10 February 2006
62nd session of the Commission on Human Rights
Written statement for inclusion under item 9
The human rights situation in Togo
The International Federation for Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT) and Franciscans International hereby call on the Commission to adopt a resolution on the human rights situation in Togo.
Shortly after the death in February 2005 of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who had led Togo for 37 years, his son, Faure Gnassingbé, was elected on 24 April 2005 to succeed him in a ballot marred by irregularities and serious violence. Civil society organisations were barred en masse from participating in organising and monitoring the vote.
In the days after the presidential elections had taken place and Faure Gnassingbé had been declared the victor, the security forces, aided by militias close to the ruling RPT party, broke up all demonstrations contesting the result and carried out extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, acts of torture and rape. Morgues were closed to families and foreign observers. The abuses forced more than 30 000 Togolese to seek refuge in Benin and Ghana, where the majority have since remained.
United Nations report
On 26 September 2005, the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report on the fact-finding mission concerning the violence and allegations of human rights violations that occurred in Togo before, during and after the presidential elections of 24 April. The UN mission identified the authorities as being the prime driving force behind the killings and chiefly responsible for the political violence and human rights abuses perpetrated during the election. The report highlights the existence of a genuine strategy to create tension, orchestrated by a secret group with close ties to the authorities. Close on 2 500 soldiers in civilian clothes, armed with machetes, were drafted in to help RPT activists break up opposition demonstrations. The High Commissioner’s report puts the number of dead at between 400 and 500, with thousands more injured.
Our organisations remain greatly concerned at the systematic reliance on repressive means, the disproportionate use of violence, the excessive use of force and the deployment of intimidation tactics as methods of government. Impunity is becoming entrenched at the very moment at which the people of Togo need reconciliation amongst themselves and with their leaders. Hence the need for the government to pinpoint those responsible for the repression which followed the death of Gnassingbé Eyadéma.
An iron grip on power
Faure Gnassingbé is now at pains to present a reassuring image of his regime and is seeking to renew links with European backers. However, many observers doubt the sincerity of the alleged desire for reconciliation on the part of a regime, which, for almost 40 years, has shown its determination to use any means - including force if necessary - to hold onto power.
The report published by the Togolese authorities the day after the UN fact-finding mission had issued its report could be viewed as a denial of the atrocities committed before, during and after the rigged presidential elections of April 2005 and as an attempt to play down the suffering of the families concerned.
Torture, arbitrary detention and deplorable prison conditions
As several recent reports have pointed out, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are commonplace during arrests and at detention centres such as police stations and military camps.
Arbitrary detention is also a common occurrence. Prison conditions are of particular concern, with overcrowding exacerbated further by ageing prison infrastructure and abysmal standards of health and hygiene. There are regular reports of deaths resulting from the pitiful detention conditions and the ill-treatment meted out to detainees.
Consequently, FIACAT and Franciscans International call on the Human Rights Commission to adopt a resolution :
Drawing attention to the fact that impunity remains a major scourge that is likely to damage any prospects of properly establishing the rule of law in Togo ;
Calling for follow-up to the fact-finding mission which visited Togo, Benin and Ghana in June 2005 in the form of the establishment of an international commission of inquiry with sufficient means to conduct a full and exhaustive inquiry across the country, as a first step towards bringing those responsible to justice ;
Imploring the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into the possibility of setting up a local office in Togo to monitor closely the human rights situation in that country ;
Calling for a resumption of the transition process in accordance with the Togolese Constitution and the prompt organisation of free, transparent and pluralist elections to be held at the earliest opportunity ;
And calling on the Togolese authorities to :
Implement speedily the recommendations put forward by the international fact-finding mission, including that of acceding to the requests for visits formulated under the special procedures of the Human Rights Commission (the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders) ;
Honour the international obligations to which they have subscribed under African and UN human rights instruments and submit the requisite reports to the Treaty Monitoring Bodies ;
Establish a framework in which the army and political leaders can meet and talk with civil society with a view to achieving the genuine reconciliation that the Togolese people wish to see ;
Initiate the democratic transition process forthwith ;
Combat effectively the corruption which is rife in the country and is also prevalent amongst prominent members of the ruling party, whose willing involvement in these reprehensible and damaging acts of abuse goes unpunished and whose abuse of privilege runs counter to the interests of the Togolese people ;
Set up an independent body to work to bring domestic legislation in Togo properly into line with the international human rights protection instruments which Togo has ratified, to draw up initial or regular reports for the Treaty Monitoring Bodies and ensure that the latter’s recommendations and conclusions with regard to Togo are implemented ;
Launch immediately impartial investigations into all cases of suspicious deaths of detainees and allegations of torture ;
Pursue the perpetrators of acts of torture through the courts and abide by the provisions of the Convention against Torture, to which Togo is a party ;
Undertake immediate reforms to improve the living conditions of detainees, given that the prison detention conditions may be regarded as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment ; and
Abide fully by the principles set forth in the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.