U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Togo
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor|
|Publication Date||6 March 2007|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2006 - Togo , 6 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f0567e1e.html [accessed 19 December 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007
Togo, with a population of 5.5 million, is a republic governed by President Faure Gnassingbe, who was declared president in April 2005 in an election marred by severe irregularities. President Gnassingbe replaced his father, former president Gnassingbe Eyadema, who died in February 2005 after 38 years in power. Eyadema and his party Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), strongly backed by the armed forces, dominated politics and maintained firm control over all levels of the country's highly centralized government until his death. The civilian authorities generally did not maintain effective control of the security forces.
The human rights situation in the country improved; however, serious human rights problems continued, including the inability of citizens to change their government; beatings and abuse of detainees; government impunity; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary and secret arrests and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; executive control of the judiciary; frequent infringement of citizens' privacy rights; restrictions on the press, including closing media outlets; restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement; harassment of human rights workers; female genital mutilation (FGM) and violence against women; discrimination against women and ethnic minorities; trafficking in persons, especially children; child labor; and lack of worker's rights in export processing zones (EPZs).
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that the government or its agents committed any politically motivated killings; however, security forces committed unlawful killings.
For example, on May 7, the police arrested and detained Yaya Moussa, a cellular phone dealer whom police accused of being a gang member. Police subsequently beat and abused Moussa and then took him to a hospital, where he died of his injuries on May 10. No action had been taken against the responsible police by year's end.
There were no developments in the case of the April 2005 killings in Sokode and Aneho by government forces.
According to a 2005 UN Development Program (UNDP) assessment, approximately 100 persons died following the 2005 presidential election; a September 2005 report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated 400 to 500 deaths (see section 4). Unlike during the previous year, security forces did not conduct house-by-house campaigns of violence or target neighborhoods thought to be opposition strongholds, killing persons in their houses and shooting at those who tried to flee.
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that security forces used live ammunition to disperse demonstrators. No action was taken against security force members responsible for such killings in 2005.
No action was taken against the gendarmes who beat to death a young man in April 2005, the members of the Presidential Election Security Force who shot and killed another young man on the same day, or the security forces who flew over the location of a subsequent demonstration and shot and killed protesters.
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of summary executions. In 2005 there were reports of mass graves, and military personnel reportedly transported more than 100 unidentified bodies to unknown destinations.
In 2005 there were numerous reports of killings perpetrated by militias, both those affiliated with the ruling party and those aligned with the opposition; however, there were no reports of such killings during the year.
No action was taken against militants who set fire to eight Malians suspected of practicing voodoo or mob members responsible for killing four persons from Niger.
There were no developments in the April 2005 killing by unknown assailants of the Kpele-Adeta prefecture and the sub-brigadier of the attorney general's office.
In April 2005 the government created the Special Independent Investigation Commission to probe the violence and vandalism that occurred before, during, and after election day. The commission held security forces, the ruling party, and opposition party members responsible for the violence and recommended that individuals involved be prosecuted. However, the government held no trials during the year and conducted no prosecutions against the perpetrators.
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. There were no developments in the 2005 disappearance of Police Commissioner Emile Kodjovi Dadji, who was believed to have been detained in an unknown location.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution prohibits torture and physical abuse of prisoners and detainees; however, such practices continued to occur, although there were fewer instances than in the previous year. Some prisoners credibly claimed that security forces beat them during detention. Impunity remained a problem, and the government did not publicly prosecute any officials for the 2005 abuses.
One prisoner died during the year as a result of police abuse (see section 1.a.).
Security forces beat demonstrators (see section 2.b.).
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that military forces systematically raped women.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions remained very harsh, with serious overcrowding, poor sanitation, and unhealthy food. At year's end Lome's central prison, built to hold 500 prisoners, held 1,550 inmates, including 56 women. Medical facilities were inadequate, and disease and drug abuse were widespread. Sick prisoners reportedly had to pay approximately three dollars (1,500 CFA francs) to guards before being allowed to visit the infirmary. There were reports that prison security officials sometimes withheld medical treatment from prisoners. Lawyers and journalists reported that prison guards charged prisoners a small fee to shower, use the toilet, or have a place to sleep.
The government provided no statistics on the number of prison deaths, but it is believed prisoners died as a result of poor living conditions.
The children of convicted women were often incarcerated with their mothers, who were held separately from male prisoners. Juvenile detainees were not held separately from adults. Pretrial detainees were not held separately from convicted prisoners.
Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were allowed access to all prisons in the country. In May a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited prisons to assess the prison conditions. In June a joint parliamentary mission from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and European Union (EU) also visited prisons to verify the presence of political prisoners. The delegations were allowed to meet with certain prisoners in private to conduct interviews. Diplomatic representatives were given access to their detained citizens.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and the law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the government generally disregarded these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The security forces consist of the army, navy, air force, the national security service (including the national police and investigation bureau), and the gendarmerie. The police are under the direction of the Ministry of Security, while the Ministry of Defense oversees the gendarmes and military. By law, the police and gendarmes are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. However, the army, charged with external security by law, was in command of domestic security. Approximately 75 percent of the army's officers and soldiers were from the former and current president's ethnic group, the Kabye, which represents approximately 15 percent of the population.
Police were generally ineffective and corrupt, and impunity was a problem. Police often failed to respond to societal violence (see section 2.b.). The government in general did not investigate or punish effectively those who committed abuses, nor did it prosecute persons responsible in previous years for unlawful killings and disappearances. During the year, the government trained and recruited 936 new gendarmes; more than 50 percent of the newly recruited gendarmes were from Kabye. Gendarme training included respect for human rights.
Arrest and Detention
The law authorizes judges, senior police officials, prefects, and mayors to issue arrest warrants; however, persons were detained arbitrarily and secretly. Although detainees have the right to be informed of the charges against them, police sometimes ignored this right. The law allows authorities to hold arrested persons incommunicado without charge for 48 hours, with an additional 48-hour extension in cases deemed serious or complex. Family members and attorneys officially had access to a detainee after 48 or 96 hours of detention, but authorities often delayed, and sometimes denied, access. The law stipulates that a special judge conduct a pretrial investigation to examine the adequacy of evidence and decide on bail; however, in practice detainees often were held without bail for lengthy periods with or without the approval of a judge. Minors detained since the 2005 election have not had access to a lawyer.
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that the government resorted to false charges of common crimes to arrest, detain, and intimidate political opponents.
The charges against King Togbe Ahuawoto Savado Zankli Lawson VIII, the Guin traditional leader of Aneho, were still pending at year's end. The king, who had allowed a police officer seeking refuge to stay at his palace, had been charged with sequestering the officer, possession of firearms, and inciting trouble.
Security forces arbitrarily arrested demonstrators (see section 2.b.).
According to the government, the 77 persons imprisoned for their involvement in election violence were released in 2005.
The government denied the existence of political detainees; however, several persons arrested after the election and affiliated with the opposition were being held in a prison near Kara, an area of strong RPT support. Amnesty International (AI)reported that dozens of persons were in detention following the election. Security forces sometimes moved political detainees to informal detention centers under the control of the military or RPT militia. Because the government did not acknowledge any political detainees, it did not permit any organizations access to them.
There were no developments in the 2005 arrest and detention of two opposition members and four former military officers for suspected coup plotting. The detainees, including Kossi Tudzi of the Union of Forces for Change (UFC) and Hermes Wamede da Silveira of the Alliance of Patriots for Unity and Action, remain incarcerated with no trial scheduled.
On December 13, UFC members Anate Andre Abbey, Kossi Jomo Azonledzi, and Koffi Akoumey were convicted for bombing a post office. They were sentenced to 14 months in prison (equal to the time they had been held in prison since September 2005) and immediately released.
In June 2005 the UN delegation visited Lome Prison and interviewed a woman detained without charge since 1998 for her political convictions. The woman, who had no lawyer and was not provided one by the government, was released in July 2005.
A shortage of judges and other qualified personnel, as well as official inaction, resulted in lengthy pretrial detention – in some cases several years – and confinement of prisoners for periods exceeding the time they would have served if tried and convicted. Almost 80 percent of inmates were pretrial detainees.
Unlike in the previous year, no prisoners were discharged to relieve prison overcrowding.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the executive branch continued to exert control over the judiciary and corruption was a problem. Lawyers often bribed judges to influence the outcome of cases. A judicial reform process started in 2005 had not yet been fully implemented at year's end.
There were three associations of magistrates in the country: the Union of Magistrates of Togo (SMT), the National Association of Magistrates (ANM), and the Professional Association of Magistrates of Togo (APMT). A majority of the APMT members were supporters of the late president Eyadema. Judges who belonged to the pro Eyadema APMT reportedly received the most prestigious assignments, while judges who advocated an independent judiciary and belonged to the ANM or SMT often were assigned to second-tier positions. For example, in Lome, the presidents of the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Court of First Instance were members of the APMT as were the public prosecutor and the attorney general. In Kara, the president of the Court of Appeals and the president of the Court of First Instance were members of the APMT.
