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Title:  Senegal Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                             SENEGAL 
 
 
Senegal is a republic with an elected president, Abdou Diouf, who has 
been in office since 1981, and a unicameral legislature dominated by the 
President's Socialist Party (PS) since independence from France in 1960.  
The President appointed six members of the opposition party, the 
Democratic Party (PDS), and three independents to his Cabinet in March.  
He subsequently fired two independents in September after their party 
accused the Government of incompetence. 
 
The Senegalese armed forces are professional and generally disciplined.  
They traditionally remain aloof from politics and are firmly under 
civilian control.  The paramilitary gendarmerie and the police are less 
professional and less disciplined.  The military continued to be engaged 
in clashes with separatists in the Casamance region of southern Senega1, 
with reported abuses on both sides, especially by the rebels.  The 
police committed numerous human rights abuses. 
 
Senegal is predominantly agricultural with more than 70 percent of the 
labor force engaged in farming, largely peanut production.  Since the 
devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994, the Government has implemented a 
series of economic policy reforms to enhance competitiveness and is 
phasing out most qualitative restrictions on imports, dismantling 
monopolies, liberalizing the labor market, and privatizing several 
important state-owned industries.  Supported by the international donor 
community, Senegal remains dependent on foreign assistance as an 
important source of national income. 
 
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens.  
However, there were serious problems in some areas, particularly torture 
by police of suspects during questioning and lengthy pretrial detention.  
Senegalese armed forces reportedly committed human rights abuses against 
Casamance rebel prisoners and sympathizers.  The Government tried or 
punished few military, gendarme, or police for human rights abuses.  It 
promoted a senior official widely accused of involvement in a major 1994 
torture case.  Poor prison conditions, domestic violence and 
discrimination against women, and some abuse of children are also 
problems.  There were credible reports of serious human rights abuses 
perpetrated by Casamance rebels against citizens and government 
officials. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no confirmed reports of political or extrajudicial killings 
by government officials.  The Government did not bring charges or 
further investigate the 1994 killing in police custody of Moustarchidine 
religious sect activist Lamine Samb. 
 
There were reports by human rights groups that soldiers killed captured 
Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC) rebels.  MFDC 
guerrillas took credit for a handful of political killings in the 
Casamance, particularly the murders of government officials.  Starting 
in February, MFDC guerrillas violated the 1993 cease-fire and proceeded 
to intimidate and murder officials and politicians who maintained 
loyalty to the central Government.  The rebels murdered or displaced 
numerous civilians viewed as uncooperative by the MFDC. 
 
While precise data are lacking, there were an estimated 50 civilian 
deaths due to fighting in the Casamance, and approximately 15,000 
persons displaced.  Also, 58 soldiers and an estimated 200 MFDC 
guerrillas have been killed in the conflict. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
There are credible reports that police and gendarmes often beat suspects 
during questioning and pretrial detention, in spite of constitutional 
prohibitions against such treatment.  Police perpetrated torture, 
usually beatings, has become an embarrassing public issue for the 
Government and is regularly treated in Senegal's lively press.  
Nevertheless, the authorities promoted the gendarme commander who is 
widely believed responsible for the torture of parliamentarian Mody Sy 
while Sy was in custody on trumped up charges of murdering Judge Babacar 
Seye in 1993.  However, in September prosecutors decided to detain and 
prosecute a police commissioner and two police officers accused of 
torturing, molesting, and raping a female pretrial detainee at a Dakar 
area police station. 
 
Prisons remain overcrowded, and food and health care are inadequate.  
However, there have been no reported deaths in prison due to these 
conditions.  The Government permits visits by government, 
nongovernmental (NGO), and international human rights monitors. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile; and 
the Government does not systematically violate these constitutional 
prohibitions.  There were no new incidents of the Government arresting 
opposition party leaders on questionable grounds. 
 
The law specifies that warrants, issued by judges, are required for 
arrests.  However, laws also grant the police broad powers to detain 
prisoners for lengthy periods of time.   Police may legally hold without 
charge a person suspected of a crime for 48 hours after arrest and for 
up to 72 hours if ordered by a public prosecutor.  This period may be 
doubled in the case of crimes against the security of the State.  The 
prosecutor decides whether to forward the case to an investigating judge 
who may open an investigation.  At this point, the suspects are 
preliminarily charged and may be held or released on their own 
recognizance.  There is no system of bail.  During temporary detention, 
the accused has no access to family or an attorney but has the right to 
request examination by a physician.  Once charged, a prisoner is 
permitted visits by both family and legal advisors.  The accused may be 
held in custody for 6 months, extendable for 6 additional months if the 
investigating magistrate certifies an extension is required.  Such 
extensions may be reviewed by a court on appeal from the accused's 
attorney. 
 
