of Armed Forces, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Interior and security officials in Ziguinchor, the main town in
Casamance, as well as with members of parliament belonging to both the ruling party and opposition parties, and with other opposition leaders. The authorities reiterated their own opposition to torture and commitment to preventing it. The delegates were told, however, that there had been no official investigation into individual allegations of torture as the alleged torture victims or their representatives had not lodged formal complaints with the appropriate authority, the procuracy. Rejecting Amnesty International's call for an official inquiry into the reports of torture in its memorandum, the authorities also referred to the amnesty declared in June 1988. This amnesty led to the release of most of the detainees from Casamance. It was also interpreted by the authorities to mean that no further prosecution could be initiated concerning offences either by the separatists or by the security forces committed in Casamance before July 1987. The amnesty in question contains no overt reference to offences involving human rights violations committed by the security forces. The authorities said that Senegal's international commitments would be respected and they stated their intention to ensure in future that representatives of the procuracy check up regularly on the well-being of detainees held in the custody of the security forces.

Amnesty International considers that, under international law, the Republic of Senegal is bound to investigate all allegations of torture, whether or not complaints are submitted formally following procedures envisaged by law. The authorities' interpretation of a 1988 amnesty law to mean that violations of human rights, including torture leading to the deaths of prisoners, cannot be investigated or prosecuted, appears questionable under the terms of Senegal's own laws. Furthermore, it does not appear consistent with Senegal's obligations under international law to investigate complaints about torture.