Declaration of 8 NGOs on the presidential elections in Togo

12/06/2003
Report
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After thirty-six years of authoritarian power, marked by massive violations of human rights, and during which political assassinations became frequent, General Eyadema has again been declared winner of the presidential election held on 1 June last, after a vote marred by major irregularities. The result, made public by the Independant National Electoral Commission (CENI), declaring Gnassingbe Eyadema the winner with 57 % of the votes, was no surprise.

Yet the transparancy and fairness of the ballot were compromised during the months preceding election day, as our organizations revealed on 6 May, 2003. Various manipulations were arranged at all levels of the electoral process, so as to insure General Eyadema’s victory.

As early as February, 2003, our organizations noted numerous arrests of members of the opposition. Some, like Marc Palanga et Mazama Takassa, members of the opposition party UFC, are still being held arbitrarily and suffer acts of torture. During the presidential campaign, opposition candidates complained of increasing obstacles placed on their travelling freely over the entire national territory and on the organization of political meetings.

During the campaign, the State media accepted only the RPT party in power, in violation of the Togo electoral Code, which provides for free access of all candidates to the public media and equal time for all.

Refusing to be a party to this electoral farce, the European Union and the United Nations decided not to delegate observers to Togo.

One of the consequences of this electoral coup is the tension visible in Togo since the declaration of the results by the CENI, on 4 June, 2003, leading to the fear that the violations of human rights will continue or even increase.

On election day, and after the declaration of the results by the CENI, violent clashes occurred between security forces and civilian populations in Lome and in Tsevie, Gbatope and Djagble. The army used truncheons, tear gas and real bullets. Three people were killed and many severly injured are in hospital. Several of those manifesting were arrested. They will be held in police stations, where they are systematically molested and tortured.
Two leaders of the UFC, Patrick Lawson and Jean Pierre Fabre, were also arrested twice, between May and June, then released.
All independant journalists who mentioned the election irregularities have been warned. Others have been intimidated because they published statistics, released by the opposition, suggesting that General Eyadema would lose. Even foreign media (RFI, for instance) were refused the right to cover the event. Defenders of human rights and members of civil society who wished to supervize the election received threats and other intimidations.

According to our information, members of the armed forces suspected of having voted for the opposition were arrested the day after the election. We are particularly disturbed by persistent echos of kidnappings and disappearances of military personnel in various camps. We fear the authorities may conduct a purge, as in 1993 and 1998.

In addition, heavily armed soldiers circulate in the country and commit exactions on the population. Some sources also indicate the presence of foreign mercenaries, swelling the ranks of the governmant forces.

Large population displacements have been noted in the country and near the borders. Several hundred people have alreay fled Togo for Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso.

We condemn the violation by the Togo authorities of article 25 of the international Pact on civil and political rights, guaranteeing free and pluralist elections.

In this context, we are surprised that the President of the French Republic should have been the first to send a telegram of congratulations to General Eyadema, without even waiting for the official declaration of the results by the Togo Constitutionnal Court.

We strongly condemn all forms of recourse to violence, arrests and arbitrary detention, torture, menace and intimidation exercised by the Togo authorities for the purpose of muzzling freedom of expression, opinion and manifestation. We call for the authorities to follow the international dispositions relative to the protection of human rights, and particularly those of the Convention against Torture and of the international Pact on civil and political rights, ratified by Togo.

We demand that the Togo authorities free immediately all prisoners held because of their opinions, especially Marc Palanga, Mazama Takassa, Kabassima Togbare and Agate.

Our associations send a final call to the international community, particularly to France, the principal partner of Togo, for them to assume their responsability in seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis the country is experiencing. Strong diplomatic and political pressure must be brought on General Eyadema, so that he will follow democratic norms, restore a State of Law and respect for human rights in general.

Signing NGOs :
- ACAT-France (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture): actions@acat.asso.fr
- Agir ensemble pour les droits de l’Homme: agir-ensemble@aedh.org
- International Federation of ACAT (FIACAT): fiacat@fiacat.org
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH): fidh@fidh.org
- Franciscans International: geneve@fiop.org
- World organisation against torture (OMCT) : omct@omct.org
- Secours-Catholique/France: dept-afrique@secours-catholique.asso.fr
- Survie: sc.survie@wanadoo.fr

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