SENEGAL: Stiffer penalties for drug traffickers

Saturday, December 22, 2007

In Senegal drug traffickers stand to face 10 to 20 years of hard labour, double the current punishment, under a new law adopted in parliament.

“We will take every measure to combat drug trafficking,” Justice Minister Cheikh Tidiane Sy said recently before the National Assembly, which passed the law on 30 November. The Senate adopted it on 14 December.

The law now awaits promulgation by President Abdoulaye Wade.

Senegal and neighbouring countries, particularly Guinea-Bissau, have become an epicentre for the transit of cocaine from Latin America to Europe. The trafficking is threatening the stability and development of West Africa, The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a recent report.

Up to now the penalty for traffickers in Senegal was between five and 10 years, but officials say convicted criminals rarely received the maximum sentence.

UNODC regional official Amado Philip de Andrés hailed the stiffer penalities, saying it is critical that West African countries adopt effective anti-drug legislation.

West Africa has not formed a strong front against traffickers up until now, due largely to lack of means, he said. “Narco-traffickers think they can corrupt the powers-that-be here [and get away with their crimes].”

Parliamentarian Abdou Latif Gueye, who authored the bill, told IRIN, “The former drug law [in Senegal] was outdated and inappropriate.”

“This law sends a strong signal to dissuade narco-traffickers from using our sub-region as an easy transit point.”

Justice Minister Sy told legislators that all sectors of society must join forces to fight drug-trafficking and that all countries in the sub-region must collaborate. “If Dakar is a centre for the drug trade it is because of its geographic setting.”

UNODC says 33 tons of cocaine has been seized in West Africa since 2005. Prior to that, seizures for all of Africa rarely surpassed one ton a year.

In a recent report the agency said about 27 percent of all the cocaine consumed annually in Europe is transited through West Africa.

Source: IRIN