The Constitutional Court stands at the apex of the court system. The Constitutional Court is the highest court for constitutional issues while the Supreme Court is the highest court for civil judicial cases. The civil judiciary system includes the Supreme Court, Appeals Courts, and Courts of First Instance. A military tribunal exists for crimes committed by security forces; its proceedings are closed. The court system remained overburdened and understaffed.
The judicial system employs both traditional law and the Napoleonic Code in trying criminal and civil cases. Trials were open to the public, juries were used, and judicial procedures generally were respected. Defendants have the right to counsel and to appeal. The Bar Association provides attorneys for the indigent. Defendants may confront witnesses and present evidence on their own behalf.
In rural areas, the village chief or council of elders is authorized to try minor criminal and civil cases. Those who reject the traditional authority can take their cases to the regular court system, which is the starting point for cases in urban areas.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees; however, the government held numerous detainees and prisoners on political charges (see section 1.d.).
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Both the constitution and the law provide for civil and administrative remedies for wrongdoing, but the judiciary did not respect such provisions, and most citizens were unaware of them.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but security forces often infringed on these rights. In criminal cases, a judge or senior police official may authorize searches of private residences, and in political and national security cases the security forces need no prior authorization. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that security forces forcibly entered houses without warrants and beat persons.
From April 2005 until August 2005, security forces throughout the country entered houses by force, searching for opposition sympathizers (see section 1.a.); no action was taken against the perpetrators during the year.
Citizens believed that the government monitored telephones and correspondence, although such surveillance was not confirmed.
2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government continued to restrict these rights. The government at times interfered with radio stations during the year. Journalists and radio and television broadcasters practiced self censorship.
Although the government did not censor individual expression, most persons practiced self-censorship because of past violent reprisals at the hands of government agents.
There was a lively independent press, most of which was heavily politicized, and some of which was highly critical of the government. More than 15 privately owned newspapers were published with some regularity. The only daily newspaper, Togo Presse, was owned and controlled by the government. There were several independent newspapers that published on weekly and bi-weekly schedules. The official media heavily slanted their content in favor of the government.
Radio remained the most important medium of mass communication. Some private radio stations broadcast domestic news; however, they offered little of the political commentary and criticism of the government that was widespread in the print media.
The station director of Radio Lumiere, who fled the country after a military detachment seized Radio Lumiere's transmitter and broadcasting equipment in 2005, remained in self-exile at year's end. Radio Lumiere remained closed.
The government-owned Togo Television was the only major television station in the country. Four smaller television stations operated during the year, but their broadcasts were limited to certain geographic areas. TV-2, RTDS, and TV7 carried France-based TV-5's international news programming, and TV-Zion's content was of a primarily religious nature. TV7 also carried weekly political debates through the program Seven on Seven, a weekly political forum in which governing and opposition party leaders, human rights organizations, and other observers participated in discussions on political issues and expressed criticism or support for the government.
Unlike in the previous year, security forces did not detain journalists.
Despite governmental promises to do so, no investigation was conducted during the year into the October 2005 beating by masked men of Jean-Baptiste Dzilan, also known as Dimas Dzikodo, the country's most outspoken journalist and publisher of the independent newspaper Forum de la Semaine.
The constitution established the High Authority of Audiovisuals and Communications (HAAC) to provide for the freedom of the press, ensure ethical standards, and allocate frequencies to private television and radio stations. Although nominally independent, in practice the HAAC operated as an arm of the government.
On May 12, the HAAC suspended for one month Radio Nostalgie's special daily program on the national political dialogue, charging that the guests who participated in a May 9 program "attacked and systematically threatened national and international personalities" and "incited the population to insurrection." The guests in question, Alex Konu of TV7 and Francis Amuzun of the Togo Ethics Media Committee, had criticized the presence of the Economic Community of West African States Special Envoy Mai Manga Boucar at the dialogue legitimizing the fraudulent results of the April 2005 presidential elections.
Unlike in the previous year, the president of the HAAC did not ban or threaten to ban radio programs that discussed political events. The 2005 bans against Radio Nostalgie, Nana FM, and Kanal FM were lifted, and the stations broadcast live and taped political programs during the year.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by electronic mail. Internet access was easily available except in remote rural locations.
Academic and Cultural Events
The government did not restrict academic freedom or cultural events, although security forces maintained a presence at the University of Lome. According to students and professors, a government informer system continued to exist and undercover gendarmes attended classes.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; however, the government generally restricted this right, although less than in previous years.
A political party wishing to hold a demonstration or rally on public property is required to notify the minister of security, although no notification is required for rallies on private property.
Unlike in the previous year, the government did not ban street demonstrations.
