Senegal’s security forces have been slammed by Amnesty International for using torture with impunity against political opponents and gays and lesbians.
Last week, Amnesty released a report, titled Senegal: Land of Impunity, that documents how in the past three decades very little has improved within the Senegalese justice system.
“The systematic use of torture to extract confessions remains openly condoned in court proceedings and perpetrators are seldom held to account when their victims die as a result of mistreatment,” said the organisation.
Amnesty International’s report pulls together comprehensive research conducted between 1998 and May 2010 and contains testimonies from individuals – including people arrested because of their alleged political opinions or sexual behaviour – who describe being electrocuted, burned and asphyxiated while being held by security forces.
The organisation documents cases in which men accused of being homosexuals were tortured to extract confessions. In one incident, nine men were tortured after being arrested in Dakar in December 2008 following anonymous accusations about their sexual behaviour.
“We were in a circle, with two police officers inside the circle and the other three outside. For at least two hours, until 11 pm, they punched us, hit us with their truncheons and kicked us. Blows rained down on our bodies. While they hit us, they insulted us and called us queers…” describes one of the men in the report.
“After we were again repeatedly beaten, we confessed that we were gay but they continued to torture us even after we had ‘confessed,’” adds the man.
Despite being sentenced to eight years in prison, the men were released thanks to international pressure. Their claims of torture were never investigated.
“These arrests and convictions occurred in a context of growing hostility towards homosexuals in Senegal, a hostility that has resulted in arbitrary arrests and homophobic measures of harassment and discrimination,” said Amnesty.