- Exactly one year after the violent acts of April 2005, "impunity remains total in Togo," a large number of international human rights groups maintain today. Despite pressure from abroad and human rights groups, Togolese authorities had not done anything to identify and charge those responsible for the hundreds of deaths one year ago, when current President Faure Gnassingbé grabbed power.
Mr Gnassingbé was elected Togolese President exactly one year ago today, in a highly irregular poll and following an unconstitutional power grab after his father, Dictator Gnassingbé Eyadéma had died in March. The "coup d'état" - in the words of the African Union (AU) - and the elections were marred with violence, where Mr Gnassingbé and his military supporters treated opposition supporters merciless.
The period of violence one year ago cost hundreds of Togolese citizens their lives. Most of the victims were non-armed, civilian opposition supporters, taking to the streets to demand democracy or being executed on suspicion of standing close to the opposition. Tens of thousands of Togolese fled to neighbouring Benin and Ghana, most of which have yet to return.
According to the seven international human rights groups marking the first anniversary of the Togolese violence, this heavy-handed behaviour had only been made possible by "a total impunity that has lasted for more than thirty years" in Togo. The regime of ex-Dictator Eyadéma was known for systematic human rights violations, including extra-judicial killing of opposition supporters.
This impunity continues until today, the seven groups today hold. "In spite of recommendations made by the UN and by organisations defending human rights, no measures have been taken to date to identify the authors of this violence and to bring them to justice." Given this situation of impunity and lack of a state of law, one could not expect to find a durable political and peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict in Togo, they conclude.
According to informal investigations made in Togo, the main responsible for human rights violations last year had been ordinary armed forces and pro-Gnassingbé militias. These, according to the groups, were responsible of numerous extra-judicial killing and the widespread use of torture. Already in August 2005, the UN had denounced the "existence of a strategy of repression," implicating the armed forces and militias.
Both the UN and the AU in August had made recommendations to find a peaceful solution and reconciliation between the Gnassingbé regime and the opposition, but none of these recommendations have so far been followed up. The UN report urged the establishment of a truth, justice and reconciliation programme, a total legal reform, UN advisors on human rights questions and an in-depth reform of the army to depoliticise it.
According to the seven human rights groups, Lomé authorities had acted quite contrary to these UN recommendations. In fact, last month, Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo announced that he had ordered police and the courts "to urgently abandon all pendant cases and investigations against persons believed responsible for crimes in connection with the elections," except for persons being suspected for "blood crimes".
Only a few days after the order, the Togolese press reported on the promotion of two high army officials, suspected of being responsible for the human rights violations on several occasions in the past. The seven human rights groups see this as more evidence that the new generation in power in Togo maintains that same policy of impunity as the Eyadéma regime.
"The international community must continue its efforts so that the Togolese government respects its state obligations, ensures a repair for the victims of the violence and ensures the installation of a real state of right," the groups demand. The seven groups include Amnesty, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT).
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