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Senegal: UN human rights experts stress freedoms in lead-up to presidential poll

24 February 2012 – Two independent United Nations human rights experts today added their voices to UN calls for this Sunday’s first round of presidential elections in Senegal to be as free, fair and transparent as possible.

Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and Frank La Rue, the UN Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion, issued a joint statement calling on authorities to “make everyone heard” in the lead-up to the ballot.

The campaign period for the election has been marred by violent demonstrations in the capital, Dakar, and other cities, with protesters angry about the decision of incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade to seek a third term in office.

Mr. Kiai and Mr. La Rue called on Senegalese authorities to ensure that the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of expression are upheld, and to take “all necessary measures” so that the elections are free, fair and transparent and respect the will of the people.

“All attacks against the freedom of peaceful assembly must immediately end,” said Mr. Kiai. “The authorities must respect international law and standards related to the freedom of peaceful assembly as well as national legislation which guarantee to all individuals and throughout the country the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including during official campaign periods.”

Mr. La Rue voiced alarm at reports of attacks against journalists and stressed the crucial role they play during an election process.

The two UN rapporteurs also called on all Senegalese political parties to refrain from violence before, during and after the vote.

“I condemn all forms of violence and am outraged by reports of the deaths of several people in recent weeks,” Mr. Kiai added. “There must be no impunity, nor double standards in carrying out justice. Any person responsible for, or implicated in, any acts of violence or for the excessive use of force must be held accountable by the State, in accordance with international human rights law.”

The statement from Mr. Kiai and Mr. La Rue echoes that issued yesterday by a spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which stressed the need for the election to be staged peacefully and credibly.

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