The OHCHR Country Office in Togo was established in November 2006 to help build national capacities to protect human rights. During nine years, it provided assistance to the Government in designing policies to comply with international obligations and to ensure accountability for past abuses. The OHCHR Office was instrumental in providing an external and neutral assessment of the human rights situation as well as served as a key mediator between political leaders1. The Office closed on 30 June 2015. Following this decision, the OHCHR West Africa Regional Office (WARO) based in Dakar-Senegal has been assigned to support activities related to human rights in Togo.
In accordance with the General Peace Agreement signed by political leaders on 20 August 2006, a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was set up. Officially established by the President of Togo on 29 May 2009, the Commission worked for three years and handed over its final report in April 2012. Some recommendations are still to be implemented.
The full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights remains a challenge in Togo, with insufficient budgets for water, sanitation, social services. In 2013, strikes by teachers and health workers led to a series of negotiations with the Government.
Prison conditions, especially relating to the right to food and to adequate health, remain issues of concern. About 500 detainees were freed in November 2012 in an attempt to address prison overcrowding. The National Human Rights Commission enjoyed new public trust when it published a report in February 2012 confirming the ill-treatment of detainees by the national security agency, but was so far unable to ensure adequate follow-up.
On 11 March 2016, the National Assembly adopted a revision of the law on the National Commission for Human Rights to increase its conformity with the Paris Principles and accommodate its new mandate as a national preventive mechanism against torture. The new law provides a permanent status to the commissioners.
In the framework of the justice reform launched in 2005, the government drafted new Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes, both in better conformity with international human rights standards. The new Penal code was adopted on 2 November 2015 and contains a number of positive human rights developments. However some discriminatory provisions remain and in particular provisions against the respect of universal human rights with regard to relations between consenting adults of same sex. The Criminal Procedure Code is still at the level of the Council of Ministers.
The new 2012 Family Code created a stronger legal framework for the protection of women rights. The principle of gender equality was included in the March 2013 Electoral Code.
Togo was reviewed by the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October 2011. On 27 June 2012, the Minister for Human Rights, Consolidation of Democracy and Civic Education presented a National Action Plan 2012-2016 to implement the UPR recommendations. The action plan includes recommendations to harmonise the national legislation with international conventions ratified by Togo, actions to fight against torture and impunity and a reference to the need to strengthen the independence of the judiciary. Togo 2nd UPR cycle is tabled for consideration inNovember 2016.
Togo was also reviewed by CEDAW, CAT, CRC and CESCR in 2012/13. Its report to the CERD is the only overdue report.
Until its closing in 2016, the OHCHR Country Office provided technical assistance to the Government for the elaboration, adoption and implementation of several legislative measures to protect and promote human rights, including the new Criminal Code, the new Family Code, the revision of the Electoral Code and the drafting of revised Penal and Criminal procedure Codes. The OHCHR Country Office also conducted daily human rights monitoring and advocacy and carried out frequent visits to the prisons in Togo and to the Northern region.
The Office provided support to UNDP, the UN Regional Centre on Peace and Disarmament (UNREC), UNHCR, UNFPA and the other UN agencies in Togo in order to better promote a human-rights-based approach to development and conflict resolution mechanisms in Togo.
In 2007 and 2010, the Office implemented comprehensive projects to promote human rights and non-violence in the context of elections. The projects included the training and deployment of 600 human rights observers, the drafting and dispatching of a manual on human rights and free and fair elections, as well as the setting up of a hotline and an internet based monitoring system.
In 2009, the Office supported the process that led to the creation of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). It accompanied its work until the release of its final report in April 2012. OHCHR is now advocating for the recommendations of the report to be implemented. Since its publication, CEDAW2 and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights defenders3 have urged Togo to implement the recommendations regarding political violence, including violence against women that occurred from 1958 to 2005. CESCR called upon Togo to implement the recommendations on land-related issues4, and recommended that Togo ensure that its laws protect the rights to all ethnic groups, with a reference to the TJRC recommendations concerning ethnic disputes5.