On August 30, street protests throughout the northern city of Kara erupted after police failed to respond immediately to the killing of a motorcycle-taxi driver by a Beninese national; police claimed they were unable to go to the scene of the crime because they lacked transport. The police called for military support after the demonstrators moved to the police station, and soldiers used clubs and teargas to disperse protesters. In the following days soldiers patrolled the streets, detained numerous young men arbitrarily, and transported other detainees to outlying villages where the young men were forced to walk back to Kara in the middle of the night. After four days, the military released all the young men, the informal curfew was lifted, and people were allowed to circulate freely.
No action was taken against the military personnel who in February 2005 beat students in Lome when they walked out of classes to show support for an opposition-led civil boycott.
No action was taken against security forces who beat and shot bullets at demonstrators in February 2005; five civilians died.
Despite government promises to do so, no investigation was conducted into the use of excessive force by security forces during the February 2005 dispersal of a peaceful women's march; five persons were killed.
Freedom of Association
Under the constitution and law, citizens have the right to organize associations and political parties, and the government generally respected it in practice. Unlike in previous years, the government did not deny official recognition to associations, including human rights groups, and did not impose restrictions on political parties.
There were many NGOs; they were required to register with the government. The government established requirements for recognition of associations and NGOs. The Ministry of Territorial Administration issues official recognition documents. Upon filing with the ministry, associations are given a receipt allowing them to begin operations. The Civil Security Division enforces the regulations and is the agency responsible for handling problems or complaints concerning an association or an organization. If an application provides insufficient information for recognition to be granted, the application remains open indefinitely. Members of groups that are not officially recognized could organize activities but do not have legal standing.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
The government recognizes three main faiths as state religions: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam. Other religions, such as animism, Mormonism, and Jehovah's Witnesses, were required to register as associations. Official recognition as an association affords the same rights as the official religions.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Although the law provides for these rights, the government restricted them in practice. Armed security checkpoints and arbitrary searches of vehicles and individuals were common. Undisciplined acts of some security forces manning roadblocks, such as frequent demands for bribes, impeded free movement within the country.
Unlike in the previous year, the government did not close land borders and air access to the country, as it did following former president Eyadema's death and prior to the elections.
The constitution prohibits forced exile, and the government did not employ it. However, several opposition and human rights workers remained in self-imposed exile because they feared arrest.
An estimated 40,000 citizens fled to Ghana and Benin in 2005 as refugees following election-related violence. Although some refugees returned due to government outreach mentioned above, many did not return home because of fear for their security. According to UNHCR, by year's end approximately 6,500 refugees remained in Benin and 6,000 in Ghana. UNHCR is facilitating returns for Togolese refugees who express an interest in returning.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Almost all of the persons who fled their homes following former president Eyadema's death and the presidential elections had returned to their homes by year's end.
During the year, the High Commission for Repatriates and Humanitarian Action traveled to Ghana and Benin to assure the Togolese refugees that their safety would be guaranteed back home; the commission also organized sensitization tours throughout the country and donated food and clothes to returned refugees and IDPs. The commission issued messages in various media encouraging the population to welcome returned refugees and IDPs.
There were no reports that the government targeted the 2005 IDPs or forcibly returned them.
Protection of Refugees
The laws do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, but the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice the government provided protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where they feared persecution. The government granted refugee status or asylum.
A voluntary repatriation program for 508 Ghanaian refugees was still not implemented because of continuing unrest and instability in Ghana along the Togo-Ghana border. These refugees have been integrated into society and no longer receive assistance. According to the government, there were approximately 800 refugees (mostly from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) registered in Lome and approximately 1,200 additional refugees living in rural villages. According to the government, there were 12,386 refugees in Togo, of which 1,391 (mostly from Cote d'Ivoire, Central African Republic, Liberia, Nigeria, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone) were living in Lome; 10,990 refugees fled the north of Ghana following the social unrest and were living in rural villages, especially in Dankpen and Bassar (Togo-Ghana border) areas.
The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol and provided it to approximately 100 persons during the year.
The government cooperated with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.
3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution provides for the right of citizens to change their government peacefully; however, the government restricted this right in practice. The government and the state remained highly centralized. The national government appoints officials and controls the budgets of government entities at all levels, including prefectures and municipalities, and influences the selection of traditional chiefs. The National Assembly exercised no real oversight of the executive branch of the government.
Elections and Political Participation
In February 2005 the government announced the death of former president Eyadema. The constitution prohibited any revision of the document in the case of a presidential vacancy. Nevertheless, the National Assembly held an extraordinary session to amend the constitution and electoral code, dismiss Speaker Fambare Ouattara Natchaba, and elect Eyadema's son Faure Gnassingbe as the new speaker, allowing him constitutionally to step into the presidency. The Constitutional Court, vested with guaranteeing respect of the law, swore Faure in as president in the middle of the night. In response to international and internal pressure, Faure resigned the presidency. The National Assembly elected a new speaker, Abass Bonfoh, who then became interim president.
