Senegal Alert: Former Minister placed under Committal Order for Libel against Head of State

Samuel Amète Sarr, a former Minister of Energy under the presidency of Abdoulaye Wade, was on August 20, 2014, placed under a committal order for libeling President Micky Sall.

Sarr who is also a member of the Steering Committee of the opposition Senegal Democratic Party, (Parti Démocratique Sénégalais - PDS), was put in custody on August 19, at the investigations department of the Colobane Gendarmerie Brigade (Central Dakar) where he spent the night. He was brought before the State Prosecutor on August 20, for libel against the Head of State, an offence punishable by Article 80 of the Senegalese Criminal Code. He was subsequently placed under a committal order.

This was as a result of a post he made on his Facebook page on August 18.  The said post had a bank account number which he alleged belonged to President Micky Sall. The post also alleged that the President had enriched himself illegally. He also asked the Senegalese Judiciary to get to find out who owns the said bank account which is credited with an amount of FCFA seven billion (about US$14 million).

The former minister also alleged that William Bourdon, president and founder of Sherpa, (an association that protect victims of economic crimes) who has been instrumental in the on-going corruption case against Karim Wade, former minister and son of President Wade, has failed to investigate President Sall because he has been “paid handsome amounts of money by the State.”

Article 80 among other things states that “deeds and acts likely to compromise public security, cause serious political disorders or infringe upon the laws of the country shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment of at least three years and at most five years as well as a fine of between FCFA 100,000 and 1,500,000. Offenders may also be banished locally. ”

The continued existence and application of criminal libel laws is a threat to freedom of expression and democratisation. The MFWA, therefore, calls on the Senegalese government to repeal laws such as Article 80 that criminalise speech.