On 8 and 9 April 2021, Senegalese civil society met at a workshop co-organised by Amnesty International – Senegal and ISHR in Dakar to review and adopt the draft law for the promotion and protection of human rights defenders and its implementing decree
During the workshop, participants had the opportunity to discuss the challenges they face in their human rights work. In particular, they mentioned the restrictions due to the obligation to obtain an express authorisation from the government for the organisation of any demonstration or the need for journalists to practice self-censorship.
During the first day, participants were also able to familiarise themselves with the international and regional legal framework for the protection of human rights defenders and the content of the model law for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders. “The law that will be adopted by the National Assembly of Senegal will have to be in line with international legal standards in order to create a legal environment that is favourable to the work of human rights defenders – and not restrictive,” said Adelaide Etong Kame, ISHR’s Africa Programme Manager
Drawing on the experience and expectations of the three countries in the West African sub-region that have already adopted a national law for the protection of defenders, the participants asked themselves how this would benefit Senegal.
The second day of the workshop focused on the draft law and its implementing decree. After their presentation by Amnesty International – Senegal, participants were able to suggest amendments that would strengthen the text and limit the possibilities of restrictions by the authorities.
The draft law proposed by civil society identifies
- The rights of defenders and the responsibility to defend human rights, including the right to assemble and peacefully assemble and specific protection for women defenders;
- State obligations towards defenders, including protection from arbitrary search and intrusion into their homes and workplaces;
- The creation of a protection mechanism for defenders;
Finally, the participants committed to continue to advocate with the authorities in the country to push for the adoption of a law that complies with international standards for the protection of human rights defenders.