HRDs remain in detention: civil society protests
#Togo Foly Satchivi, membre du mouvement citoyen «En aucun cas», n’a fait qu'usé de sa liberté d’expression, droit fondamental protégé par la Constitution togolaise en son article 25. Sa place n'est pas en prison. Il est détenu depuis le 22 août 2018 https://t.co/0uDnjbuIhf pic.twitter.com/bwJBeIfWNi— Clément Boursin (@ClementBoursin) 11 October 2018
On 22nd August 2018, security forces arrested activist, youth leader and spokesperson of the social movement 'En aucun cas' (Under no circumstances) Folly Satchivi. He was on his way to the offices of an NGO in Bè-Gakpoto in Lomé where he was to hold a press conference on the deteriorating socio-political climate in the country. The Minister of Security and Civil Protection General Yark Damehane said that the movement has no authorisation and therefore the press conference was considered illegal. He was charged a day later with 'rebellion', 'apology of and incitement to commit crimes', 'misdemeanours' and 'serious disruption of public order'. The Court of First Instance of Lomé denied Satchivi bail on 30th August 2018, and he remains in detention.
Three other civil society actors, who had been arrested in the context of the protests which has been ongoing since August 2017, remain in preventive detention. Messenth Kokodoko and Joseph Eza, both members of the social movement Nubueke, were arrested on 19th October 2017. Assiba Johnson, president of the organisation Regroupement des jeunes africains pour la démocratie et le développement (REJADD - Group of Young Africans for Democracy and Development), was arrested on 4th April 2018. The Observatory of the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Collectif des associations contre l’impunité au Togo (CACIT; Collective of Associations against Impunity in Togo) and the Ligue togolaise des droits de l’Homme (LTDH; Togolese League of Human Rights) said in a statement:
"In the aftermath of the major popular protests that have been shaking the country since August 2017 and which have been severely repressed, Togo continues to live in a tense political climate where human rights defenders are regularly subjected to threats, intimidation and attacks. and even arbitrary detention. The harassment of defenders is made possible by an overly vague criminal legal framework, which criminalizes the legitimate exercise of the freedom of expression and the freedom of association." (translated from French)
The continued detention of HRDs in the country has been criticised by national and international actors, demanding the unconditional release of those in detention. In September 2018, President of the opposition party Les Démocrates (The Democrats), Nicodème Ayao Habia, started a hunger strike in front of the embassy of the USA, and later the embassy of Ghana, to demand the release of all people detained in the context of the opposition protests, including the four HRDs mentioned above. On 17th September 2018, security forces tried to remove Habia. Several civil society actors, including from the civil society movement Front citoyen Togo debout, who visited Habia were reportedly nearly hit with tear gas used by security forces. The security officers reportedly left after the intervention of the embassy of Ghana.
From 24th to 28th September 2018, civil society movement Front citoyen Togo debout initiated the campaign 'Une bougie pour la liberté' (a candle for freedom) in front of the embassy of Ghana, encouraging citizens to light a candle for the detained HRDs.
On 5th October 2018, the Front Citoyen Togo Debout (FCTD), supported by other civil society organisations, organised a peaceful protest in Lomé to demand the release of all 'political prisoners'. The protest was authorised by the authorities, but there were changes to their route. On 4th October 2018, nine members of FCTD, who distributed leaflets and mobilised citizens for the protest, were briefly detained in the morning by the Research and Investigation Service (SRI) and taken to the gendarmerie station of Agoè. They were released around 6 PM in the evening.
No incidents were reported during the protest.
Après l’opération « Une bougie pour la liberté », le @FrontC_TGDebout et plusieurs autres OSC vous invitent à sortir massivement le vendredi 5/10 pour une marche pacifique afin de réclamer la libération des détenus politiques ! #TogoDebout #Togo #Africa #Afrique #Justice #Droit pic.twitter.com/iGn8vAuxQP— FrontC_TogoDebout (@FrontC_TGDebout) 29 September 2018