"What have we done to deserve such a fate ?"
François Agboli, a truck driver, was injured by a bullet on 27 February 2005. He was unloading his cargo of cement with his two apprentices at around 9 am when military vehicles opened fire on a group of demonstrators. He got into his vehicle to leave, but his two apprentices, Boukary Fousseni, aged 15, and Kouamé Kouakou, aged 25, were killed while trying to climb into the back of the truck. Their boss was hit in the leg and had to have it amputated as a result.
The serious violence following the death in February 2005 of the Togolese president Gnassingbé Eyadema, after 38 years of absolute rule, has resulted in hundreds of deaths and casualties. Tens of thousands who were forced into exile have found refuge in neighbouring Benin and Ghana. This violence was particularly heavy during the presidential election of April 2005, which was officially won by Faure Gnassingbé, the son of the deceased president, who was elected following a ballot marred by irregularities.
In the wake of these events, the Togolese authorities created in May 2005 a national special committee to carry out an independent enquiry and the United Nations commissioned a fact-finding mission. These two enquiries underlined the severity of the crimes committed by the security forces, the militias close to the ruling powers and also by supporters of the opposition. However, none of those presumed responsible for these crimes have yet been prosecuted and the impunity which has prevailed for decades in Togo remains to this day. This belittles the victims’ suffering and may dishearten those who need truth and justice to be established in order to rebuild their lives. In particular, members of the security forces and militias who are guilty of unlawful killings and acts of torture must be brought to justice within a reasonable time frame.
Today, for the first time in Togo, more than a hundred victims of human rights violations have formed a collective of associations in order to file a complaint in court and to try to obtain compensation. These victims have different political affiliations ; some are close to the opposition parties, others are members of the ruling party, and many are just ordinary civilians without any particular political affiliation.
As Togo prepares for a new election, scheduled for June 2007, the authorities must at long last carry out far-reaching reforms to ensure that such violence does not reoccur. These major reforms must above all enable the armed forces and security forces to be efficiently controlled and must strengthen the independence of the judiciary. The Togolese government must match the courage of the victims of the 2005 violence by meeting their expectations of truth, justice and compensation.
TRANSLATION OF THE LETTER
ACAT-Luxembourg (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) has informed me that the victims of the political violence which followed President Gnassingbé Eyadema’s death in February 2005 have filed a complaint in court. It was their pressing need for truth, justice and compensation which led them to take this step in spite of the risks involved. In the past, so many people ; journalists, human rights activists and ordinary citizens have been threatened, intimidated and even arrested and mistreated for having dared to denounce human rights violations in Togo.
It falls to your national unity government - which has arisen from the comprehensive political agreement aiming, among other things, to eradicate impunity - to meet the hopes and expectations of these courageous victims.
While your country is preparing to organise fresh elections, I call upon the Togolese authorities to carry out far-reaching reforms so as to avoid a repetition of the violence that has marred every election. I call, in particular, for :
an impartial, independent and comprehensive enquiry into all the complaints filed, in order to clarify the facts and to identify those responsible and bring them to court in accordance with international norms ;
effective protection of the victims who have filed complaints, and of witnesses ;
full compensation for the injuries and suffering caused ; a clear and resolute declaration aimed at the security forces and civilian militias, informing them that they will be held responsible for their actions in court if they violate human rights ;
a far-reaching reform of the legal system and the security forces in order to finally establish the rule of law in Togo.
I hope that you will seize this historic opportunity to finally reach a peaceful and lasting solution to the crisis in Togo.