GENEVA – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday expressed concern about possible use of excessive force by the authorities in the Senegalese capital Dakar, and in other towns, and warned that the country’s strong tradition of peaceful, democratic elections could be jeopardized if the authorities mishandle the on-going protests.
At least four people, including one police officer, have reportedly been killed this week during protests following the publication of the list of presidential candidates approved by the Constitutional Council. Reports suggest that in some instances, in several neighbourhoods around Dakar, police shot at protestors who were burning tyres and throwing stones. Violence was also reported in the towns of Podor, Thies and Kaolack
“The reports of excessive use of force by police in response to violence by some protestors are very disturbing, given Senegal’s tradition of respect for freedom of association, assembly and expression,” the High Commissioner said. “In addition to urging restraint on the part of the authorities, I call on all presidential candidates to actively renounce and discourage any further violence or incitement to violence. Senegal has a good record of peaceful democratic elections and transitions which could easily be jeopardized if the current extremely tense situation spirals into further acts of violence and retribution.”
Pillay stressed that law enforcement officials must fully respect the standards laid out under international law in maintaining public order, including detailed guidelines governing the use of live ammunition.* She called for a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the killings that have taken place over the past few days and the alleged use of disproportionate force by police officers.
“Anyone who has committed violent or excessive acts must be held accountable, whether a protester or a police officer,” she said. “With the presidential campaign beginning this weekend, I cannot stress enough the importance of full respect for the fundamental human rights of the freedom of expression, association and assembly. These rights are particularly crucial during an election period,” she added.
*The conduct of law enforcement officials is addressed by a number of specific international standards and codes, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials; and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.