Togo: Shadow Report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Amnesty International

Togo: Shadow Report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Amnesty International

Author (s):  Amnesty International

Type of publication: Report

Date of publication: November 2018

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Amnesty International’s report focuses on ongoing key concerns regarding the human rights situation in Togo, including torture and other ill-treatment, violations of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, arbitrary detention, excessive use of force, and impunity.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The definitions of “cruel and inhuman treatment or punishment”, and “degrading treatment” set out in the 2015 law revising the Criminal Code restrict the scope of application of the charges to acts causing “grave mental or physical suffering” or “humiliation or grave debasement,” instead of expanding these terms so as to extend the widest possible protection against abuses.

Torture and other ill-treatment are regularly used by the security forces at the time of arrest and during pre-trial detention to extract confessions


  • Mohamed Loum was arrested in January 2013 in relation to the fires which destroyed the markets in Lomé and Kara and beaten and subjected to waterboarding while in the custody of the gendarmerie. He was also subjected to prolonged restraint in handcuffs, often lasting 24 hours, and denied food and water.
  • Several men arrested during protests in Mango in November 2015 were subjected to ill-treatment, including beatings with belts, batons and rifle butts at the time of their arrest and during transfers to different detention centers, causing open wounds on their backs, legs and hands. They were asked to sign statements which they did not understand. No one has been held accountable for the ill-treatment they suffered.

Prison conditions and deaths in custody

Prisons in Togo remain overcrowded and prison conditions broadly fail to meet international human rights standards.Detainees told Amnesty International that they did not have access to adequate medical care and were given only one meal a day. At least 180 people died in detention between 2012 and 2016, mostly from preventable or curable diseases, including malaria and intestinal infections.

According to the prison administration statistics for March 2018, 5,053 people were in various prisons in Togo, despite a total prison capacity of only 2,881 detainees

Freedom of assembly and use of force

The revised Criminal Code, adopted in November 2015, restricts the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. It criminalizes the participation and organization of assemblies which have not been subject to the necessary administrative formalities, regardless of the size of the assembly, with sentences ranging from a fine of CFA 50,000 to five years’ imprisonment.

Peaceful assemblies organized by political parties or human rights defenders are often banned and violently dispersed by the police, gendarmerie and the armed forces, and their organizers often face reprisals and arbitrary arrests

Under Togolese law, there is no independent oversight body mandated to investigate any use of force that results in injury or death. Arbitrary or abusive use of force by law enforcement officials is not punished as a criminal offence.


  • In November 2015, security forces killed seven people and wounded at least 117 others, including pregnant women and children, in Mango in northern Togo, during demonstrations against plans to create a nature reserve in the area.
  • On 28 February 2017, security forces used live ammunition to disperse a spontaneous protest against oil price rises in the capital, Lomé, killing one person and wounding several others.
  • Between August and December 2017, various political opposition groups held mass demonstrations in major cities, some of which were marred with sporadic violent clashes between opposition groups and supporters of the ruling party. At least 10 people were killed, including two members of the armed forces and three children aged between 11 and 14. Hundreds were injured, including members of the security forces.

Freedom of expression

The Press and Communication Code, adopted in 1998, criminalizes offending public officials, including with drawings, as well as broadcasting and publishing information “at variance with reality”, defamation (including against public officials) and incitement to commit crimes or offences. These charges are vaguely worded and are used to repress dissent.

The Togolese legal framework has become more restrictive following legislative changes in 2013 and 2015, which introduced provisions that violate the right to freedom of expression. The revised Code creates a new, imprecise and overly broad charge of publishing, broadcasting or reproducing “false news”, allowing the imposition of prison terms of up to five years.

The authorities continue repress dissent by curtailing freedom of expression and attacking journalists, human rights defenders and political activists, particularly those perceived to undermine the interests of members of the government or the security forces


  • The internet was shut down for nine days in September 2017 amid opposition-led protests, disrupting the organization of peaceful protests and impeding the work of human rights defenders and journalists who were monitoring the protests.
  • On 7 February 2017, journalist Robert Kossi Avotor was beaten with batons and handcuffed by gendarmes to prevent him from photographing an eviction process in Lomé. He was detained and his photographs deleted, before being released on the same day without any charge.
  • On 22 August, Folly Satchivi, an activist and first spokesman of the movement “By no means” (En aucun cas), was arrested by security forces while attempting to hold a press conference. Folly Satchivi was charged with: acts of rebellion, provocation, apology and incitement to commit crimes and misdemeanours.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights

The revised Criminal Code of 2015 retains provisions which criminalize same-sex relationships and discriminate against LGBTI persons. It raises the applicable penalty for “unnatural acts between individuals of the same sex” up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to CFA 3 million (approximately EUR 4573).

LGBTI people in Togo face harassment and arbitrary detention by the security forces on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.


  • A gay man who was returning home from a party wearing female clothing was arrested by two police officers in 2014 and detained without charge for five days in a police station.48 The police officers forced him to take off all his clothing, took videos and photographs and threatened to leak the images to the press if he did not comply with their instructions.

Impunity for human rights violations

A climate of impunity for human rights violations persists in Togo. Members of the police force, the gendarmerie and the armed forces regularly commit human rights violations with few repercussions.