Although the constitution required holding elections within 60 days of a vacancy in the presidency, the international community and local opposition contended that the election timeframe, culminating with elections in April 2005, was not sufficient to ensure a free and fair election. Although the interior minister publicly stated that conditions for a credible election had not been met, the elections were held as planned in April 2005. Accredited international election observers noted massive irregularities during the election itself.
Four persons were killed in Mango on election day when security forces, who were removing ballot boxes from a polling site, opened fire on opposition supporters who tried to prevent them.
The Electoral Commission announced Faure had received 60 percent of the vote and declared him president. An opposition candidate filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court based on flaws in the voting procedures. The court certified the results without an investigation.
During the year there were significant developments in the government's 2004 commitments to the EU to organize fair and transparent legislative elections, to hold local elections, and to organize a national dialogue with the main opposition parties. In April the government organized a national dialogue with the main opposition parties, which resulted in a Global Political Agreement on August 20 and the creation of a new government of national unity, including representation from nearly all the major political groups and a prime minister belonging to one of the main opposition groups. The main task of this new government is to organize free and fair legislative elections, which president Gnassingbe announced in September would be scheduled for June 2007.
There were five female members in the 81-member National Assembly and five female ministers in the 34-member government of national unity Cabinet. Members of the southern ethnic groups remain underrepresented in both the government and the military, relative to their percentage of the general population.
Government Corruption and Transparency
Official corruption was a problem and there was widespread public perception of corruption in both the executive and legislative branch. The Anti-Corruption Commission (CAC) was generally ineffective. While it continued to investigate current relatively low-level and former high-level officials, it did not use fair and transparent procedures to deal with allegations of corruption. The CAC allowed most senior government officials accused of corruption to continue in their positions and did not investigate allegations made against them. For example, the CAC levied allegations of corruption against the director general of the Social Security Agency, yet he remained in his position.
According to the government's official poverty reduction strategic paper, prepared in conjunction with the World Bank and UNDP, corruption and lack of transparency in the management of public funds was a problem throughout the government. The constitution provides for the creation of a court of accounts to oversee public expenditures; however, the government failed to initiate its creation.
Although the press code provides for public access to government information, the government did not permit access to either citizens or noncitizens, including foreign media.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.
There were several domestic private human rights groups, including the Togolese League of Human Rights (LTDH), the Center for Observation and Promotion of the Rule of Law, and the Togolese Association for the Defense and Protection of Human Rights. Years of government threats and intimidation of human rights leaders, combined with a lack of results from human rights initiatives, have led some human rights groups to become inactive. A few groups, such as the Togolese Movement for the Defense of Liberties and Human Rights, the African Committee for the Promotion and Support of Human Rights, and the African Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and Repression served as apologists for the government by making public statements explaining the behavior of the government in a favorable way.
Unlike in the previous year, the government did not restrict the activities of domestic NGOs or refuse accreditation. In 2005 the government did not allow any domestic groups to participate as observers during the elections; targeted workers of independent human rights NGOs; and used the HAAC and the RPT youth organization to suppress criticism of its human rights policies.
Unlike in the previous year, LTDH members did not receive death threats or experience home surveillance by unknown individuals.
The government met with some domestic NGOs that monitor human rights but took no action in response to their recommendations.
In April AI and a group of international NGOs criticized the government for failing to bring to justice those involved in election-related violence during 2005. In July a delegation from AI visited the country to more formally assess the government's actions during the 2005 election violence. AI scheduled the release of its report for November 26, but postponed it at the request of the government. In December the government accused AI of provoking a "useless and redundant controversy".
In September 2005 the UNHCR released the findings of its June 2005 visit to the country to investigate election-related violence. The report revealed that approximately 500 persons died and that the government was responsible for significant human rights violations (see section 1.a.).
Supporters of the president continued to dominate the National Commission for Human Rights. On July 31, the National Assembly elected 16 of 17 new independent members; however, at year's end they were still waiting to be sworn in.
A permanent human rights committee exists within the National Assembly, but it did not play any significant role in policy making and was not independent of the government.
5. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, religion, disability, language, or social status; however, the government did not enforce these provisions effectively. Violence and discrimination against women, FGM, trafficking in persons, and discrimination against ethnic minorities and individuals with HIV/AIDS were problems.
Domestic violence against women continued to be a problem. The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Police generally did not intervene in abusive situations, and women were not made aware of the formal judicial mechanisms that would give them protection. According to a local women's rights NGO, wife beating was estimated to affect approximately 6 percent of married women.
