Senegal: Torture: the Casamance case

April 30, 1990

Senegal: Torture: the Casamance case

Following the conviction of police officers in 1987, and a subsequent strike by other members of the police in protest against the convictions and two-year sentences imposed, Amnesty International had written to the Senegalese authorities asking that clear guidance be given in the training of officials concerned with the imprisonment, interrogation and treatment

of prisoners that torture is a criminal act and that they are required to refuse to obey any order to torture.

The authorities replied that "not only legislation but also administrative practice and the instructions given to the officers responsible for law and order" respect the guarantees against torture.

Nevertheless, Amnesty International continues to receive allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, particularly on the premises of security forces.

For example, a year ago, during the night of 20/21 March 1988, according to the Justice Minister, Malang Gassama was arrested in front of his home under state of emergency measures. He was admitted to Le Dantec hospital as an emergency case, where he died next morning. But Amnesty International has learned that he was apparently arrested in front of his home at Grand-Dakar while he was engaged in his ablutions for evening prayers and that he apparently died as a result of beatings inflicted bygendarmes. The organisation asked the authorities whether an official investigation into this matter had been set in motion. The Justice Minister replied in June 1988 that an autopsy carried out at the request of the deceased's wife had resulted in the following findings:
"Malang Gassama's death is due to general visceral congestion as a result of cardio-vascular and hepatic lesions. The autopsy has been unable to determine the mechanism triggered off by the decomposition of these lesions."

In the light of these findings, the authorities have not thought fit to take legal action, especially as there is no record of any civil action being brought by an individual in criminal proceedings.

The following two chapters contain details of reports of torture and deaths in detention of prisoners arrested in Casamance from 1982 to 1987 in connection with their suspicious links with a movement seeking independence for the south of Senegal (MFDC). Chapter 4 describes the government's response to reports of torture and Chapter 5 suggests practical ways in which the Senegalese authorities could reduce or end the ill-treatment of prisoners.

2. Allegations of torture and ill-treatment

Since 1983, Amnesty International has received information from various sources on the subject of torture and ill-treatment inflicted on persons suspected of belonging to the Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de la Casamance (MFDC). The information comes from former prisoners and their families, from statements made by defendants to the courts and from Amnesty International delegates who have visited Senegal in 1985 and 1987 and noted that former prisoners had scars that tended to confirm their stories.

It appears that police officers were essentially concerned to determine who were the members of MFDC and it appears that, in order to achieve this objective, torture and ill-treatment were constantly and systematically employed up to the time of handing over the persons arrested to the judicial authority.

In this context it is important to note that Senegal's own detention procedures, set out in the Code of Penal Procedure, allow for suspects to