ARTICLE 19 joined fellow free speech and human rights advocates Amnesty International, Ligue Sénégalaise des Droits de l’homme, and Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme in Dakar on 27 October to call for the release of human rights defender Aliou Sané, who was detained on 5 October and remains in custody, and other activists currently detained.
Authorities stated that Aliou Sané was arrested for participating in an undeclared protest. He is being prosecuted for ‘acts or manoeuvres likely to harm public security or lead to serious political unrest’.
Protesters taking part in the rally informed authorities of their intention to gather and make their voices heard.
‘We gathered to urge the Senegalese government to release Aliou Sané without condition, and all people detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. To achieve lasting safeguards for civic space where people can express themselves without fear of repression, the Senegalese government must repeal laws that allow for abusive limitations to freedom of expression,’ said Alfred Nkuru Bulakali, the Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Senegal and West Africa.
‘We also call for limitations to authorities’ powers to authorise or not authorise protests, and to criminalise opinions using vaguely-worded laws, such as those regarding disruption of public order. Authorities must tolerate dissenting voices. Any limitation to freedom of expression must align with regional and international human rights standards and norms’, he continued.
Aliou Sané is not alone, and nor are the others behind bars for voicing an opinion. ARTICLE 19 stands in solidarity with Sané and notes that he did not commit any crime under international human rights norms that protect freedom of expression.
Thus, his place is with his family and among us, his human rights activist colleagues, so he can continue defending democratic society and open public spaces across Africa.
The peaceful gathering was a sign of our continuous engagement as human rights organisations to hold the government accountable and to honour its regional and international human rights obligations to affectively guarantee freedom of expression and refrain from criminalising speech.
Sané is part of the Y’en a Marre Movement, member of the Board of Directors of the West African Network of Human Rights Defenders (ROADDH), and Deputy Coordinator of the Forces Vives de la Nation (F24) platform.
Aliou Sané was first arrested at Cité Keur Gorgui on 29 May 2023 while he was trying to join other political and civil society activists in visiting opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, who was essentially banned from leaving his home, despite authorities having no legal basis to restrict his movement.