Authorities threaten human rights group with legal action for publishing report
The Togolese government continued its efforts to prevent opposition protests from taking place. As reported previously on the Monitor, since 19th August 2017, opposition protests calling for the return of the 1992 Constitution with its two term presidential limit and the resignation of President Gnassingbé have been repressed and banned.
The Minister of Security and Civil Protection Yark Damehane announced on 22nd July 2018 a ban on all protests from 23rd July to 1st August 2018, a period corresponding with several international meetings taking place in the country, such as the ECOWAS summit and a joint ECCAS-ECOWAS summit. The ban prevented the citizen front Front Citoyen Togo Debout from holding its protest, scheduled for 28th July 2018 in Akassimé. Initially, the protest was moved to Bè Kondjindji before being banned by authorities on 25th July. The protest aimed at drawing attention to the crisis in the country.
This has not been the first time authorities have banned public protests. Previously, the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation Payadoua Boukpessi banned opposition protests scheduled for 20th, 21st, 22nd and 24th March 2018 and foreseen for 11th to 14th April 2018, saying protests would violate the terms of the the mediation efforts under the leadership of Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo, which started on 15th February in Lomé. Opposition said that the ban is a bad interpretation of the recommendations made by Nana Akufo-Addo.
On 30th July 2018, the Ligue Togolaise des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH; Togolese League of Human Rights) presented their report "La répression et la torture contre le changement démocratique" (The Repression and Torture against Democratic Change), outlining human rights abuses related to the anti-government protests between 19th August 2017 and 20th July 2018, in Lomé. According to LTDH, a total of 22 lives were lost, 941 people were injured - 202 due to bullets - and 472 arrests took place throughout the country, while 53 people were still in detention on 20th July 2018. Additionally, the report also outlines other human rights violations such as killings, kidnappings, torture and degrading or inhumane treatment, among others.
Following the release of this report, the Togolese government issued a press statement saying the report is "a partisan balance, and devoid of objective foundation" and reserved the right to "take legal action in this case after a complete analysis of the contents of the said report". As reported previously on the Monitor, the Togolese government reacted in a similar way after the publication of a report of the Regroupement des jeunes africains pour la démocratie et le développement (REJADD) and Réseau africain pour les initiatives de droits de l’homme et de solidarité (RAIDHS) on the repression of the public protests in February 2018. Assiba Johnson, president of REJADD, was arrested on 4th April 2018, and is facing charges of spreading false news and contempt of authorities.
"It should also be emphasized that it is the responsibility of the Government to guarantee to citizens the full and effective enjoyment of their rights and to preserve the security of citizens, as stated in Article 13 of the Togolese Constitution of 14 October 1992, what the latter has failed to do in the past protests." (translated from French)
In a press statement on 6th August 2018, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) expressed their concern regarding the government threats against human right defenders and have called the Togolese government to halt all forms of harassment against human rights defenders in the country.