Togo: Committee Against Torture Examines the Situation in Togo

The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the seventh periodic report of Togo on the efforts made by the State party to implement the provisions of the Convention against Torture.

Introducing the report, Christian Eninam Trimua, Minister for Human Rights and Relations with the Institutions of Togo, said the report covered the 2012-2017 period but his presentation would take into consideration developments that had occurred after it had been submitted. Concerning the legal and institutional framework, the new penal code included a definition of torture that was in line with article 1 of the Convention and established the imprescriptibility of this crime. Declarations or confessions obtained through torture were null and void.

A new law had profoundly restructured the National Commission for Human Rights, strengthening its prerogatives and entrusting it formally with the responsibilities of a national prevention mechanism. Additional resources had been mobilized to ensure its proper functioning and independence, and it was intended that these resources would be increased in the 2020 budget.

The capacity of judicial police and other actors had been strengthened between 2012 and 2017. Two regional training workshops had been organized, and 120 judicial police officers working on the prevention or torture had attended. All the cases of alleged torture and violence committed in the context of the 2005 events had been examined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This had led 2,510 victims to benefit from financial compensation as well as medical and psychological support. While cognizant of the challenges it faced, the Government continued to act with conviction and determination to further promote and protect human rights in general and the fight against torture in particular.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts underscored the recent positive developments, such as the definition of torture included in the criminal code, which corresponded to the Convention's definition.

However, in the absence of a criminal procedure code, it was difficult to implement the progressive elements of the new criminal code. He asked where the adoption of the criminal procedure code stood. Had the Government achieved any progress in moving forward with its adoption? Turning to legal safeguards, he pointed out that the State party had acknowledged in its report that they were implemented in an irregular and random fashion.

What was the state of law regarding these guarantees today? There was a lack of rigor in the management of the detainee registrar. Police custody could be lengthy, as it was frequently extended arbitrarily. There had been numerous reports that these extensions were made without any control. There had been reports that, despite this legal framework, the Togolese authorities had complied with an expatriation request made by Equatorial Guinea. Could the delegation provide information on this case, which involved Fulgencio Obiang Esonio and Francisco Obama? He requested information about the number of refugees and asylum seekers in the country, as there seemed to be discrepancies between the State party's report and the presentation that had been made this morning by the delegation.

Despite legal rules, quite a few prisoners had been held in preventive detention for several years - some of them for periods longer than the sentences would have required had the concerned individuals been found guilty - and had not been compensated. And yet, the law stipulated that preventive detention should not be long. Why were people held in preventive detention for so long?

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Trimua thanked the Committee Members for hearing the delegation. All the Committee's recommendation would be forwarded the relevant governmental entities.

Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for its diligence and its constructive participation in the dialogue.

The delegation of Togo consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights and Relations with the Institutions of the Republic, the National Assembly, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Action, Promotion of Women and Literacy, the Ministry of Defence and Veterans Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Togo to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 30 July, at 10 a.m. when it will consider the initial report of Bangladesh (CAT/C/BGD/1).

Report

The seventh periodic report of Togo can be read here:CAT/C/TGO/3

Presentation of the Report

CHRISTIAN ENINAM TRIMUA, Minister for Human Rights and Relations with the Institutions of Togo, said the report covered the 2012-2017 period but his presentation would take into consideration developments that had occurred after it had been submitted. Concerning the legal and institutional framework, the new penal code included a definition of torture that was in line with article 1 of the Convention and established the imprescriptibility of this crime. Declarations or confessions obtained through torture were null and void. A new law had profoundly restructured the National Commission for Human Rights, strengthening its prerogatives and entrusting it formally with the responsibilities of a national prevention mechanism. Additional resources had been mobilized to ensure its proper functioning and independence, and it was intended that these resources would be increased in the 2020 budget. The capacity of judicial police and other actors had been strengthened between 2012 and 2017. Two regional training workshops had been organized, and 120 judicial police officers working on the prevention or torture had attended. All the cases of alleged torture and violence committed in the context of the 2005 events had been examined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This had led 2,510 victims to benefit from financial compensation as well as medical and psychological support.