In principle, the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and when 
brought to trial it is the State's burden to prove that the accused is 
guilty of the charges.  However, police are rarely prosecuted for 
violations of arrest and detention procedures, and the authorities may 
detain a prisoner for long periods of time while they investigate and 
build a case against a suspect.  The authorities may and routinely do 
hold prisoners in custody unless and until a court demands their 
release.  Despite the 6-month limitations mentioned above, the time 
between the charging phase and trial averages 2 years.  
 
Exile is not used. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The Constitution provides for a judiciary independent of the executive, 
the legislature, and the armed forces.  However, magistrates are 
vulnerable to outside pressures due to low pay, poor working conditions, 
and family and political ties.  Also, the Minister of Justice and 
subordinate authorities have extensive authority to influence judicial 
procedures, e.g., in keeping the accused in pretrial detention. 
 
The legal system is based on French civil law and is composed of 
ordinary courts and a number of higher and special courts, including the 
three created in May 1992 to replace the Supreme Court:  The Council of 
State for Administrative Questions, the Constitutional Council, and a 
Court of Appeal.  These Courts remain understaffed, and many of the 
special courts, including the Unlawful Enrichment Court and special 
courts to try government officials for treason and malfeasance, are 
dormant.  Muslims have the right to choose customary law or civil law 
for certain civil cases, such as those concerning inheritance and 
divorce.  However, customary law decisions are rendered by civil court 
judges.  The right of appeal exists in all courts except military courts 
and the special "illegal enrichment" Court.  Military courts may not try 
civilians. 
 
Trials are public, and defendants have the right to be present in court, 
to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to have an attorney.  In 
practice, however, some defendants are denied legal assistance at public 
expense due to lack of funding.  Evidentiary hearings may be closed to 
the public and the press.  A panel of judges presides over ordinary 
courts for both civil and criminal cases; in criminal cases citizens 
also serve on the panel. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners.  However, the Government 
held self-proclaimed MFDC rebel leader Abbe Diamacoune and four 
military/political advisers, extradited from Guinea-Bissau in 1994, 
under house arrest in lieu of being tried for treason as the Government 
works to negotiate an end to the separatist conflict. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary invasion of the home, and there was 
little government interference in the private lives of citizens, 
particularly in the rural areas.  Under the law, search warrants are 
required, and only judges may issue them.  During high-profile or 
politically charged investigations police often proceed without the 
required search warrants. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and the 
Government generally respects these rights in practice.  Laws prohibit 
the press from the expression of views that "discredit" the State, 
incite the population to disorder, or disseminate "false news."  
However, the Government did not prosecute any groups or persons under 
these statutes during the year. 
 
A broad spectrum of thought and opinion is available to the public 
through regularly published magazines and newspapers, including foreign 
publications, and numerous independent radio stations.  Political and 
economic views expressed in the independent press are often critical of 
the Government and its programs.  While publishers are required to 
register prior to starting publication, the Government routinely 
approves such registrations.  A government monopoly controls local 
television, an important source of news.  French-owned pay television is 
available but offers no local news. 
 
Academic freedom is respected. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government generally 
respects them in practice.  The Government requires prior authorization 
for public demonstrations which it usually grants.  In early 1995, it 
declined to issue public demonstration permits to the Moustarchidine 
Islamic sect, one of the groups the Government holds responsible for the 
February 1994 riots that resulted in the death of eight persons.  
However, by April the Government began permitting large Moustarchidine 
gatherings, even though the group technically remains banned. 
 
Senegalese wishing to form associations must register with the Ministry 
of Interior.  Business-related associations are registered with the 
Ministry of Commerce.  By law and in practice, the Ministry of Interior 
must register such groups so long as the objectives of the association 
are clearly stated and they do not violate the law. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government generally 
respects them in practice.  Certain public employees must obtain 
government approval before departing Senegal. 
 
The Government cooperates with the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees.  
There were no reports of forced expulsions of those having a valid claim 
to refugee status.  The more than 60,000 Mauritanian refugees resident 
in Senegal, and other refugee groups, move freely throughout the 
country. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Citizens have the constitutional right to change their government 
through periodic multiparty elections.  However, the Socialist Party's 
domination of political life--it has held power since independence--has 
called into question the extent to which citizens can exercise this 
right. 
 
The PS holds a large majority in Parliament with 86 parliamentary seats.  
The opposition holds 34 seats.  There are 20 legal opposition parties.  
Six members of the leading opposition party, the Democratic Party (PDS), 
and three independents joined President Diouf's 33-member Cabinet on 
March 15.  In September he fired two of the independents after their 
party accused the Government of incompetence. 
 
