Togo - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in TOGOLESE REPUBLIC

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Head of state : Faure Gnassingbé
Head of government : Yawovi Agboyibo (replaced Edem Kodjo in September)
Death penalty : abolitionist in practice
International Criminal Court : ratified

Despite national and international pressure, impunity persisted, particularly in relation to acts of political violence committed during the 2005 presidential election. Supporters of the opposition continued to be detained without trial. There were reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees in custody.

Background

In April, the Togolese National Dialogue between the government and opposition parties resumed. It had been interrupted following the death of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma in 2005. In August, 12 years of political deadlock ended with an agreement to create a national unity government to organize parliamentary elections in 2007. The parties agreed to loosen the eligibility conditions for presidential candidates, to revise electoral rolls and to ensure equitable access to the media during campaigns. They also agreed on the need to end impunity and political violence, to establish a commission to investigate politically motivated violence, and to end interference by army and security forces in the political dialogue.

In July, for the first time since being refused entry in 1999, an AI delegation visited Togo.

In September, President Faure Gnassingbé appointed as Prime Minister Yawovi Agboyibo, leader of the Action Committee for Renewal (Comité d'Action pour le Renouveau, CAR), an opposition party. The Union of Forces for Change (Union des Forces de Changement, UFC) refused to participate in the new government.

UN Committee against Torture

In May, the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern about widespread allegations of torture including rape, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and secret detentions, in particular following the April 2005 presidential election. It noted that the perpetrators of such acts appeared to benefit from total impunity. The Committee welcomed a number of positive steps, including a 1998 law prohibiting female genital mutilation and the commitment to modernize the judiciary. The Committee urged Togo to prevent torture or ill-treatment on its territory, specifying that military personnel should not be involved in the arrest or detention of civilians, and to eliminate impunity.

Detention without trial

A number of people detained in 2005 continued to be held without trial in Lomé Central Prison, including suspected critics of the government. Most were reportedly tortured or ill-treated during the first few days of detention.

• Gérard Akoumey, a member of the UFC, was arrested in September 2005 and accused of a bomb attack on a post office. However, witnesses did not recognize him and he told the judge that he had been tortured. No action was taken to investigate his allegation of torture. He was charged with being a member of a criminal group.

• Kossi Azonledji, a Togolese refugee living in Ghana and a UFC activist, was arrested at his workplace in Ghana in September 2005 by Ghanaian police and handed over to Togolese security forces. He was held for a month in an unknown location, accused of a bomb attack against a post office, detained for two days in Lomé Gendarmerie, then transferred to Lomé Central prison.

Torture, death in custody

There were numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

• The family of Yaya Moussa, a salesman who died in police custody after being arrested on 7 May, filed a complaint against the authorities. A relative said that he had been beaten at the time of his arrest. Members of his family were not allowed to visit him and only learned of his death five days later, when told that his body was in the morgue.

Impunity

Despite official commitments to end impunity, no progress was reported in holding anyone to account for past human rights abuses. These included an assault on journalist and human rights defender Dimas Dzikodo, who lodged a complaint after being attacked by unidentified men on his way home from work in October 2005. In March, then Prime Minister Edem Kodjo announced that he had instructed the police and judicial authorities to drop any charges against those allegedly responsible for offences directly linked to the election, with the exception of those suspected of murder. Nevertheless, a number of victims of human rights violations committed during the 2005 presidential election lodged complaints.

Death penalty

In February, the Assize Court of Kara upheld the death sentences on two individuals tried in absentia for offences including murder. No executions were reported. In July, Prime Minister Edem Kodjo told an AI delegation that he was personally opposed to the death penalty, and the Minister of Human Rights said that the government should introduce a bill abolishing the death penalty.

AI country reports/visits

Report

• Togo: One year on from the April 2005 bloodshed, there is still complete impunity (AI Index: AFR 57/001/2006)

Visit

• In July, AI delegates conducted research in Togo and met government officials.