Particular attention was paid to detention conditions and, more broadly, the modernization and improvement of the penitentiary infrastructure, notably the Lomé civil prison. To address overcrowding, the new penal code provided for alternatives to imprisonment, such as community work and penal mediation. Measures were being taken to separate adults from children as well as women and men. Women had been guarded by female officers since 2012. Togo had abolished the death penalty in 2009, and the prohibition of torture was enshrined in the constitution. On violence against women and girls, a national communications strategy had been put in place aiming to address cultural or traditional practices inciting violence against children, including female genital mutilation and early marriage. Mass awareness-raising campaigns and radio broadcasts on human trafficking had been put in place in regions where this practice had been recurring. The Council of Ministers had adopted a new law that established a new judicial organization, making the judicial system more modern and more accessible. The law, which reinforced the specialization and independence of justice as well as the fair access to local justice, would be adopted by the National Assembly. While cognizant of the challenges it faced, the Government continued to act with conviction and determination to further promote and protect human rights in general and the fight against torture in particular.

Questions by the Country Co-Rapporteurs

SÉBASTIEN TOUZÉ, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Togo, underscored the recent positive developments, such as the definition of torture included in the criminal code, which corresponded to the Convention's definition. However, in the absence of a criminal procedure code, it was difficult to implement the progressive elements of the new criminal code. He asked where the adoption of the criminal procedure code stood. Had the Government achieved any progress in moving forward with its adoption? Turning to legal safeguards, he pointed out that the State party had acknowledged in its report that they were implemented in an irregular and random fashion. What was the state of law regarding these guarantees today? There was a lack of rigor in the management of the detainee registrar. There was no reference to their state of health, for instance. Could the State party provide more information on this matter? Police custody could be lengthy, as it was frequently extended arbitrarily. There had been numerous reports that these extensions were made without any control.

On medical examinations, he recalled that it was necessary that they be carried out for people in custody who were not in good health. What information could the delegation provide on this issue? Did the State party intend to adopt measures to ensure that detained persons could stay in contact with the outside world and inform their loved ones? There had been reports that some detainees' right to consular protection and assistancehad not been respected. Had the Government taken measures since then to safeguard this right? He asked what steps the State party had taken to ensure that detained persons exercised the right to legal representation. Did people in Togo have the possibility to receive legal assistance free of charge?

Turning to allegations of torture and ill-treatment, Mr. Touzé cited the case of Ms. Sessi Mélé, who had filed a complaint after being arrested, beaten and dragged to a police station. No investigation had been launched. Could the State party provide an explanation for this? The Central Service for Criminal Investigation and Research had allegedly inflicted ill-treatment on various individuals. Some of them also said they had been tortured. Yet, from a legal point of view, this Service should not be involved in maintaining public order. What was this Service's role and function? He asked the delegation for information on the allegations that he had just mentioned.

Regarding the use of force by law enforcement officials and paragraph 12 of the list of issues, he pointed out that satisfactory answers had not been provided. This silence was telling. Had any investigations taken place? The Committee had received information about recent complaints related to alleged acts of torture, which contradicted the State party's statements. There had reportedly been at least 16 complaints made by alleged victims of torture, which had been filed between July and September 2018. Could the State party provide the Committee with assurances that these complaints, as well as those that had been filed since, would be examined in line with the Convention and duly prosecuted? Why had the Government chosen to remain passive in the face of serious reports of torture, such as the resolution that had been adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in May 2018?

Mr. Touzé requested disaggregated data on complaints about ill-treatment or torture as well as on related investigations, prosecutions, decisions and sentences. The Committee had asked for this information, but the State party had failed to respond. Why? There had been reports of repression of political demonstrations, notably by Amnesty International. Had effective measures been taken to investigate these allegations? Journalists had also been reportedly intimated while covering demonstrations. Some of them had even allegedly been beaten up. What, exactly and specifically, had been done to address the intimidation of the press?

What would happen if the activities of the National Commission for Human Rights did not please the Government? Was it possible that its subsidy would be reduced or cut off? That subsidy should be steady and shielded from political influence. The Committee would like to be reassured in that regard. Could the delegation assure that the Commission would have sufficient resources to discharge both its mandates, that was its responsibilities as the national human rights institution and the national prevention mechanism? Recalling that one of the former Presidents of the Commission was living in exile, he asked the delegation to outline the criteria used to appoint members of the Commission.

There were still cases of female genital mutilation and early marriage in Togo. Did the State party have updated statistics on these issues?