Despite its preeminent position, the PS faced extensive factional in-
fighting during the year, in one instance resulting in the deaths of six 
PS supporters.  This internal PS conflict was responsible, at least in 
part, for the Government canceling the November 1995 municipal elections 
and rescheduling them to coincide with the November 1996 rural 
elections.  Although the Government characterized the delay as an 
efficiency/cost-cutting measure, opposition parties charged that the 
postponement was a manipulation of the electoral law, giving the PS more 
time to prepare for elections. 
 
Women are underrepresented in the political process.  While there are no 
legal impediments to their participation in government and politics, 
several de facto impediments exist.  Only 3 of the 33 Ministers who 
comprise the President's Cabinet are women, and there are only 2 in the 
19-member Economic and Social Council, the Government's quasi-
policymaking body.  There are no women heading political parties, and 
only 14 female Deputies in the 120-member National Assembly.  Their 
lower representation reflects not only disparity in education (see 
Section 5), but also cultural pressures.  In addition, political parties 
often rank women low on party lists, making it difficult for them to be 
elected to the National Assembly or be appointed ministers. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
A wide variety of human rights groups operate without government 
restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights 
cases.  Government officials are generally cooperative and receptive of 
their views.  However, while the Government has made no apparent 
attempts to suppress criticism, it has not responded to reliable reports 
of human rights abuses by government forces involved in the MFDC 
conflict in the Casamance. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution states that "men and women shall be equal in law" and 
prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex, class, or 
language.  However, de facto discrimination against women is pervasive, 
and the Government does not frequently enforce antidiscrimination laws. 
 
   Women 
 
There are credible reports that violence against women, usually wife 
beating, is common, particularly in rural areas.  Police do not usually 
intervene in domestic disputes, and most people are reluctant to go 
outside the family for redress.  The law and society view rape as a very 
serious crime, and the law stipulates that persons convicted of rape may 
be imprisoned up to 10 years, more if the victim is a minor.  Rape 
trials often result in convictions.  Moreover, vigilante action is often 
meted out to the accused before the police are able to arrest rape or 
family violence suspects. 
 
Despite constitutional protections, women face extensive societal 
discrimination, especially in rural areas where Islamic and Senegalese 
customs, including polygyny and Islamic rules of inheritance, are 
strongest, and women are generally confined to traditional roles.  In 
the countryside, women perform much of the subsistence farming and 
childrearing and have limited educational opportunities.  Although the 
Government has committed itself to equalizing male/female primary school 
enrollment, there is still much social and official discrimination 
against women in educational opportunities.  Only 19 percent of females 
over 15 years of age are literate, while the rate for males over age 15 
is 37 percent. 
 
According to the U.N. only 20 percent of women are engaged in paid 
employment.  Traditional practices, moreover, make it difficult for 
women to obtain bank credit.  Women usually marry young (the majority by 
age 16 in rural areas), and average 7 live births.  About half of all 
Senegalese women live in polygynous unions. 
 
In urban areas women encounter somewhat less discrimination and are 
active in government, political life, the legal profession, and 
business.  About 14 percent of Senegalese lawyers are women.  Urban 
women are more likely to take advantage of the Government's efforts to 
increase respect for women's legal rights to divorce, alimony, child 
support, and to seek education and employment.  In general, urban women 
receive equal pay for equal work. 
 
   Children 
 
The Ministry of Women, Children, and the Family, established in 1990, 
has the responsibility for promoting children's welfare.  Numerous 
organizations assist the Ministry in support of children's rights, 
including the Ministry of Health which began a nationwide effort 
focusing on child survival in 1995.  To this end, the Government enjoyed 
some success in increasing hospital services in outlying regions and 
introducing lower priced generic drugs into the marketplace.  Less than 
a year into the program, government officials reported a nationwide 
increase in birth weights. 
 
The 1995 fall school term marked the beginning of a government effort to 
increase nationwide the number of classrooms and encourage more 
children, particularly females, to enter and stay in school. 
 
There are no laws or regulations concerning female genital mutilation 
(FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts as 
damaging to both physical and psychological health.  However, the 
Ministry of Women, Children, and the Family sponsors programs to educate 
women to the dangers of FGM.  FGM is not practiced by Senegal's largest 
ethnic group, the Wolofs (representing 43 percent of the population), 
but it is performed on girls belonging to some other ethnic groups.  
Infibulation, the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM, is practiced 
by the Toucouleur and Peulh ethnic groups.  Approximately 6 percent of 
females are believed to have undergone this procedure. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
There is no official discrimination against disabled persons.  There are 
no laws that mandate accessibility for the disabled, and in practice 
most persons with disabilities are generally unable to participate in 
many occupations due to physical barriers and a lack of equipment and 
training opportunities that would make such participation possible. 
 
