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TITLE: TOGO HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DATE: FEBRUARY 1995 TOGO President Gnassingbe Eyadema continued to dominate Togo's Government. In 1994 citizens elected a National Assembly in generally free and fair elections. The new Head of Government is opposition leader Edem Kodjo who serves as Prime Minister. Togo's governmental institutions are, however, still too weak and fragile to ensure democratic government in practice. Although the February elections produced a slight opposition majority in the National Assembly, President Eyadema retains the final say in all matters due to his personal control of the military and security forces. The security forces consist primarily of the army, navy, air force, national police (Surete), gendarmerie, and regular police. Approximately 90 percent of the army's officers and 70 percent of its soldiers come from the President's northern ethnic group. The Interior Minister (after June 1994, the Secretary of State for Security) is nominally in charge of the national police, and the Defense Minister has nominal authority over the other security forces. In fact, all the security forces remain loyal to their chief, President Eyadema, and carry out whatever orders he gives them. Members of the security forces committed serious acts of brutality against civilians. Except for a few cases, the Government did not punish the perpetrators. About 80 percent of the country's 3.4 million people are engaged in subsistence agriculture, but there is also an active commercial sector. Annual per capita gross domestic product is less than $400. The January devaluation of the local currency and the suspension of much foreign economic assistance due to the country's record of human rights abuses severely damaged the economy. The human rights situation was mixed. Although the country held legislative elections, and the new National Assembly assumed some functions of a democratic legislature, there was a significant incidence of political violence and abuse of human rights. There were credible reports that in several cases the security forces and their allies continued to intimidate, harass, and kill civilians and those perceived as enemies of President Eyadema with little apparent fear of punishment. The Eyadema Government subjected the opposition press to repeated criminal prosecutions for expressing critical views. An attack by Togolese armed dissidents and the Togolese military's indiscriminate reaction to it resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and nearly 100 Togolese military fatalities. Prolonged pretrial detention and beating of prisoners are commonplace, and there were several documented cases of torture. Prison conditions remained very harsh. Defendants' rights to fair and expeditious trials are not ensured. Discrimination and some violence against women and some abuse of children continued. Although somewhat diminished, there is a large backlog of persons awaiting trial--some as long as 3 years--due to lack of qualified judicial personnel, an ineffective criminal justice system, and indifference to abuses on the part of some officials. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing Security forces were responsible for political and extrajudicial killing. In only a few instances has the Government proved willing or able to punish the perpetrators. On January 5, a group of armed Togolese dissidents based in Ghana attacked the main military camp and other government sites in Lome with the apparent aim of killing President Eyadema and inflicting casualties on the security forces. Fatalities among the attackers were low, about 10 by their own estimate and somewhat higher according to the Government. In the ensuing 3 days of battle, dissidents killed upwards of 100 members of the security forces, while up to 500 innocent civilians died either at the hands of the attackers or from careless and indiscriminate firing by the security forces. Security forces summarily executed several Ghanaian youths and Togolese military personnel already detained for suspected complicity with the Ghana-based attackers. The Government arrested several persons alleged to have been involved in the January 5 attack, but it did not prosecute or punish any members of the security forces for killing civilians or military detainees. On February 12, according to credible reports, elements of the security forces kidnaped and killed Gaston Edeh, newly elected National Assembly deputy of the opposition Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) party, and two companions. Throughout the year, unknown assailants killed several finance officials, bankers, and other businessmen under unexplained circumstances; but the perpetrators and their motives were unclear since the crimes were not fully investigated. On January 25, assailants kidnaped and murdered labor leader Tchao Idrissou (see Section 6.a.). On February 18, six relatives and associates of the Secretary-General of the same union were reportedly kidnaped by persons in uniform; they have not been seen since that time. By year's end, the Government had made no arrests nor indicated a suspected motive. Seven bodies of persons burned beyond recognition were discovered around the town of Tsevie, north of Lome, in August and September. Although members of the security forces were widely suspected of having committed these killings, police conducted only a cursory investigation and made no arrests. On October 9, armed persons credibly identified as Togolese dissident forces shot and killed four members of the security forces at the gendarmerie and police offices at Vogan, southeast Togo. Several suspects were subsequently arrested and made televised confessions, but the private press widely questioned whether they were, in fact, the ones who carried out the attack. In only a few cases, the Government arrested or punished members of the security forces suspected of involvement in extrajudicial killings. On October 29, authorities arrested and detained Lt. Col. Yoma Djoua, the Commander of the Presidential Guard, along with Master Sergeant Pouli on charges of the robbery and murder of a Togolese notary, Laurent Agbemavor, earlier in the year. Djoua is widely thought to be responsible for many past human rights violations and was more recently rumored to have been involved in plotting against President Eyadema. The military subsequently demoted Djoua to Private. Djoua retired from the military but had not been brought to trial by year's end. Other military associates of Djoua are reportedly in custody. b. Disappearance There were several disappearances, although most had no evident political motive. In some cases these disappearances were credibly linked to members of the security forces. On September 6, armed persons kidnaped Togolese diplomat David Bruce, who has not been seen since then. A witness indicated involvement by members of the security forces. Bruce had been Chief of Staff to the President of the High Council of the Republic, the opposition-dominated interim National Legislature which members of the security forces had earlier targeted with threats and violence. Although the Government began an investigation, it has not reported any results. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Although the law prohibits these practices, security forces and their official affiliates reportedly tortured detainees. The most common means of torture was severe beating, and security force personnel frequently beat detainees after arresting them. The Government did not prosecute or punish any officials for these abuses. Prison conditions remained very harsh, with serious overcrowding and inadequate food and medical care. Children are often incarcerated with adult criminals. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local private organizations have access to prisons for monitoring purposes with advance government permission, but the Government sometimes denied access to other private international nongovernmental groups (NGO's). d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The law allows authorities to hold arrested persons incommunicado without charge for 48 hours, with an additional 48-hour extension in cases deemed serious or complex. In practice, detainees can be and are often detained without bail for lengthy periods with the approval of a judge. Family members and attorneys officially have access to a detainee after the initial 48- or 96-hour detention period, but authorities often delay, and sometimes deny, access. Judges or senior police officials issue warrants. Although detainees have the right to be informed of the charges against them, in practice, police sometimes ignore this right. The law stipulates that a special judge conduct a pretrial investigation to examine the adequacy of the evidence and decide on bail. However, a shortage of judges and qualified personnel and official indifference have resulted in lengthy pretrial detentions--in some cases from 1 to 3 years. As a rough estimate 30 percent of the prison population were pretrial detainees. While a large backlog of untried cases remained, the new Government of Prime Minister Kodjo freed a significant number of prisoners in pretrial detention whose time in jail exceeded that permitted by law. In rare cases, the Government used brief investigative detentions of less than 48 hours to harass and intimidate opposition journalists for alleged defamation of Government officials. There were several political detentions during the year. However, at least 27 political detainees and political prisoners were released at year's end under an amnesty proposed by President Eyadema and approved by the National Assembly on December 15. The amnesty applies specifically to the armed dissidents allegedly involved in the attacks on Lome of March 25, 1993, and January 5, 1994, as well as to other persons inside or outside Togo who allegedly committed political crimes through December 14. It covers opponents of the Government and members of the security forces who may have committed offenses. Bikagni Nikabou was arrested in 1992 and held without trial until he was tried and sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment for arms smuggling on January 7, 1994. Four members of his family were detained without trial starting in 1992. Under the general amnesty, the four family members were released at the end of the year and Nikabou at the beginning of 1995. Police arrested six members of the Union des Forces de Changement, the political party associated with President Eyadema's opponent, Gilchrist Olympio, for having hung posters and for distributing tracts calling on people to boycott the February legislative elections. The authorities released four persons without trial, and convicted two of attempting to disrupt the elections. Police arrested Komi Dackey, a local official of the Aviation Workers' Union, in January on suspicion of involvement in the January 5 attack on Lome by Ghana-based Togolese dissidents. He was held without presentation of evidence but was released in December under the yearend amnesty. The Constitution prohibits exile and the Government did not formally exile anyone. However, several opposition leaders remained abroad for reasons of personal safety, as did over 150,000 citizens who left because of political violence, notably that committed by the security forces in January 1993. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial Although the judicial system is formally independent of the Government, the executive branch can and does intervene at times to manipulate the judiciary. The judicial system employs both African traditional law and the Napoleonic code in trying criminal and civil cases. The Supreme Court stands at the apex of the court system, and special courts exist to handle cases related to public security, embezzlement of public funds, and violent crimes. The court system remained overburdened and understaffed (see Section l.d.). Trials are open to the public, and judicial procedures are generally respected. Defendants have the right to counsel and to appeal. The Bar Association provides attorneys for the indigent. Defendants may confront witnesses, present evidence, and enjoy a presumption of innocence. In rural areas, the village chief or council of elders may try minor criminal and civil cases. Those who reject the traditional ruling may take their case to the regular court system, which is the starting point for cases in urban areas. Political prisoners included Martin Gbenouga, director of the newspaper Tribune des Democrats, who was sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment for publishing a newspaper article critical of the President. He was pardoned in January 1995 (see Section 2.a.). Two members of the opposition political party Democratic Convention of the African People, Gerard Akoumey and Stephane Koudossou, were released in the yearend amnesty. They had been convicted in September 1993 for placing a bomb in July 1993 at the headquarters of the CAR Party. They publicly confessed, but some opposition sources asserted that the charges were police fabrications and that the confessions had been coerced. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence In criminal cases, a judge or senior police official may authorize searches of private residences. In political and national security cases, the security forces need no prior authorization. Police conducted such warrantless searches extensively, searching for dissidents' arms caches as well as for criminals. The Government uses telephone taps, monitors correspondence, and maintains the police and gendarmerie as domestic intelligence services. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press. However, the authorities engaged in sporadic persecution of the independent press, using threats, arrests, prosecutions, and occasional seizures of newspapers. Approximately 15 independent newspapers were published during the year, many highly critical of the President and the Government. Some reported difficulties distributing their editions in interior regions because of harassment by supporters of the President, including some members of the security forces. The official media (two radio stations, one television station, and one daily newspaper) were generally slanted in favor of President Eyadema and the Government, but allowed the opposition limited access. The two private Ghana-based radio stations, which had broadcast opposition views in 1993 ceased to operate during the year, as did a pro-Eyadema private station. The authorities arrested Martin Gbenouga, director of the opposition newspaper Tribune des Democrats, for publishing an article critical of President Eyadema and other African leaders. A court convicted Gbenouga on May 6 of insulting the President and sentenced him to 5 years' imprisonment. Gbenouga was quickly transferred to one of the country's worst prisons, the Mango Penitentiary in Northern Togo In October Gbenouga's conviction was invalidated by the Appeals Court on technical grounds. On January 17, 1995 he was pardoned by the President and released. In March gendarmes briefly detained staff members from the opposition Courrier du Golfe newspaper, whose senior officials then fled the country. The newspaper had reported an alleged plot by pro-Eyadema forces against opposition leader Yaovi Agobyibor and his political party. On August 31, a court sentenced in absentia the managing and assistant editors of the opposition La Sentinelle to 5 years' imprisonment and fined them 3 million CFA francs for publishing an article that allegedly defamed and threatened President Eyadema. The two defendants had already fled Togo. The court further prohibited the newspaper from publishing for 6 months. At the University of Benin, Togo's sole university, academic freedom is constrained by concern by professors about potential harassment by the Government or antiopposition militants. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association Under the Constitution, citizens are free to organize in associations and political parties, but fear of harsh reaction from the Government has restricted public demonstrations. In February and March, local authorities violently suppressed anti-government demonstrations in the largely Muslim city of Sokode. It also violently suppressed religious assemblies there during Ramadan, beating the participants. Although many political meetings were held during the legislative election campaign, many others were canceled after the murder of elected Deputy Gaston Edeh for fear of violence from the pro-Eyadema faction. The Government requires all political parties to register and requires advance notification for public demonstrations. On occasion the Government banned demonstrations or modified their time or place, citing a threat to public safety or interference with public business. c. Freedom of Religion The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. However, the Government has on occasion used force to dispel religious meetings (see Section 2.b.). Local religious groups are free to maintain contacts with coreligionists in other countries. There are no restrictions on travel for religious purposes. All official religious observances are ecumenical in nature, and the Government does not favor any specific religion. Membership in a particular religious group confers no advantage or disadvantage in the regime. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation The right of domestic and foreign travel and emigration, the right to change residence or workplace, and the right to return to the country are generally respected. In 1993, in the wake of political violence by the security forces, more than 250,000 citizens, mainly southerners, fled to neighboring Benin and Ghana, and roughly 125,000 were displaced internally. Many returned, but approximately 150,000 were still abroad at year's end because of concern about their personal safety should they return or because of other considerations including economic ones. The Government's amnesty law was intended to encourage the refugees' return, but results by the end of the year were disappointing. The Government accommodates an estimated 6,000 refugees, mainly Ghanians, and does not force them to return to countries in which they fear persecution. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Despite Constitutional and structural advances, citizens still were only partly able to change their Government. President Eyadema continued to dominate the state apparatus, despite the creation of a parliamentary system and the installation of a new Government under opposition leader Prime Minister Edem Kodjo. In contrast with the seriously flawed presidential elections of 1993, international observers deemed the legislative elections in February to be generally free and fair, although there were deficiencies, including the Government's unwillingness to accredit some foreign observers and local poll watchers. The principles of universal suffrage and secret ballot were observed. However, some members of the security forces, and militants engaged with them, are credibly reported to have engaged in several bombings and attacks on polling places and on one vote-counting center during the second round of the legislative elections. They are also believed responsible for the kidnaping and murder of Gaston Edeh, newly elected member of the CAR Party. Opponents of President Eyadema are credibly reported to have bombed a house belonging to pro-Eyadema Minister of Information Benjamin Agbeka. The Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber, dominated by Eyadema supporters, invalidated the election of Eyadema opponents in three districts in a ruling widely considered to be questionable. Opposition parties won a slight legislative majority and President Eyadema named as Prime Minister Edem Kodjo, the leader of the smaller opposition party in the legislature, the Togolese Union for Democracy, with six seats. In doing so, he met the formal constitutional requirement to name someone "from among the parliamentary majority", but bypassed the leader of the larger (34-seat) opposition party, the CAR's Yaovi Agboyibor. Although the Government allows opposition political parties to function legally and openly, security forces or propresidential militants occasionally harassed, threatened, or intimidated their members or leaders. There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women in political activities, and many women do so through membership in associations and political parties, teachers' unions, and protest groups. However, there was only one female minister in the Kodjo Government. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights There are several local private human rights groups. These include the Togolese Human Rights League and the Association for the Promotion of the Rule of Law. The National Human Rights Commission, a government-sponsored and government-funded human rights organization, remained relatively inactive. The Paris-based Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de L'Homme and the International Committee of the Red Cross visited and participated in seminars. The U.N. Human Rights Subcommission, Amnesty International, and other private organizations criticized the Government for abuses including its failure to take action on human rights violations in 1993 and earlier, including the 1992 attempted assassination of opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio. The Government did not respond in detail but termed the United Nations report "scandalous and outdated." Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnic group, regional or family origin, sex, religion, social or economic status, or personal political or other convictions. However, the Government does not provide effective redress for discrimination complaints, and discrimination based on both ethnic group and sex is common. Women Despite the law and constitutional protections, women continue to experience discrimination, especially in education, pension benefits, and traditional law. A husband may legally oppose his wife's right to work and control her earnings. Employers are often reluctant to hire women, especially for higher level positions. Far fewer women than men attend university, and few women graduate from secondary school. In urban areas, women dominate local market activities and commerce with Togo's neighbors. However, harsh economic conditions in rural areas, where most of the population lives, leave women with little time for anything other than taxing domestic and agricultural field work. Under traditional law, which affects the vast majority of women, a wife has no rights in the event of divorce, separation, or the death of her husband. Violence against women, including wife beating, continues. Although mechanisms exist within both the traditional extended family and formal judicial structures for redress, the police rarely intervene in domestic violence cases. Local houses of prostitution exist. In recent years, instances of trafficking in Togolese women for the purposes of prostitution have come to public attention. These women have been promised jobs in the Middle East or Europe, transported there, then forced into prostitution and sometimes otherwise abused. There are no specific laws dealing with trafficking of this nature, and the Government has made no visible efforts to curtail it. Children The Government cannot afford adequate protection of children's welfare. There are few juvenile courts, and children are often jailed with adult criminals. Orphans and other needy children receive more aid from extended families or private organizations than from the State. Female genital mutilation (FGM), which international health experts have condemned as dangerous to both physical and psychological health is practiced by a few ethnic groups in Togo's northern and central regions. Although some reports indicate the practice, which is typically performed at an early age, may be gradually diminishing, as high as 50 percent of Togolese women may have undergone FGM. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities Members of northern ethnic groups dominate the security forces, while southerners dominate most commerce and the professions. Southerners also dominate most political parties, except for the pro-Eyadema party. Civil unrest in recent years and inadequate law enforcement exacerbated ethnic rivalries dating from precolonial times. With the rise in North-South tensions, majority ethnic group members in those regions have harassed and attacked their neighbors belonging to the minority groups, forcing them back to their home regions. Mainly southern Togolese fled in January 1993 to neighboring Benin and Ghana after some members of the security forces in Lome fired indiscriminately on civilians (see Section 1.a.). People with Disabilities The Government does not mandate accessibility to public or private facilities for people with disabilities. Although the Constitution nominally obliges the Government to aid disabled persons and shelter them from social injustice, the Government provides only limited assistance in practice. While there is no overt state discrimination against disabled persons, and some hold some responsible government positions, the disabled have no meaningful recourse against private sector discrimination, which compels many to beg. