Senegal: Torture: the Casamance case
April 30, 1990
Senegal: Torture: the Casamance case
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Historically, the movement to emphasise Casamance's culture and separate identity was begun by the Mouvement des forces démocratiques de la Casamance (MFDC), the Movement of Casamance's Democratic Forces, an organization formed in March 1947 by Casamance nationalists including Emile Badiane, Ibou Diallo and Victor Diatta. In 1948 this organization became part of the Bloc Démocratique Sénégalais (BDS), the Senegalese Democratic Bloc, under the leadership of Léopold Sédar, Senegal's head of state from 1960 until 1980. After independence in 1960, the MFDC appeared to have disbanded; however, in 1982 a leaflet calling for the independence of Casamance and signed by the MFDC was distributed in Casamance and Dakar. Since then, disturbances in the region are believed by many to have been orchestrated by the MFDC and many of those arrested are suspected by the authorities of being members of the MFDC. Whilst some people have admitted being members of the MFDC, other villagers who have spent time in prison claim, however, to be members of no particular political organization and have challenged the government's claims that there is a clandestine organization of any sort directing the campaign for greater autonomy or independence.
TORTURE IN SENEGAL:
THE CASAMANCE CASE
The Government of the Republic of Senegal has repeatedly indicated its opposition to torture by signing or ratifying international human rights instruments which contain specific prohibitions on torture. These include both the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified in February 1978) and the Organization of African Unity's African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights (ratified in October 1982). Of most direct relevance is the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United Nations General Assembly adopted in December 1984, and which Senegal signed less than two months later, in February 1985, and then ratified in August 1986.
Nevertheless, despite these clear signs that government policy opposes the use of torture, since the beginning of 1985 Amnesty International has received reports of prisoners being tortured or subjected to severe beatings in a variety of places and circumstances in Senegal. In March 1985 the prison service itself commented on the lamentable state in which many prisoners arrived in prison after being beaten or assaulted after their arrest. In April 1987, seven police officers in Dakar were convicted of beating a criminal suspect to death in custody and sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a fine. In March 1988 a man arrested when a curfew was in force in Dakar, Malang Gassana, died in hospital the following day, apparently as a result of injuries incurred when gendarmes subjected him to bearings.
In addition to these examples, all of which have been reported in the Senegalese press, Amnesty International has received numerous allegations that people arrested in Casamance region on suspicion of committing politically-motivated offences have been subjected to torture or severe ill-treatment. The evidence that torture has taken place in Casamance includes testimony by former prisoners and by impartial observers. Details are presented below.
Amnesty International is concerned not only by the existence of evidence that torture has taken place but also by what appears to be a consistent blanket denial by the Senegalese authorities that torture has taken place. The authorities' response to reports of torture by Amnesty International has been to deny the accuracy of the reports and to argue either that they do not call for independent investigation or that the right procedures for setting an investigation in motion have not been followed by the victims, their families and their lawyers. The authorities also appear to consider that current detention procedures, which in Amnesty International's view have created conditions in which torture can take place, do not require any modification.