Senegalese government says Gatineau police ‘savagely’ beat a diplomat

Global Affairs Canada says it is “extremely concerned” by allegations that a Senegalese diplomat was detained and beaten by police in an Ottawa suburb last week.

“What happened was simply unacceptable,” Sabrine Barakat, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs, wrote in an email on Saturday.

Senegal’s foreign ministry said the diplomat, who works at the West African nation’s embassy in Ottawa, was held down and assaulted at her home in Gatineau, Quebec, on Aug. 2.

She was “handcuffed and beaten savagely, to the point that she had difficulty breathing, for which she was taken to hospital by ambulance,” the ministry said in a statement dated Thursday but made public only on Friday.

The ministry did not immediately provide further details about his condition.

The Gatineau Police Service said in a press release, issued late Friday in response to claims by the Senegalese government, that officers were called in to assist a bailiff who was trying to execute a court order Tuesday afternoon.

Police said the subject of the warrant, identified only as a woman with diplomatic status, was “aggressive and uncooperative.”

They alleged that when the officers attempted to explain the process, the woman punched a female police officer in the face.

Officers then decided to arrest the woman “for the safety of all present,” according to the statement. Police alleged that the woman resisted arrest, she bit another officer and then she was knocked to the ground, where she was restrained.

The sheriff then executed the warrant while the woman was “detained in the back of a patrol vehicle, under the supervision of a police officer,” the police statement said. “At no time did the person mention being injured or in pain when she was asked.”

The Senegalese government says the diplomat was “savagely beaten” by #Gatineau police. #CDNPoli #Senegal

Police say they were called back to the same location by paramedics treating the woman about an hour and a half after they arrived, but offered no further details, saying only that about 10 people were present.

The Senegalese government said the chargé d’affaires of the Canadian Embassy in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that officials could “strongly denounce and strongly condemn this racist and barbaric act.”

A note of protest was sent to the Canadian government, he said.

“The Senegalese government has demanded that an investigation be launched without delay and that charges be brought against the perpetrators of this unacceptable attack, which constitutes a serious injury to the physical integrity of the person and human dignity, as well as a flagrant violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the ministry said.

Barakat said Canada takes its obligations under the convention very seriously, which grants diplomats immunity from any form of detention or arrest.

“We are working diligently with the different levels of government involved and look forward to a thorough investigation,” he wrote. “Minister Joly is in contact with her Senegalese counterpart. Canada will continue to cooperate fully with Senegal to address this unfortunate situation.”

Gatineau police said they have notified provincial and federal authorities about the incident and have asked the provincial prosecutor’s office to file charges of assault on a police officer and obstruction of a police officer. In Quebec, the decision to press charges is made by the public prosecutor’s office.

The police service said it would not comment further, due to the possibility of legal proceedings, but would cooperate with any investigation.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 6, 2022.

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