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Benin 2022

Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were still restricted by repressive laws regulating online communications and the right to strike. Cases of arbitrary arrests, and torture and other ill-treatment were documented. Alleged unlawful killings committed by the defence and security forces during the 2021 presidential election had still not been investigated. People with albinism continued to face discrimination and violence.


Several attacks and violent incidents attributed to members of Islamist armed groups in the two northern regions resulted in the killing of at least 12 soldiers. To ease political tensions following the 2019 parliamentary elections, 17 people detained since February 2020 for “undermining state security” were released on 14 June. On 27 July, 30 political opponents arrested during the April 2021 presidential elections were released and placed under judicial supervision. The two opposition leaders Joël Aïvo and Reckiatou Madougou remained in detention, having been condemned to 10 and 20 years’ imprisonment respectively in December 2021 for “money laundering and endangering the security of the state” and “financing terrorism”. In November, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered the detention of Reckiatou Madougou to be arbitrary and called for her immediate release.

Freedom of expression and association

Freedom of expression continued to be threatened by the 2018 Digital Code, which criminalizes with imprisonment the publishing of false information online. In December, journalist Virgile Ahouansè was provisionally released under judicial supervision after 48 hours in police custody. He was accused of publishing “false information” after he made allegations about extrajudicial executions by members of the defence and security forces. After a strike by air traffic controllers in September, the National Assembly voted on 11 October to ban the right to strike for workers at the port and airport of Cotonou, and in the hydrocarbon sector. A 2018 law already limits the right to strike to 10 days per year and bans strikes in certain sectors, including health.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Activist Jean Kpoton was released on 18 January after a year in prison. He had been sentenced in February 2021 under the Digital Code, after a publication on social media networks relating to alleged expenses by the president during a tour of the country.

On 29 January, violent clashes erupted after members of the Azaël Ahouignan sect from Kogandji village in Savalou opposed the arrest of some if its members suspected of violence and destruction of goods and property. According to the authorities, two policemen and six members of the sect were killed. Dozens were arrested. According to local media, some people arrested and released a few days later reported having suffered ill-treatment during their detention.

In the context of attacks by armed groups in northern Benin, a 70-year-old man was arrested by the police on 19 March in Tanguiéta in the Atakora region bordering Burkina Faso. Accused of killing a policeman, he was taken to Cotonou on a day-long 587km journey, during which he was beaten by police with their rifle butts. He was released without charge after one week in detention.1

Two journalists were arrested in March in Tanguiéta while investigating African Parks, the organization that manages the Pendjari National Park. Suspected of espionage, they were detained for four days without any legal grounds.

Right to truth, justice and reparation

As of December, no investigation had been opened into the killings of at least five demonstrators by the security forces in the run-up to the 2021 presidential election.

LGBTI people’s rights

On 4 February, a transgender woman was taken to Pahou police station after being assaulted in Ouidah by neighbours and motorbike taxi-drivers, who accused her of being a thief. Police officers allegedly beat her with sticks and machetes, and stripped and photographed her. She spent three days in detention, naked and deprived of food. She was released on 6 February without charge.2 On 29 June she filed a complaint against the policemen of Pahou police station. In the absence of any further investigation she appealed to the Constitutional Court, which held a hearing in December.

According to LGBTI rights organization the Hirondelle Club, a “mob movement” around the organization’s headquarters on the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on 17 May prevented members from visiting the headquarters for several weeks for fear of intimidation or attack. Representatives of the organization also received death threats via social media and on their phones, but did not complain to the authorities because they assumed that no action would be taken.


In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns about the physical attacks, stigmatization and discrimination perpetrated against people with albinism based on beliefs relating to witchcraft and skin colour. The Committee urged Benin to take effective measures to protect people with albinism and ensure they have equal access to education, health and employment.

  1. “Benin – Togo: Fight against armed groups must not justify human rights violations”, 27 July
  2. “Benin: Police accused of violently attacking transgender woman”, 7 March