50th Ordinary Session of the
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Item 6 on the Agenda
Human rights situation in Africa
Oral statement by FIACAT
The International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT) wishes to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election as President of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
FIACAT continues to be very concerned at the acts of torture and detention conditions in Africa, and particularly in Togo and Burundi.
In Togo, none of the current provisions of the Criminal Code explicitly defines torture or criminalizes it in the current criminal code explicitly defines torture. The absence of any such definition makes the complete ban on torture meaningless and means that it cannot be prevented or effectively punished.
FIACAT welcomes the bill amending the Togolese Penal Code, which would incorporate into this a definition of torture and ill-treatment. However, that draft act has been awaiting adoption in the parliament for over two years. FIACAT hopes that the consideration of periodic report on Togo by the African Commission will help accelerate the adoption of that legislation.
In Burundi, detention conditions are disastrous and are often tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The ’dungeon’ buildings in which prisoners are held are old, unhealthy and overcrowded. The occupancy rate in some prisons is often 700%.
There is often no lighting or ventilation, and any toilets there are unusable. Prisoners do not always have access to drinking water or food. By way of example, on 11 May 2011, 37 people were detained in the Makamba prison run by the Internal Security Police. Owing to the overcrowded conditions there, the toilets had overflowed into the three cells and the detainees had to clear the excrement with their own hands.
In some prisons, there are no separate cells for women and children and adult males. This is notably the case in municipality of Muhuta and in those municipalities dependent on the court of Cankuzo.
Moreover, although, under the Burundi Code of Criminal Procedure, periods of custody cannot exceed 14 days, FIACAT has found that some people have been kept in custody for periods sometimes exceeding five months. FIACAT has also found mentally ill people who have committed no crime in prison. One such person had been imprisoned 35 days previously and had been handcuffed to a metal bar. He was going to the toilet on the ground beneath him as he was unable to change position, even to sleep. He was being kept in the open air and had no blanket to shield him from the cold. There were no grounds for his imprisonment.
It is FIACAT’s opinion that these indefinite and groundless incarcerations constitute arbitrary detentions.
Burundi and Togo abolished the death penalty in April and June 2009 respectively, but neither of the two states has signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.
Accession to that international treaty is extremely important as it is the only overarching text which aims to abolish the death penalty. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights made reminder of this in 2008 when it called on the ’States [Member of the African Union] which have not already done so to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on abolition of the death penalty’.
In addition, the death penalty has still not been removed from the Togolese Criminal Code despite its abolition two years ago. Law No 80-1 of 13 August 1983 establishing the Criminal Code remains on the Togolese statute book and the bill amending the Criminal Code, which was initiated in 2006 as part of the National Programme for Modernisation of the Judicial System, has still to be adopted.
Thank you, Madam Chair