The law criminalizes rape and provides for prison terms of five to 10 years for anyone found guilty of rape. The law does not specifically penalize spousal rape. Although the government was diligent in investigating and prosecuting instances of rape, reports were rare because of the social stigma associated with being raped.
FGM continued to be practiced on approximately 12 percent of girls. The most commonly practiced form of FGM was excision, which usually was performed on girls a few months after birth. Most of the larger ethnic groups did not practice FGM. FGM is illegal and penalties for practitioners ranged from two months to five years in prison as well as substantial fines. The law was rarely applied because most FGM cases occurred in rural areas where neither the victims nor the police understood the law. Traditional customs often superseded the legal system among certain ethnic groups. The government continued to sponsor seminars to educate and campaign against FGM. Several NGOs, with international assistance, organized educational campaigns to inform women of their rights and how to care for victims of FGM. Although no statistics were available, the government and NGOs believed the practice decreased significantly in urban areas since the 1998 anti-FGM law but continued to occur in remote and rural villages.
The law prohibits prostitution, including running a brothel, and provides for fines of up to $2,000 (1 million CFA francs) for brothel owners and panderers. Prostitution in Lome was fairly widespread since economic opportunities for women were severely limited. Several prostitutes in Lome reported that they had to pay security forces to pass through certain parts of town; this payment most often took the form of sex. Members of the security forces raped prostitutes who protested the payment. The government has not acted to stop this practice.
A presidential decree prohibits sexual harassment and specifically targeted harassment of female students, although the authorities did not enforce the law.
Although the law declares women equal under the law, women continued to experience discrimination, especially in education, pension benefits, and inheritance as a consequence of traditional law. A husband legally could restrict his wife's freedom to work or control her earnings. In urban areas women and girls dominated market activities and commerce; however, harsh economic conditions in rural areas, where most of the population lived, left women with little time for activities other than domestic tasks and agricultural fieldwork. The Labor Code, which regulated labor practices, requires equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender, but this provision generally was observed only in the formal sector. Under traditional law, which applied to the vast majority of women, a wife has no maintenance or child support rights in the event of divorce or separation and no inheritance rights upon the death of her husband. Polygamy was practiced. Women can own property with no special restrictions.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Promotion of Women, along with independent women's groups and related NGOs, continued to campaign actively during the year to inform women of their rights.
Although the law provides for the protection of children's rights, government programs often suffered from a lack of money, materials, and enforcement. There were many practices that discriminated against children, especially girls.
The government provided education in state schools, and school attendance is compulsory for both boys and girls until the age of 15. According to the UN Children's Fund's (UNICEF), although 99 percent of boys and 83 percent of girls started primary school, only an estimated 68 percent of boys and 59 percent of girls continued. For secondary school, the net secondary school enrollment is 36 percent for boys, 17 percent for girls, but only 21 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls continued. The Ministry of Education estimated that one-third of the national budget was spent on education.
Orphans and other needy children received some aid from extended families or private organizations but little from the government. There were social programs to provide free health care for poor children.
FGM was performed on approximately 12 percent of girls (see section 5, Women).
Statutory rape is illegal and punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and up to 10 years if violence was involved. The prison term is 20 years if a victim is a child under 14, is gang-raped or if the rape results in pregnancy, disease, or incapacitation lasting more than six weeks. Although the law explicitly prohibits sexual exploitation of children and child prostitution, the government did not effectively enforce the prohibitions (see section 5, Trafficking).
There were reports of trafficking in children (see section 5, Trafficking).
Child labor was a problem (see section 6.d.).
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in children but not adults; however, there were reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country. The 2005 Law for the Repression of Child Trafficking provides for prison sentences and fines for anyone who recruits, transports, hosts, or receives trafficked children, as well as prison sentences for parents who willingly facilitate the trafficking of their children. The law provides for prison sentences from three months to 10 years and fines ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 (one to 10 million CFA francs) for traffickers of children and/or their accomplices. Anybody who assists and/or provides information, arms, or transportation to facilitate the trafficking is considered an accomplice. The government filed a complaint against 16 traffickers who were awaiting prosecution at year's end. The government, along with international and local NGOs continued to train judges, security forces, and volunteer local committees on the 2005 antitrafficking law; by year's end 36 members of the security forces had received training.
Volunteer local committees investigated reports of trafficking. The ministries of education, interior, and social affairs worked with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to establish approximately 300 committees by year's end. From 2002 through 2006, local committees had rescued approximately 4,000 victims of child trafficking.
