The OHCHR Country Office in Togo was established in November 2006 to help build national capacities to protect human rights. It assists the Government in designing policies to implement the 22 commitments on democracy and human rights undertaken with the European Union in April 2004 and the recommendations of the UN mission of inquiry issued in 2005. As it moves into the second year of its operation, the Office will focus on the administration of justice and rule of law, human rights education, and the integration of human rights into the activities of the UN Country Team.
The political parties and the Government of Togo signed a Global and Political Agreement, brokered by President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina-Faso, on 20 August 2006, and established a follow-up committee. The Agreement proposes the creation of two commissions that will be responsible for establishing the truth on past postelectoral crimes and human rights violations, and for promoting reconciliation. The Country Office will provide technical, neutral support for the process.
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture visited Togo in April 2007 at the invitation of the Government, illustrating the Government’s willingness to open itself up to independent and objective scrutiny of its human rights situation. The Special Rapporteur commended the Government for the progressive implementation of the undertakings with the European Union, of the UN mission’s recommendations, and the Global Political Accord. At the same time, he recommended that the Government take further measures against impunity by establishing an effective and independent mechanism to investigate incidents of torture; continue its efforts to improve detention conditions; support the National Human Rights Commission in its efforts to become an effective player in the fight against torture; establish effective mechanisms to enforce the prohibition of violence against women; ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture; and establish effective national mechanisms to carry out unannounced visits to all places of detention.
Since November 2006, the Office has organized and supported training for judges, the media, the military, police and civil society. The Office is viewed as an impartial arbiter and is respected for its courage in taking the lead on such sensitive issues as those related to impunity,which are now openly discussed. The Office has built constructive and dynamic relationships with all national actors. It monitored the human rights situation throughout the country before, during and after the parliamentary elections that took place on 14 October 2007. Five temporary sub-offices opened in Aneho, Atakpame, Kara, Mango and Sokode monitored the human rights situation and conducted sensitization programmes in each area.
The Office will support the establishment and functioning of justice and accountability mechanisms, in accordance with international human rights standards, to monitor, investigate and redress violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Building on experiences from Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia and elsewhere, the Office will advise and support the Government in establishing the two accountability mechanisms envisaged under the Global Political Agreement. The Office will also launch a human rights education campaign and a national campaign against impunity.
OHCHR will provide technical assistance and financial support to the National Human Rights Commission and NGOs. Joint monitoring, reporting and advocacy activities will be undertaken, including assistance to the Ministry of Human Rights in implementing the national human rights action plan adopted in May 2007 and working with the Ministry of Justice on the Modernization-of- Justice Programme. Human rights training for NGOs, the security forces, the judiciary, lawyers, prison officials and the media will help bridge knowledge and capacity gaps in national human rights monitoring, reporting and advocacy.
The Office will develop an advocacy strategy and provide technical advice to the Government to ensure that national legislation complies with international human rights standards. This support, especially in the field of women’s rights and gender-based violence, prevention against torture and discrimination will result in legislative and policy changes in compliance with Togo’s international treaty obligations.
OHCHR will advocate for the implementation of recommendations of the Committee against Torture (CAT), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the report of the Special Rapporteur on torture. Support given to the Inter-ministerial Committee on Reporting will result in the development of a national framework and plan of action to implement the recommendations and to ratify standards related to migration, persons with disabilities, and the optional protocols to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Office will also continue to provide its support to Special Rapporteurs who visit the country.
The Office will continue to work with the UN Country Team, particularly the UN Governance Working Group, to encourage joint activities on human rights themes, including activities commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and follow-up on concluding observations of the CAT and the CRC. Training sessions on international human rights mechanisms and standards and on rights-based approaches will be intensified to facilitate coordination with the humanitarian and development components of the UNDAF. The Office will also continue its ongoing joint action with UNHCR to protect returnees and will develop other joint activities with UNICEF on human trafficking and slavery-like practices. In addition, it will work with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) and UNDP on conflict prevention and resolution.
OHCHR’s visibility and presence outside the capital, Lomé, is of strategic importance in its next phase to help bring the human rights message closer to the people and facilitate closer monitoring of the human rights situation and public reporting. Thus the Office plans to open two field offices, in Sokode (centre) and Dapaong (north), in 2008.