- Under the aegis of anti-impunity associations, more than a hundred victims of human rights abuses in Togo met to file complaint with the prosecuting authorities. The move, the first of its kind in Togolese history, aims to seek redress for the many victims.
The human rights groups Amnesty in a statement is calling on Lomé authorities to respond to this need for justice in order to prevent further human rights abuses.
"The determination and courage of these victims and their families lead us to hope that, after decades of impunity, justice and the rule of law can finally reign in Togo", said Amnesty in a published report.
The document contains the testimony of some of the victims of the violence perpetrated during the transition period following the death, in February 2005, of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma. These victims, whom Amnesty met during a research mission in July 2006, are of different political backgrounds, some with links to the opposition parties, others members of the party in power, and many others simply civilians.
The document should have been made public at a press conference in Lomé on 26 November last year but the Togolese government asked had Amnesty to give them an appropriate period of time to comment on it. For the purpose of maintaining constructive dialogue with Togolese authorities, the human rights group had postponed the publication until there was reaction from Togo.
"While taking note of the comments made by the Togolese authorities, we are disappointed that they have made no firm commitment to bringing the suspected perpetrators of the violence in 2005 to justice", Amnesty said in a statement, asking for the filed complaints to be urgently "investigated independently and impartially by the judicial authorities in line with Togo's obligations under the international law."
"It is essential that the victims, their families, witnesses and human rights defenders are afforded special protection so that they can give evidence to the court without fearing for their safety," the rights activists underlined.
The extreme violence that followed the death of President Eyadéma resulted in hundreds of dead and injured and forced into exile tens of thousands of people, who took refuge in neighbouring Benin and Ghana. The violence occurred in particular during the presidential election of April 2005, which was officially won by Faure Gnassingbé, the dead President's son, installed into power by the army and later elected in a ballot marred by irregularities.
As Togo prepares for a new election planned for June 2007, Amnesty said the "authorities have a duty to implement important reforms to ensure that there is no repetition of the violence."
Togo is further asked to ensure the effective control of the armed forces as well as strengthen the independence of the judiciary.
"We believe this is a historic opportunity for the authorities to show that they can match the courage of the victims of the violence perpetrated in 2005 by meeting their expectations of truth, justice and reparation," the group added.
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