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The Constitution provides most workers the right to join unions and the right to strike. Security forces, including firemen and policemen, do not have these rights; government health care workers may join unions but may not strike. The work force in the formal (wage) sector is small, involving about 20 percent of the work force, of whom 60 to 70 percent are union members or supporters. There were no strikes in 1994. There are several major trade union federations. The National Confederation of Togolese Workers (CNTT), though no longer formally affiliated with the Government, remains closely associated with it. The Labor Federation of Togolese Workers (CSTT) and the National Union of Independent Syndicates (UNSIT) probably surpassed the CNTT in membership. Although independent of any political party, they cooperated closely with the opposition parties in the 1992-93 general strike, which was primarily political in nature. During the general strike, a new labor federation, the General Union of Free Unions (UGSL) was formed by workers not in agreement with the strike. This federation is made up primarily of supporters of President Eyadema. The Constitution prohibits discrimination against workers for reasons of sex, origin, beliefs, or opinions. There is no specific law prohibiting retribution against strikers. The Government transferred many civil servants in the wake of their participation in the 1993 general strike. Labor leaders and opposition politicians denounced these transfers as arbitrary and discriminatory. Security forces threatened and harassed some labor leaders. The authorities arrested and imprisoned union official Komi Dackey. Another labor leader, Tchao Idrissou of the Unsyndito Chauffeurs' Union, was kidnaped and murdered by unknown persons for reasons which may have involved his union activities (see Section 1.a.). The various federations and unions are free to associate with international labor groups. The CNTT and the UNSIT are affiliates of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Labor Code nominally provides workers with the right to organize and bargain collectively. All formal (wage) sector employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. However, true collective bargaining is limited by the Government's role in producing a single tripartite bargaining agreement signed by the unions, management, and the Government. This agreement sets wage standards for all formal sector employees. Individual groups in the formal sector can attempt through collective bargaining to negotiate a more favorable package, and some do, but this is not common. The CNTT had a role in the bargaining process in earlier years when it was the de facto monopoly labor federation, but it acted more as a spokesman for labor interests within the Government and ruling party than as an independent labor federation. The Labor Code prohibits antiunion discrimination. The Ministry of Labor is charged with resolving labor-related complaints but does not always do so effectively. A 1989 law allows the establishment of export processing zones (EPZ's). Many companies have EPZ status, and about 20 are currently operating. The EPZ law provides exemptions from some provisions of the Labor Code, notably the regulations on hiring and firing. Employees of EPZ firms do not enjoy the same protection against antiunion discrimination as do other workers. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor Although the law does not address this question, forced or compulsory labor is not known to exist. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The Labor Code prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 in any enterprise. Some types of industrial and technical employment require a minimum age of 18. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor enforce these age requirements, but only in the formal sector in urban areas. In both urban and rural areas, particularly in farming and petty trading, very young children traditionally assist in their families' work. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The Government sets minimum wages for different categories, ranging from unskilled labor through professional positions. Less than the official minimum wage is often paid in practice, but mostly to less skilled workers. Official monthly minimum wages range from approximately $27.50 to $45 (14,000 to 22,000 CFA francs). The minimum wage was established in 1987 and has not been changed, despite the January CFA devaluation which halved the value of the local currency in dollar terms. Many workers cannot maintain a decent standard of living at the lower official minimum wages, and many must supplement their incomes through second jobs or subsistence farming. The Ministry of Labor is ostensibly responsible for enforcement of the minimum wage system but does not enforce the law in practice. The Labor Code, which regulates labor practices, requires equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex. However, this provision is generally observed only in the formal sector. Working hours of all employees in any enterprise, except for agricultural enterprises, normally must not exceed 40 hours per week; at least one 24-hour rest period per week is compulsory, and workers must receive 30 days of paid leave each year. The law requires overtime payments, and there are restrictions on excessive overtime. The Ministry of Labor's enforcement is weak, however, and employers often ignore these provisions. A technical consulting committee in the Ministry of Labor sets health and safety standards in the workplace. It may levy penalties on employers who do not meet the standards, and employees ostensibly have the right to complain to labor inspectors of unhealthy or unsafe conditions without penalty. In practice, the Ministry's enforcement of the various provisions of the Labor Code is limited. Larger enterprises must legally provide medical services for their employees and usually attempt to respect occupational health and safety rules, but smaller firms often do not. (###)
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