UPR Submission - Togo
Submission to the 26th Session of the Universal Period Review, November 2016
Joint Submission by Front Line Defenders & Réseau Sentinelle
Date Submitted: 24 March 2016
Positive developments and key concerns
1. In Togo, human rights defenders are generally allowed to carry out their activities, promoting and advocating for human rights. They are involved in human rights education campaigns and engage the media on a regular basis. They also offer various types of support to victims of human rights violations such as legal aid and psycho-social assistance.
2. Freedom of association is guaranteed under Article 30 of the Constitution, and human rights defenders are allowed to form and operate through formal organisations. These organisations are allowed to freely solicit funding for their programs from international organisations as well as from diplomatic missions with a presence in the country.
3. Since 2012, collaboration between civil society actors and government institutions has substantially improved as a result of the establishment of formal channels through which civil society actors can engage the government, and particularly due to the initiative to have civil society actors represented in the committees in charge of the implementation of various sectoral government policies.
4. Despite these positive developments, there remains a number of obstacles affecting the ability of human rights defenders to carry out their legitimate work without fear for their safety, namely:
(a) Human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists organising protests as a way of advocating for human rights have been the subject of police brutality;
(b) Interference with the work of journalists, particularly those raising human rights issues, is widespread and self-censorship remains pervasive; and,
(c) Several human rights defenders were forced to go into hiding or flee the country fearing retaliation for their human rights work.
1. Front Line Defenders and Réseau Sentinelle call upon the member states of the UN Human Rights Council to urge the Togolese authorities to prioritise the protection of human rights defenders and in doing so to:
(a) Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Togo are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions and ensure full respect for the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders;
(b) Publicly recognise the positive and legitimate role played by human rights defenders in Togo, including journalists;
(c) Amend the new Penal Code to remove the clause seeking to impose jail sentences and heavy fines on journalists accused of defamation;
(d) Launch independent investigations into past incidents of intimidatory acts and police brutality against human rights defenders and journalists;
(e) Bring an end to the impunity for acts of violence, assault and intimidation perpetrated against human rights defenders, and particularly journalists;
(f) Take urgent measures to guarantee the full independence of the Haute Autorité de l'Audio-visuel et de la Communication;
(g) Take measures to put an end to the detention and judicial harassment against human rights defenders.