Togo 2020
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Togo 2020

The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were restricted. The police used excessive force, notably while enforcing COVID-19 restrictions. Health workers protested against the lack of PPE and poor conditions, while prisoners were at risk of COVID-19. Violence against women persisted.

Background

In February, the President was re-elected for a fourth term while the opposition denounced alleged electoral fraud and irregularities. The presidential contender, Agbéyomé Kodjo, declared himself President. He was charged with “disturbing public order” and “undermining internal state security” after he called on the army to mobilize against the government. His parliamentary immunity was lifted and, in April, he was detained for three days. Upon release, he was placed under judicial supervision. His supporters also faced arrest and prosecution.

The government implemented measures which restricted the rights to freedom of movement and peaceful assembly, and released 1,048 prisoners in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Brigitte Kafui Adjamagbo and Gérard Yaovi Djossou, members of a coalition of opposition parties and civil society organizations, were arrested by police in November and charged with “criminal conspiracy” and “undermining the internal security of the state” in connection with protests against the presidential election results and harassment of opponents. They were released conditionally after around three weeks in detention.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The use of torture continued in police detention. On 23 April, police arrested Kokou Langueh. He said that while he was held at the Central Directorate of Judicial Police headquarters in Lomé, police beat him on his back and buttocks for several hours to extract a “confession” about his connections with Agbéyomé Kodjo. He was released on 30 April without charge.

Freedom of expression

The authorities continued to restrict the right to freedom of expression. In January, the new Press and Communication Code allowed for journalists to be punished with hefty fines for insulting the President, MPs, and government members.

In February, the internet was shut down on polling day. Meanwhile, the electronic communications of human rights defenders, activists and others were put under surveillance.

In March, the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication ordered the suspension of the Liberté and L’Alternative newspapers for 15 days and two months respectively because they had published “serious, unfounded, and derogatory” accusations against the French ambassador. After the Fraternité newspaper published an article criticizing the suspensions, it was also suspended for two months.

In April, François Doudji and Béni Okouto of the Collective of Associations against Impunity in Togo, and a journalist, Teko-Ahatefou Aristo, were arrested while they were monitoring a police intervention at Agbéyomé Kodjo’s house. They were interrogated at the Central Intelligence and Criminal Investigation Service and released the same day.

In November, L’Alternative newspaper and its publications director were each fined XOF2 million (US$3,702) for defamation and ordered to compensate financially the complainant in relation to a story about misappropriation of funds.

Freedom of assembly

The police prevented the Mandela Consciousness Movement from holding its official organizational launch in July, without providing a reason.

The authorities banned peaceful protests and meetings, including protests related to the disputed election results, particularly between August and October.

Excessive use of force

The security forces used excessive force while enforcing COVID-19 measures or dispersing peaceful protesters.

In March, Émile Bousse was shot dead by a soldier in Agoègan on the Togo/Benin border. He had refused to comply with orders when he was arrested for crossing the border which was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Security Ministry said the soldier was arrested.

In April, Gueli Kodjossé died from his injuries in the Avedji district in Lomé, the capital. The Minister of Security said that he died as a result of his epilepsy. However, his family said he was not epileptic, but was beaten to death by security forces during the curfew. Dodji Koutouatsi was beaten to death in April by security forces when he went out during the curfew.

In the same month, the authorities opened investigations into the killings of people at the hands of law enforcement agents policing the COVID-19 curfew.

In May, Agbendé Kpessou was shot dead in Avedji by a police officer for disobeying an order during an altercation with two soldiers. The authorities launched an investigation but there was no further information about its progress at the end of the year.

Security forces killed one person and injured several others when they used tear gas canisters to disperse a traditional celebration in the Prefecture of Doufelgou in September.

Right to health

Health workers

Health workers lacked adequate PPE and denounced the lack of an incentive bonus. In August, staff at Lomé University Hospital Centre threatened to go on strike and demonstrated at the hospital premises calling for PPE and better sanitary conditions. In September, the authorities provided all medical staff with health care insurance. In November, the government announced a one-off XOF50,000 (around US$92) bonus for all health workers.

Prisoners

After 6% of 283 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 at Lomé prison, a group of inmates started a riot demanding their release or relocation to safer detention facilities. Guards quelled the protest with tear gas.

Violence against women and girls

The UN Population Fund recorded 839 cases of gender-based violence, including 13 rapes, between January and June. Women and girls were increasingly at risk of domestic violence when COVID-19 measures restricted their movement.

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