Senegal: Presidential candidates urged to decry political violence

All Senegal’s presidential candidates must urge calm among their supporters, Amnesty International said in a public appeal issued ahead of the first round of elections on Sunday, 26 February. The run-up to the poll has been marred by political violence, and there are fears armed supporters of the presidential candidates could spark fresh violence during or after election day. For more than a month, public demonstrations have been banned and security forces have repeatedly used excessive force against protesters in the capital Dakar and other cities, killing several. One policeman has also died in clashes. “As election day approaches in Senegal, all presidential candidates must call for calm to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes of recent weeks,” said Salvatore Saguès, Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher.“The Senegalese authorities must rein in the security forces, ensuring they comply with international standards on maintaining public order and containing violence during demonstrations.”Under UN standards on policing demonstrations, security forces may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not possible. They may only use the minimum amount of force necessary to avoid loss of life or serious injury to themselves or others. Amnesty International also calls on the Senegalese authorities to release all peaceful protesters detained amid the recent election-related demonstrations and to uphold citizens’ right to free expression.