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NEW YORK, NY (March 6, 2024) — Last week, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) submitted a petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) on behalf of Bassirou Diomaye Diakahar Faye and Aliou Sané

Faye is a presidential candidate and secretary-general for the main opposition movement, Les Patriotes africains du Sénégal pour le travail, l’éthique et la fraternité (PASTEF). His candidacy followed the disqualification of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko from the ballot by the Constitutional Court, which is subservient to Sall’s regime.

Sané is a well-known Senegalese human rights defender. As a leader of the civic pro-democracy movement Y’en a Marre and the civil society coalition Forces Vives de la Nation (F24), he has been at the forefront of efforts demanding free and fair elections and rejecting a third term of incumbent ruler Macky Sall.

Police in the capital Dakar arrested Faye on April 14 after he shared a Facebook post critical of the Senegalese regime. Police did not inform Faye of the reasons for his arrest, but a public prosecutor later charged him with endangering public security, contempt of court, and defamation of an official body. Today, he has since spent 329 days in pretrial detention, preventing him from participating in the 2024 presidential campaign, in which the opposition movement he would represent, PASTEF, is considered the front-runner. 

“The many irregularities in the proceedings against Faye show that he is being detained solely for sharing a critical opinion of President Macky Sall on Facebook. The goal is to prevent him from participating in the 2024 presidential campaign, knowing how popular the political party he represents is,” HRF legal and research officer Hannah Van Dijcke said.

On May 28, three armed police officers arrested Sané as he sought to meet with Sonko, who was then under house arrest. The public prosecutor charged Sané with “maneuvers and acts likely to jeopardize public security or cause serious political unrest” — a penal code provision that has repeatedly been abused to prosecute dissidents in the country. Sané was detained for 141 days until the Senegalese regime provisionally released him and several other dissidents on February 15 to appease tensions in the country. Sané never received a trial, and his prior provisional release led to his re-arrest four months later.

Sané and Faye represent some of the most high-profile public figures targeted by Senegal’s regime amid a widespread crackdown on dissent ahead of the presidential elections. Their cases are emblematic of the Senegalese regime’s arrest of an estimated 1,000 opposition members and activists since March 2021.

In its petition, HRF calls on the UNWGAD to further investigate Sané and Faye’s cases. UNWGAD must deem their detentions as arbitrary and violations of international law, request the Senegalese regime immediately and unconditionally release Faye, and take all other necessary measures to remedy the harm caused to Sané and Faye by their arbitrary detention.

As Senegal is discussing the release of more political prisoners, HRF calls for the release of Faye and all other remaining political prisoners in the country.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. 

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