- A report of three international fact finding missions to Togo and Benin was released today. The report documents "grave human rights violations" from the moment Faure Gnassingbé took power in Togo in a coup in February this year. Violations included extra-judicial executions of children, torture, rape and arbitrary detentions.
Togo's new leader follows in the footsteps of his father, diseased dictator Gnassingbé Eyadema, the new report documents. The Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), which groups 144 rights organisations worldwide, today has published a report of three international fact finding missions in Togo and Benin, documenting human rights violations comparable to the worst epochs of the Eyadéma dictatorship.
According to the report, "the first steps of Faure Gnassingbé's regime were blackened by serious human rights violations." The report presents 65 testimonies attesting the extent of systematic human rights violations from the February 2005 coup d'état until the electoral process in April this year, which forced thousands of Togolese into exile in the neighbouring countries of Ghana and Benin.
These testimonies paint a picture of terror, with the use of blind and targeted violence by Togolese security forces against the civil population in general and the opposition in particular. They tell of extra-judicial executions - including of young children -, rapes, torture, destruction of homes and property, arbitrary detentions and so on.
The FIDH report also reviews "the significant electoral manipulations," which in particular had been observed by its mission leader, present in Lomé during the presidential polls on 24 April. Manipulations had included "theft of ballot boxes, the sidelining of electoral rolls and political and military pressure against voters."
The human rights organisation noted that "no legal procedure has yet been initiated against the authors of these crimes" and voiced concerns about the signals from the new rulers they are considering the adoption of an amnesty law." The National Enquiry Commission, which had published its report on 10 November, had made no mention on how to handle this possible case of impunity.
Further in its report, FIDH denounces "the serious threats and pressures orchestrated by the police force" against any person having dared or is still daring to denounce the "electoral hold-up" of April 2005 and the ongoing "serious violations of human rights" in Togo.
According to the report, "the seats of organisations defending human rights and their telephone lines are regularly supervised. Threats are still uttered, via the governmental media, against human rights defenders and their families." Only recently, journalist Jean-Baptiste Dzilan was seriously attacked, beaten up and poisoned by ten men still not identified, the human rights groups recalled.
In face of this situation, FIDH said it was awaiting concrete actions from Togolese authorities. The demands of the human rights groups had been presented to the Togolese leader by FIDH chairman Sidiki Kaba in a meeting on 28 September.
Demands had included that the authors behind serious human rights violations be brought to justice; respecting the right of victims to get to know the truth behind the assaults; justice and reparations; the return in full safety for the refugees; and the reorganisation of Togo's electoral framework to prepare for the organisation of "free, pluralist and transparent parliamentary elections."
Mr Kaba, the FIDH chairman, in particular warned against the apparent risk of impunity. He concluded that "to just erase the recent past would be an error bye national authorities and would trigger existing tensions even more. The ruling elite must immediately take up the challenge of fighting against impunity, creating a state of justice and an independent judiciary."
Togolese authorities so far have rejected that serious human rights violations have been committed following the orders of Faure Gnassingbé. The National Enquiry Commission last week documented cases of violations, but fails to place responsibilities.
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