CLAUDE HELLER-ROUASSANT, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Togo, said that article 33 of the Constitution prohibited the expulsion of foreign nationals except when a legal ruling required it. There had been reports that, despite this legal framework, the Togolese authorities had complied with an expatriation request made by Equatorial Guinea. Could the delegation provide information on this case, which involvedFulgencio Obiang Esonio and Francisco Obama? He requested information about the number of refugees and asylum seekers in the country, as there seemed to be discrepancies between the State party's report and the presentation that had been made this morning by the delegation. Despite legal rules, quite a few prisoners had been held in preventive detention for several years - some of them for periods longer than the sentences would have required had the concerned individuals been found guilty - and had not been compensated. And yet, the law stipulated that preventive detention should not be long. Why were people held in preventive detention for so long? Any updated statistics on this matter would be very welcome.

On detention conditions, Mr. Heller-Rouassant noted that the situation had not significantly improved since the State party last came before the Committee. Living conditions in the country's prisons did not meet international standards and could amount to ill-treatment. He enquired about the impact of the National Programme on the Modernization of Justice on prison overcrowding. Did the Government intend to build additional prisons or renovate the old ones? Would there be a new national plan to bring down the extraordinarily high level of overcrowding?

The Lomé Prison was the only prison that had a sanitary infrastructure and was visited regularly by a doctor every two weeks. Due to this lack of resources, detainees had to pay for health care services in prisons. And those that did not have the means to pay sometimes died in detention. What steps did the Government foresee to address this matter? Did each death trigger an investigation? Were the deceased detainees' families compensated? He asked for clarification regarding reports that conducting visits to detention facilities had become increasingly difficult.

He requested information on the institutional practice of impunity, notably as regarded the 2005 elections, the political events that took place between April 2009 and August 2012, and the 2017 demonstrations. On data collection he asked for details about the Ministry of Justice's plans to improve current practices.

How exactly did the State party ensure that confessions or declarations obtained through torture were null and void? Could they give information on cases where evidence had been discarded? He asked for clarification regarding the inclusion of modules on the Istanbul Protocol, the Mandela Rules and the Bangkok Rules in the training provided in police and gendarmerie schools. What did the State party mean by "regularly" when it stated that enforcement officials were regularly sent abroad for training?

Mr. Heller-Rouassant asked if the delegation had information on the results of the work of the High Commissioner for Reconciliation and Strengthening National Unity. Turning to violence against women and girls, he asked about the percentage of women who had been victims of an act of sexual violence. Did the State party intend to create a national plan to tackle this issue, as well as forced early marriages? It was preoccupying that the prostitution of children over the age of 15 was not illegal and that hundreds of children were being prostituted at Lomé's "children market". Could the delegation provide information on steps taken by the State party to addresschild prostitution?

Questions by Other Committee Members

Other Committee Members asked for comments on the length of the mandate of members of the National Commission for Human Rights and its impact on the Commission's independence; data on complaints related to ill-treatment and torture suffered at the hands of law-enforcement officers; data on sexual violence against women; data on complaints and investigations related to allegations of violence against women; information on the preliminary investigation phase's reliability; and information on efforts, if any, to reign in the Central Service for Criminal Investigation and Research.

Replies by the Delegation

CHRISTIAN ENINAM TRIMUA, Minister for Human Rights and Relations with the Institutions of Togo, said that Togo had had a difficult history and a complicated legal heritage. It was not like other Francophone countries from Western Africa; it had a mixed heritage. Togo had been evolving but had to keep up the pace to fully comply with its obligations under international law.

The Central Service for Criminal Investigation and Research was responsible for, inter alia, centralizing and analyzing information related to crimes and offences observed by the national gendarmerie; coordinate research and monitoring efforts for all crimes and offences as well as terrorism; ensure operational liaison with the national police services and the central Interpol office. Regarding public demonstrations, it was clear that the Service's mission was not to maintain, let alone to reestablish, public order. However, Central Service for Criminal Investigation and Research staff members were gendarmes, and, as such, could be mobilized to reinforce the law enforcement workforce. In this context, they answered to the body responsible for public order rather than the Central Service for Criminal Investigation and Research.

Contrary to allegations, visits to the Central Service for Criminal Investigation and Research facilities were not forbidden. They were subject to current regulations. The most recent visits by the National Human Rights Commissions had been organized following the arrest of individuals on 30 June 2019. To access to Central Service for Criminal Investigation and Research one had to go through administrative formalities, just as was the case for all other judiciary police services as well as prisons.