The National Committee for the Reception and Social Reinsertion of Trafficked Children is represented in each prefecture and works with local officials to reintegrate returned trafficking victims. It reported that 2,458 children ranging from ages five to 17 were repatriated to the country between 2002 and 2004. The Office of the Director General of Protection of the Child reported that since August 2005, security forces intercepted a total of 101 children up to 17 years-of-age in the process of being trafficked out of the country and the government returned them to their families.
The government had little or no funding to investigate traffickers or trafficking rings. The police had limited success in intercepting victims of trafficking, and prosecution of traffickers was rare. Most persons that security forces arrested or detained for trafficking ultimately were released for lack of evidence.
Government agencies involved in antitrafficking efforts included the Ministry of Social Affairs and Protection of Women; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Security; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Labor; and the security forces (especially police, army, and customs units). The government cooperated with the governments of Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria under a quadripartite law allowing for expedited extradition among those countries.
The country remained a country of origin, transit, and destination for trafficking in persons, primarily children. More young girls than boys were the victims of trafficking. Trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution or nonconsensual labor as domestic servants occurred.
Trafficking occurred throughout the country. The majority of the country's trafficking victims were children from the poorest rural areas, particularly those of Kotocoli, Tchamba, Ewe, Kabye, and Akposso ethnicities and mainly from the Maritime, Plateau, and Central regions. Adult victims usually were lured with phony job offers. Children often were trafficked abroad by parents misled by false information. Sometimes parents sold their children to traffickers for bicycles, radios, or clothing, and signed parental authorizations transferring their children into the custody of the trafficker.
Children were trafficked into indentured and exploitative servitude, which amounted at times to slavery. Most trafficking occurred internally, with children trafficked from rural areas to cities, primarily Lome, to work as domestics, produce porters, or roadside sellers. Victims were trafficked elsewhere in West Africa and to Central Africa, particularly Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, and Nigeria; in Europe, primarily France and Germany; and in the Middle East, including Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Children were trafficked to Benin for indentured servitude and to Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana for domestic servitude. Boys were trafficked for agricultural work in Cote d'Ivoire and domestic servitude and street labor in Gabon. They were fed poorly, clothed crudely, cared for inadequately, given drugs to work longer hours, and not educated or permitted to learn a trade. There were reports that young girls were trafficked to Nigeria for prostitution.
The country was a transit point for children trafficked from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, and Nigeria. There were credible reports that Nigerian women and children were trafficked through the country to Europe (particularly Italy and the Netherlands) for the purpose of prostitution.
Traffickers were believed to be men and women of Togolese, Beninese, and Nigerian nationalities.
There were no reports that governmental authorities or individual members of government forces facilitated or condoned trafficking in persons. There were no reports that customs, border guards, immigration officials, labor inspectors, or local police received bribes from traffickers, although it was possible given the high level of corruption in the country.
The government provided only limited assistance for victims, primarily because of a lack of resources. The NGO Terre des Hommes assisted recovered children until their parents or next-of-kin could be notified. Assistance was also available from the government-funded Social Center for Abandoned Children. CARE International-Togo worked with three NGOs – Terre des Hommes, La Colombe, and Ahuefa on reinsertion of trafficked children, awareness campaigns for parents and communities, keeping children in schools, and supporting women's income-generating activities. During the year the ILO worked with other NGOs to increase awareness of the trafficking problem.
During the year local government officials worked closely with NGOs Plan Togo and The World Association for Orphans-Afrique to conduct public awareness campaigns and training workshops. Four workshops were held during the year, training approximately 150 lawyers, journalists, judges NGO representatives, and security personnel. The ILO and UNICEF assisted the government in organizing and training regional and local committees and in sensitizing and educating parents on the dangers of child trafficking and labor throughout the country.
Persons with Disabilities
A new law enacted in November 2005 prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or in the provision of other state services, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. There was no overt state discrimination against persons with disabilities, and some held government positions; but societal discrimination against persons with disabilities existed. The government does not mandate accessibility to public or private facilities for persons with disabilities. Although the law nominally obliged the government to aid persons with disabilities and shelter them from social injustice, the government provided only limited assistance.
The population included members of approximately 40 ethnic groups that generally spoke distinct primary languages and were concentrated regionally in rural areas. Major ethnic groups included the Ewe (between 20 and 25 percent of the population), the Kabye (between 10 and 15 percent), the Kotokoli (between 10 and 15 percent), the Moba (between 10 to 15 percent), and the Mina (approximately 5 percent). The Ewe and Mina were the largest ethnic groups in the southern region and the Kabye was the largest group in the less prosperous northern region.
The relative predominance in private sector commerce and professions by members of southern ethnic groups, and the relative prevalence in the public sector and especially the security forces of members of late president Eyadema's Kabye group and other northern groups, were sources of political tension. Political parties tended to have readily identifiable ethnic and regional bases: the RPT party was more represented among northern ethnic groups than among southern groups; the reverse was true of the UFC and Action Committee for Renewal opposition parties.