   Religious Minorities 
 
Approximately 92 percent of the population are Muslim.  There are small 
Christian (2 percent) and indigenous (6 percent) religious communities.  
Officially, adherence to a particular religion confers no official 
advantage or disadvantage in civil, political, economic, military, or 
other matters.  In practice, membership in an Islamic sect may afford 
certain political and economic protections and advantages. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The Constitution and the Labor Code provide all workers with the right 
of association, and they are free to form or join unions.  A minimum of 
seven persons, each having worked in the trade for at least 1 year, may 
form a trade union by submitting a list of members and a charter to the 
Ministry of Interior.  While the Ministry does not always grant initial 
recognition to a union, once it gives recognition, the Ministry 
virtually never withdraws it.  It may, however, disband a union if its 
activities deviate from its charter.  The Labor Code does not apply to 
the informal and agricultural sectors where most people work. 
 
Although they represent a small percentage of the working population, 
unions wield significant political influence because of their ability to 
disrupt vital sectors of the economy.  The small industrial component of 
the total work force of 4 million is almost totally unionized.  The only 
union in the agrarian sector is one representing workers at a privately 
owned sugar company.  Some farmers are organized into the National 
Farming Association, an advocacy organization. 
 
The National Confederation of Senegalese Workers (CNTS), the largest 
union organization, has close ties to the ruling Socialist Party (PS), 
and union members hold a considerable number of government positions.  
One is a PS minister, and four others hold PS seats in Parliament.  
While ostensibly an independent organization, the umbrella CNTS has 
consistently supported government policies. 
 
The rival to the CNTS is the National Union of Autonomous Labor Unions 
of Senegal (UNSAS).  UNSAS is a federation of strategically important 
unions such as those of electricians, telecommunication workers, 
teachers, water technicians, and hospital, railroad, and sugar workers. 
 
The Constitution and the Labor Code provide for the right to strike, but 
with restrictions.  Unions representing members of the civil service 
must request permission to strike 1 month in advance, and private sector 
unions must request permission 3 days in advance.  The Government has 
the right to approve or disapprove a strike request.  There were 
numerous legal--but no illegal--strikes in 1995.  Regulations prohibit 
employers from retaliating against legal strikers, and these regulations 
are enforced through the Labor Court. 
 
The Labor Code permits unions to affiliate with international bodies.  
The CNTS is active in regional and international labor organizations and 
is the dominant Senegalese member of the Organization of African Trade 
Union Unity. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Unions have the right by law to organize and to bargain collectively, 
and these rights are protected in practice.  There are also legal 
prohibitions governing discrimination by employers against union members 
and organizers.  Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are 
required to reinstate workers.  There were no known instances in which 
workers were prevented from exercising the right to organize and bargain 
collectively.  The Ministry of Labor can intervene in disputes between 
labor and management if requested, and it plays a mediation role in the 
private and state enterprise sectors. 
 
Labor laws apply to all industrial firms including those in the Dakar 
Industrial Free Trade Zone.  
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
There were no reports of forced labor, which is prohibited by law. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The minimum age for employment is 16 years for apprenticeships and 18 
for all other types of work.  Ministry of Labor inspectors closely 
monitor and enforce these restrictions within the small formal wage 
sector, which includes state-owned corporations, large private 
enterprises, and cooperatives. 
 
However, children under the age of 15 frequently work in the much larger 
traditional or informal sectors, such as family farms in rural areas or 
in small businesses, where the Government does not enforce minimum age 
and other workplace regulations. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
Legislation mandating a monthly minimum wage has been in force since the 
country's independence in 1960.  The Ministries of Labor and Finance 
determine wage rates after negotiating with the unions and management 
councils.  The minimum wage of less than $.40 per hour (202 CFA franc), 
last negotiated in 1989, is not adequate to support a worker and a 
family. 
 
Within the formal sector, the law mandates:  a standard workweek of 40 
to 48 hours for most occupations, with at least one 24-hour rest period 
and 1 month per year of annual leave; enrollment in government systems 
for social security and retirement; safety standards; and a variety of 
other measures.  These regulations are incorporated into the Labor Code 
and are supervised by inspectors from the Ministry of Labor.  However, 
the authorities' enforcement is uneven, especially outside the formal 
sector. 
 
There is no explicit legal protection for workers who file complaints 
about unsafe conditions.  While there are legal regulations concerning 
workplace safety, government officials do not often enforce them. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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