Some Togolese had seized the human rights treaty bodies without first filing a complaint before the relevant national judiciary body. This was not conducive to the State taking appropriate measures regarding allegations of violations. Some Togolese did not hesitate to fabricate facts to serve a hidden agenda.

On the non-refoulement principle and Fulgiencio Obiang Esono and Francisco Micha Obama, the delegation explained that these individuals were Equatorial Guinea nationals. While they were travelling through Lomé, they had been arrested on 18 September 2018 and then turned over the Equatorial Guinea authorities. It was important to note that these individuals did not ask for asylum in Togo, and had therefore not been subjected to refoulement. The Togolese authorities were not in a position to assess the risks that the individuals would be subjected to torture in Equatorial Guinea nor the detention conditions they would face.

Turning to legal safeguards, the delegation stressed procedural guarantees were respected, as per the Criminal Procedure Code. Monitoring programmes and unannounced visits would be increased to monitor detention conditions and ensure services were provided in a professional manner. Apart from the Lomé Prison, where there was a squad dedicated to minors, there were sectors reserved for minors which were located in the same building as sectors for adults.

As for the independence of the magistrature, reforms were ongoing to improve the Higher Council of the Magistrature's code of ethics. Turning topenitentiary institutions' budget, there had not been any additional funding allocations. For 2020, budgetary planning allocated 600 million to food provision to detainees. However, it would be necessary to address the overcrowding issue for this allocation to allow each inmate to get two meals per day.

The Government was considering the implementation of a programme to improve penitentiary infrastructures. This would resolve overcrowding issues by increasing hosting capacity and improving sanitary conditions. These constructions required significant resources; adequate planning was therefore necessary. The Prime Minister, on 25 January 2019, had stressed that rigorous measures had to be taken with regards to any individuals who had committed torture or inflicted any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment onto another person. Judicial authorities had not remained idle in the face of various torture-related complaints. Each complaint had been examined. It just so happened that they did not concern torture, as the requirements of the definition of torture had not been met. Members of the Public Prosecution were not sparing any efforts so that all complaints that had been filed may be processed in a manner which respected citizens' rights.

Legal assistance was regulated by a law that had been adopted on 24 May 2013. A modification of this law was being considered. It aimed to make the legislation more pragmatic and easily applicable. As legal assistance was not yet effective, measures had been taken to narrow the gap. The delegation cited the Human Rights Caravan of Togo's Bar Association as an example in that regard. Two awareness-raising workshops had been organized on the importance of statistical data, aiming to familiarize participants with data collection tools. Furthermore, sessions had also been held to train magistrates on torture in 2017. Penitentiary agents also benefited from two training sessions on human rights in prisons during the 2017-2018 period. A new law establishing a new judiciary organization had been adopted by the Council of Ministers and was set to be voted on by the National Assembly in the near future. This was a prerequisite for the adoption of a new Criminal Procedure Code.

Detainees were informed of their rights, including the right to consult with a lawyer, to be examined by a doctor, to communicate with members of their family and, for foreigners, to inform their diplomatic representation of their detention. The defendants could choose their lawyers, as they were the ones paying for their legal representation. This information was provided to them during the pretrial investigation. There were legal centres in the prisons to provide detainees with any information they may require.

The National Human Rights Commission enjoyed an A status with regard to the Paris Principles. Following a secret ballot held during the National Assembly's plenary session, the elected persons were nominated through a decree. The Government therefore had no influence on the nomination process. Nine new members of the Commission had been elected on 22 mars 2019, in line with the revised law. As regards its funding, it was true that it benefited from a subsidy, but there had never been a break in the subsidy provided. In fact, these subsidies had been increased. The delegation said that a short mandate could encourage members of the Commission to better perform and be more efficient.

In Togo, the environment was conducive to the enjoyment of public freedoms. Civil society organizations - in particular human rights organizations, many of whom collaborated with the Government - also benefited from this environment. No human rights defenders nor any civil society representative had been subjected to reprisal, intimidation, harassment, stigmatization or criminalization due to their engagement. It was important to say that in a democratic society, all liberties had to be enjoyed in line with laws and regulations. Restrictions were necessary to ensure public safety, public order and the protection of human rights and liberties of other people.

Female genital mutilation was progressively being abandoned in Togo. The main challenge faced by Togo was the trans-border character of this phenomenon. Parents who still opted for this practice crossed borders, or had women come over to Togo from other countries, to perform female genital mutilation on their children.

