Senegal prisoners abused with beatings, electrocutions, Amnesty International says

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — International human rights group Amnesty International said in a Wednesday report that prisoners in Senegal are routinely abused and the perpetrators rarely face punishment.

The report describes beatings, electrocutions and strangulations, sometimes resulting in death, of male and female prisoners being held in the West African nation. In some cases, autopsy reports delivered to family members described broken ribs and facial injuries caused by assault from blunt objects. In other cases, police told family members that the prisoner had committed suicide in his or her cell.

Former prisoner Boubacar Diop said he was treated badly by prison officials.

"They treated us in such a savage manner, it was like we could not be considered human beings," he said Wednesday, when he appeared at a press conference in Dakar, Senegal's capital, with family members of prisoners who died in other prisons.

"I've never seen such serious torture," Diop said.

Senegal gives police officers immunity from prosecution and often grants blanket amnesty for abuses that would be considered human rights violations by international law, the report said.

Victims' families — often poor and unfamiliar with the legal system — struggle to bring cases against those responsible.

"Imagine in Senegal if an average citizen killed someone else," said Assane Dioma Ndiaye, an attorney for some of the families of the victims. "They would be arrested. But if a police officer kills someone else, nothing happens."

Presidential spokesman Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye would not confirm or deny the details of the report. He said Senegal is a democratic country committed to protecting human rights.

"If these rights have been violated," Ndiaye said, "then the perpetrators will be brought to justice."