Status: civil society or public discussion
In Senegal, no public policy for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs or defenders) is yet in place. Discussions are ongoing, however, and a draft law has been developed by multiple civil society actors. Meanwhile, there are many concerning restrictions on the right to defend human rights.
In 2021, discussions around a draft law were led by civil society organisations, including Amnesty International Senegal, the Senegalese Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and the International Service of Human Rights. Currently, the draft law continues to be reviewed by civil society, with particular attention to the phrasing of State obligations to protect the right to defend human rights.
Senegal falls under the mandate of the African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. To date, no effective documentation/disclosures has been published concerning any monitoring done by this mechanism in Senegal. Past and present UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders have not yet paid a visit to Senegal, nor has the current Rapporteur requested to visit the country. Senegal is also not mentioned in thematic reports published by the office.
Senegal is reviewed through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and the last country report was completed and published in 2018. This report makes no mention of human rights defenders, but does mention measures for the protection of the freedom of expression and assembly. These measures are not aimed at human rights defenders specifically, but focus on prohibiting security forces from using unnecessary force and include the recommendation for training in crowd management in line with human rights law. Senegal accepted several recommendations concerning the freedom of speech, but has made no such commitment explicitly on the subject of human rights defenders.
The 2022 Civicus Monitor classifies Senegal as “obstructed”, which means that civic space is “heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights”. The Freedom House Democracy Index 2022 rated Senegal as “partly free”, calling Senegal “one of Africa’s most stable electoral democracies and has undergone peaceful transfers of power between rival parties since 2000”. Nevertheless, there are concerns about politically motivated prosecutions, as well as reports of arbitrary arrests and restrictions on freedom of expression, such as the Press Code introduced in 2017.