180 prisoners are on a hunger strike to protest their pretrial detention. Some have been detained for up to four months without being brought before a court In Casamance, southern Senegal.
Among the hunger strikers are four minors aged 15 to 17, according to a civil society association that visited them. Arrested in June following nationwide protests sparked by the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, their families are demanding their immediate release so they can return to their schools.
An additional 26 individuals were arrested in Ziguinchor following these riots, with the remaining 150 inmates being common-law detainees. However, all are denouncing excessively long periods of pretrial detention, some exceeding four months.
Madja Diop Sané, the coordinator of the organization Vision Citoyenne, raised an alarm, “These detainees are waiting for nothing more than to be questioned about the substance of their cases. For those eligible for provisional release, they should benefit from it, and for those awaiting trial, they should do so.
However, they should already be questioned about the substance of their cases because keeping people in prison without interviewing them is a problem.”
With only one investigating judge in Ziguinchor, the problem is chronic, and the backlog before each case is examined is evident.
“What we would like to see is that legal matters, particularly those involving investigations, have a time frame because, in Senegal, we can talk about investigations. But when you’re put in prison for 3 months, 5 years, without being tried, it becomes a problem!” continues Madja Diop Sané.
The 180 prisoners promise to halt their hunger strike only when they are presented before a judge. They also complain about the poor quality of food and the high cost of phone calls. The management of Ziguinchor Prison was not available for comment on this matter.
Six women who were arrested in Dakar following the June riots and detained at the Liberté 6 prison have gone on a hunger strike for the past week, as per the statement released by opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s party. They are demanding the immediate release of so-called political detainees.