In addition, due to the congruence of political divisions and ethnic and regional divisions, human rights abuses motivated by politics at times had ethnic and regional overtones.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
A 2005 law prohibits discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS; however, such persons continued to face significant societal discrimination.
6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The constitution and law provide workers, except security forces (including firefighters and police), with the right to join unions, and they exercised this right in practice. The Ministry of Economy and Development estimated that the country's total workforce was approximately 1.6 million out of an estimated working population of 2.3 million persons. Approximately 72 percent of the working population was in the agriculture sector where employment was not stable and wages were low. The informal sector provided for an estimated 22 percent of total employment. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of formal sector workers were union members or supporters.
The Ministry of Labor failed to enforce the prohibition on antiunion discrimination.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The constitution and the December labor code nominally provide workers with the right to organize and bargain collectively; however, the government limited collective bargaining to producing a single nationwide agreement that had to be negotiated and endorsed by representatives of the government, labor unions, and employers. All formal sector employees were covered by the collective bargaining agreement that set nationwide wage standards for all formal sector workers. The government participated in this process both as a labor-management mediator and as the largest employer in the formal sector, managing numerous state-owned firms that monopolized many sectors of the formal economy. The collective bargaining process did not occur for several years under the late president Eyadema. Individual groups in the formal sector could attempt to negotiate agreements more favorable to labor through sector-specific or firm-specific collective bargaining, but this option was rarely used.
The constitution and law provide most workers the right to strike, except for members of the security forces and government health workers. The new labor code of December 5 prohibits retribution against strikers by employers.
The law provides exemptions from some provisions of the Labor Code, notably the regulations on hiring and firing for companies in the EPZs. Employees of EPZ firms did not enjoy the same protection against antiunion discrimination as did other workers. Workers in the EPZs were prevented from exercising their freedom of association because unions did not have free access to EPZs or the freedom to organize workers.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The new labor code prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children; however, there were reports such practices occurred (see sections 5 and 6.d.). Children sometimes were subjected to forced labor, primarily as domestic servants.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The new labor code prohibits the employment of children under the age of 15 in any enterprise; however, child labor was a problem. According to UNICEF, 60 percent of children in the country were involved in child labor. The use of children to work on family farms was widespread. Some children started working as young as age five. These children routinely missed at least two-thirds of the school year. In some cases children worked in factories.
For some types of industrial and technical employment, the minimum age is 18. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor enforced these age requirements but only in the formal sector in urban areas. In both urban and rural areas, particularly in farming and small scale trading, very young children traditionally assisted in their families' work. In rural areas, parents sometimes placed young children into domestic work in other households in exchange for one-time fees as low as $25 to $35 (12,500 to 17,500 CFA francs).
Trafficking in children was a problem (see section 5).
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Promotion of Women was responsible for enforcing the prohibition of the worst forms of child labor. Few resources were allotted for its implementation, and enforcement was weak, but the ministry funded a center for abandoned children and worked with NGOs to combat child trafficking.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The government sets minimum wages for different labor categories, ranging from unskilled through professional positions. In practice employers often paid less than the official minimum wage often, mostly to unskilled workers. Official monthly minimum wages ranged from approximately $20 to $33 (10,000 to 16,000 CFA francs) and did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Many workers supplemented their incomes through second jobs or subsistence farming. The Ministry of Labor was responsible for enforcement of the minimum wage system but did not enforce the law in practice.
Working hours of all employees in any enterprise, except for the agricultural sector, normally are not to exceed 40 hours per week; at least one 24-hour rest period per week is compulsory, and workers are expected to receive 30 days of paid leave each year. Working hours for employees in the agricultural sector are not to exceed 2400 hours per year (roughly 46 hours per week). The law requires overtime compensation, and there are restrictions on excessive overtime work; however, the Ministry of Labor's enforcement was weak, and employers often ignored these provisions.
In November the government responded to a threatened strike by unions to make good on most salary and pension payments which were in arrears.
A technical consulting committee in the Ministry of Labor set workplace health and safety standards. It may levy penalties on employers who do not meet the standards, and employees have the right to complain to labor inspectors of unhealthy or unsafe conditions without penalty. In practice, the ministry's enforcement of the various provisions of the Labor Code was limited. Large enterprises are obliged by law to provide medical services for their employees and usually attempted to respect occupational health and safety rules, but smaller firms often did not. Although workers have the legal right to remove themselves from unsafe conditions without fear of losing their jobs, in practice some could not do so. Labor laws also provide protection for legal foreign workers.