The authorities continued to curtail the rights to freedom of expression and of assembly during mass demonstrations organized by opposition groups. Security forces used excessive force against demonstrators with at least 11 people killed during protests. Arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and other ill-treatment, and impunity for human rights violations persisted.
Togo accepted various recommendations that arose from the examination of its human rights record under the UPR process, including to take steps to prevent torture and other human rights violations by the security forces, and to ensure adequate investigation and prosecution of anyone suspected of being responsible. It rejected recommendations including to amend or repeal laws used to crack down on journalists and human rights defenders, including laws criminalizing defamation; and to ensure the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.1
Excessive use of force
The security forces, including the army, continued to suppress and disperse peaceful protests using excessive and lethal force. They violently dispersed protests, beat opposition members and subjected journalists to ill-treatment.
On 28 February, security forces used live ammunition to disperse a spontaneous protest against oil price rises in the capital, Lomé, killing one person and wounding several others.2
In June, the security forces repressed demonstrations organized by a University of Lomé student union which called for improved living conditions. Internet videos showed security force members, armed with shotguns, battering students on the ground with batons. Some students threw rocks at security forces. At least 19 students were arrested, 10 of whom were released shortly after being brought before the prosecutor. On 19 June, seven were released after the Tribunal of Lomé acquitted them of acts of rebellion and destruction of property. On 26 June, Foly Satchivi, President of the Togolese League of Student Rights, and Marius Amagbégnon, received a 12-month suspended prison sentence for aggravated disturbance of public order as the court considered them to be the organizers of the demonstration. After their release on 27 June, they appealed against their convictions. Several students told the court that they were beaten by security forces during arrest and transfer.
Between August and December, the political opposition held mass demonstrations in major cities. The security forces dispersed them with tear gas, batons, water cannons and live ammunition and there were sporadic violent clashes between opposition groups and supporters of the ruling party. The security forces raided houses and places of prayer, beating people, including those who had not participated in demonstrations. At least 10 people were killed, including two members of the armed forces and three children aged between 11 and 14. Hundreds were injured, including members of the security forces. More than 200 people were arrested, including the Secretary General of the opposition Pan African National Party (PNP). At least 60 people were sentenced to prison terms of up to 60 months on charges including rebellion, wilful destruction, assault, violence against state officials, aggravated disruption of the public order and aggravated theft.3
Freedom of expression
The authorities continued to curtail the right to freedom of expression. They arbitrarily closed media outlets and arrested community and opposition leaders for expressing dissent. They cut off the internet to prevent activists and journalists from reporting violations.
On 6 February, the High Authority for Audiovisual and Communication (HAAC) withdrew the frequencies of radio station CityFM and TV station La Chaîne du Futur for breaching licensing rules. The HAAC statute did not provide any mechanism to appeal against the decision.4
On 7 February, journalist Robert Kossi Avotor was beaten with batons and handcuffed by gendarmes to prevent him from photographing an eviction in Lomé. He was detained and his photographs deleted, before being released on the same day without charge. He filed a complaint with the prosecution services in Lomé to which he said he had received no response by the end of the year. On 22 February, the General Prosecutor issued a warning that anyone who reported on the attack on Robert Kossi Avotor would risk criminal prosecution for “disseminating false news”.
Kombate Garimbité, a member of the opposition Alliance of Democrats for Integral Development (ADDI), was arrested on 4 April after he criticized a call made by the chief of the Yembour locality for students’ relatives to pay for damages caused during a protest in March. The authorities accused him of organizing the March protest and he was charged with aggravated disturbance of public order. He claimed that he was not involved in the protests and was in Lomé, 630km away from Yembour, at the time. By the end of the year, he remained in detention without trial.5
Salomée T. Abalodo was arrested by gendarmes in Pagouda, a town in the Kara region, on 13 April after she took pictures of wounded protesters and asked local authorities to stop security forces using excessive force against peaceful demonstrators. She was charged with “rebellion” and “participation in an unauthorized protest”. She was released on 12 May when the Tribunal of Pagouda dropped the charges.6
The authorities shut down the internet for nine days in September amid opposition-led protests, disrupting the organization of the protest and impeding the work of human rights defenders and journalists who were monitoring the protests.
The authorities continued to fail to take steps to identify those suspected of responsibility for human rights violations, including the deaths of nearly 500 people, during the violence surrounding the presidential election in 2005. Of the 72 complaints filed by the victims’ families with the Atakpamé, Amlamé and Lomé courts, none are known to have been fully investigated.
- Amnesty International urges Togo to expressly commit to protecting the rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly (AFR 57/5884/2017)
- Togo. Un mort par balle et plusieurs blessés lors d’une manifestation dispersée par l’armée (Press release, 1 March)
- Togo. Les autorités doivent s’abstenir de tout recours injustifié ou excessif à la force lors des manifestations de l’opposition (Press release, 6 September); Togo. Un enfant de neuf ans tué par balle lors des manifestations (Press release, 20 September)
- Togo. Le retrait des fréquences de deux médias est une attaque contre la liberté d’expression (Press release, 6 February)
- Togo. Un militant politique détenu pour ses opinions doit être libéré (Press release, 12 April)
- Togo: Detained community leader wrongly charged: Salomée T. Abalodo (AFR 57/6193/2017)