OHCHR provided technical assistance to the Government to present its first report to the UPR in 2011 and continues to encourage and assist the Government to comply with its Treaty Body reporting obligations. The situation of Togo will be reviewed during the 26th UPR session (November 2016).
In 2012, Togo was encouraged by the Committee against Torture (CAT), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as in 2013 by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), to consider ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW).
In December 2013, the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay issued a report calling for greater respect of human rights in the administration of justice in Togo6. Based on the work of the OHCHR Togo country office, she stated that Togo still needed to strengthen respect for human rights in the administration of justice and improve the overall functioning of its justice system, despite some progress and reform7.
From 17 to 20 February 2014, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri visited Togo in response to an invitation by the Government of Togo sent in June 20128. During her visit, she welcomed the decision of Togo to implement some recommendations of the 2013 report and to develop a national policy on Justice that should look at the administration of justice and detention. The Deputy High Commissioner focused on the remaining discrimination against women in Togo and the importance for Togo to adopt a human rights based approach into economic reforms and policies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to reduce poverty. She also encouraged Togo to extend a standing invitation to the Special Procedures.
The year 2015 in Togo was marked by the organization of presidential elections in April. The political context was characterized by divergences of opinions from political leaders on constitutional, institutional and electoral reforms, based on the 2006 Global Political Agreement. Among others, the remaining expected reforms concerning the limitation to five years, renewable only once, of presidential mandates, the reestablishment of the two-round majority vote and the reform of the constitutional court. Before elections, social movements were organized but no major incidents were reported.
End of June 2015, the OHCHR country office in Togo organised a workshop in Lomé to take stock of lessons learned with inter alia the aim of identifying good practices. Among best practises, the OHCHR noted the consolidation in Togo of a strong network of about 800 Human Rights Observers among relevant civil society representatives based in different parts of the country that received regular training for the purpose of monitoring human rights since its creation in 2013.
At the time of the office closure, national authorities qualified the OHCHR Togo country office as a “bridge” between civil society and national authorities. This particularly transpired from the mediation role taken by OHCHR during various elections between political parties, civil society or demonstrators on the one side and national authorities on the other.
Togo is a member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2016-2018. Togo is also represented by two independent experts, respectively members of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2014-2018) and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2015-2019). Mrs. Nakpah Polo was appointed in August 2016 a Secretary of State for Human Rights.
In 2014-2017, the main priorities of OHCHR in Togo are:
- To continue engaging with authorities, civil society organisations and the National Human Rights Commission to increase their cooperation with human rights mechanisms. Efforts will both focus on the effective participation of civil society organisations operating outside the capital and also on initiatives towards creating favourable conditions for the implementation of the recommendations of Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures and UPR reports. In particular, the West Africa Regional Office (WARO), based in Dakar-Senegal, will assist the Government in setting up and implementing a permanent inter-ministerial committee for the follow up of human rights mechanisms’ recommendations. It intends to support the Government in the preparation of one outstanding report to the Treaty bodies and to support Togo during the 26th UPR session in November 2016.
- To build on the Government initiatives towards public policies on gender equality adopted in 2012 in order to pursue awareness-raising for an increase empowerment and participation of women in political life.
- To support the Government in combatting impunity and strengthening accountability and the rule of law.
- To provide support to the Haut Commissariat à la Réconciliation et au Renforcement de l’Unité nationale (HCRRUN) in advancing the implementation of remaining recommendations from the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).
- To train and empower national civil society organisations to raise human rights violations cases with the National Human Rights Commission and the Judiciary.
- To continue promoting the implementation of the Human Rights Based Approach, notably in the implementation of the 2014-2018 UNDAF and in the framework of the Stratégie de croissance accélérée et croissance de l’emploi (SCAPE) with an increased participation of civil society organisations.
1. OHCHR report 2015 page 145 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/OHCHRreport2015/allegati/10_Africa_2015.pdf
2. CEDAW/C/TGO/CO/6-7, para. 23 (g).
3. A/HRC/25/55/Add.2. para 86 (d).
4. E/C.12/TGO/CO/1, para 25.
5. E/C.12/TGO/CO/1, para. 35.