UN human rights chief praises conduct of Senegal election, urges Mali and Guinea-Bissau to follow suit

GENEVA (28 March 2012) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday congratulated Senegal on the conduct of a peaceful, free, fair and transparent second round of presidential elections in the country, and called on other countries in the region to follow suit.

“At a time of uncertainty and election-related violence in other parts of West Africa, it is heartening that the Senegalese people, members of political parties, civil society and other stakeholders have pulled together to uphold the country’s tradition of peaceful, democratic transitions of power,” Pillay said.

While regretting the violence that occurred in the run-up to the first round of elections earlier this year, the High Commissioner said she noted the outgoing President’s “swift acceptance of the latest election results.”

“My office will continue to work with the new Government towards ensuring the enjoyment of all human rights for all people in Senegal,” she said.

Pillay noted with concern, however, the risk of very different outcomes in two other West African countries, namely Mali and Guinea-Bissau.

In Mali, in particular, last week’s coup d’état has raised doubts about whether elections planned for late April will take place at all, let alone in conditions enabling a genuinely free and fair vote.

“Unconstitutional changes of government, accompanied by violence, can have a devastating impact on the human rights situation,” Pillay said. “Mali also had a good record of democratic elections over the past two decades, and I hope it gets back on that track as soon as possible.”

“In Guinea-Bissau, the first round of presidential elections on 18 March were tense but in the end, thankfully, free of violence,” Pillay said, noting that international observers, including from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) and the African Union (AU) found that the first round had been free, fair and transparent. However, five opposition candidates have threatened not to participate in the second round, after allegations of electoral fraud, and there is heightened tension in the country.

“It is vital that the second round is also free and fair and violence-free,” the High Commissioner said. “I call on all those taking part, especially the candidates and their supporters, to refrain from making provocative and inflammatory statements. I also call on all security forces to act in conformity with the law throughout this process.”

“People should benefit from their right to freedom of expression and assembly, but also have the right not to be subjected to incitement to hatred or violence,” Pillay added.

END

OHCHR Country Page – Mali : http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/africaregion/pages/mlindex.aspx
OHCHR Country Page - Senegal: http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/africaregion/pages/snindex.aspx
OHCHR Country Page - Guinea-Bissau : http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/africaregion/pages/gwindex.aspx

In Geneva: UN Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville (+ 41 22 917 9767 or rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officers: Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 or rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 or xcelaya@ohchr.org)

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights
Twitter: http://twitter.com/UNrightswire
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/UNOHCHR