To foster vulnerable persons' access to justice, justice centres had been created by former magistrates, in collaboration with community leaders, tribunals and centres for women who had been victims of violence. To tacklehuman trafficking, the Government had strengthened the relevant legal framework through the adoption and enactment of the new Penal Code. It had also organized awareness-raising campaigns, notably in East Mono, Tchamba and Dakpen, where 20,000 persons had been reached, and signed a bilateral agreement with Gabon to tackle trafficking in children.

The Government had carried out a national study on cultural and traditional practices that were harmful to children and implemented the Notsè Declaration by reinforcing awareness-raising and obtaining the early liberation of 486 children that were held in Voodoo convents.

Follow-up Questions by Country Co-Rapporteurs

SÉBASTIEN TOUZÉ, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Togo, asked for clarification regarding the role of the Central Service for Criminal Investigation and Research and its relationship with law enforcement entities. Regarding the allegations of violations, would the Government consider assisting victims of torture who wished to register complaints? On the adoption of the Criminal Procedure Code, there were gaps that needed to be addressed, and there was not a lot of time for the inclusion of appropriate provisions. When it came to custody, the possibility for extension for which the code provided, for instance, did not really differ from current practices. There could be improvements in that area. Further consideration should be given to alternative sentences. Mr. Touzé questioned the idea that the Lomé Prison could serve as a model. Should it even remain open? Turning to the National Human Rights Commission, he stressed that steps had to be taken in order to maintain its independence. On violence against children, he requested information on the impact of the measures taken by the Government.

CLAUDE HELLER-ROUASSANT, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Togo, asked if the delegation thought that in Lomé, dismantling the prison and constructing a new building could be a good option. Was the Government considering new penitentiary policies that would call for the destruction of old prisons that were not meeting standards? Greater emphasis should be placed on improving the awareness of international standards and protocols like the Mandela Rules. It seemed that the kind of reparation provided for in Togolese legislation was mainly monetary. Would there be any kind of reparation that would include the rehabilitation of victims? Did the Government have specialized personnel that could work on this? Turning to violence against children, he said Togo was faced with a complex societal problem. Child prostitution and corporal punishment were a source of concern for the Committee. To tackle these issues, the adoption of a few laws would not suffice; a cultural shift was required. Bearing in mind everything that had been discussed thus far, how could the Committee better assist the State Party?

Follow-up Questions by Other Committee Members

Other Committee Members asked information about the draft Criminal Procedure Code; efforts deployed to tackle prison overcrowding and this phenomenon's link to pretrial detention, medical care and the spread of diseases; whether the Government intended to contribute to the United Nations' Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture; as well as on the length of the National Human Rights Commission's nomination process.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that, as gendarmes, members of the Central Service for Criminal Investigation and Research, when required, could be redeployed to a law enforcement unit tasked with keeping order on the ground. The individuals who had been handed to Equatorial Guinea had come to Togo in the context of their regular political activities; one could not talk about refoulement in this case.

The Government was thinking about ways to set aside the process of paid visits. Detainees were not systematically required to pay for healthcare. However, if a prisoner needed surgery, for instance, and if the Government was unable to provide it free of charge, the prisoner would have to pay for it.

In Togo, the Government had provided for the National Human Rights Commission to have other sources of financing, as long as it did not detract from its independent and transparency. The Government had undertaken work to enrol religious and community leaders to address violence against children. By signing the Notsè Declaration, they had committed to progressively do away with harmful practices. The fact that people did not complain was a challenge, but the hotline had proven helpful in that regard.

Regarding the destruction of old prisons, the delegation said the Government would require significant financial support from its partners to carry out such an operation.

CHRISTIAN ENINAM TRIMUA, Minister for Human Rights and Relations with the Institutions of the Republic of Togo, said the Government looked forward to the Committee's recommendations that would help it improve the Criminal Procedure Code.

Concluding Remarks

CHRISTIAN ENINAM TRIMUA, Minister for Human Rights and Relations with the Institutions of the Republic of Togo, thanked the Committee Members for hearing the delegation. All the Committee's recommendations would be forwarded the relevant governmental entities.

JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for its diligence and its constructive participation in the dialogue.

Follow UNIS Geneva on: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |Flickr

See What Everyone is Watching

More From: OHCHR

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 700 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.