Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1988

President Gnassingbe Eyadema has maintained firm control and
molded Togo into an authoritarian, one-party state since
seizing power in a military coup in 1967. In addition to
serving as Head of Government, President Eyadema is Minister
of Defense and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and head of
the only legal political party, the Rassemblement Du Peuple
Togolais (RPT) . While all Togolese are considered members of
the RPT and are obligated to vote, only active party members
can gain political office. The Eyadema Government rules by
decrees and ordinances and considers its legal authority to be
based on the Constitution of 1979 which was formally adopted
by referendum. This Constitution provided for a National
Assembly, which serves primarily as a consultative body.
One-candidate presidential elections held every 7 years have
confirmed a continuation of President Eyadema ' s rule. The
President dominates all branches and functions of government.
The Government's authority is reinforced through tight control
over the organs of state security, the military, the National
Police (Surete), and the Special Police (Gendarmerie). All
these organs have internal security responsibilities.
Approximately 80 percent of Togo's 3 million people are
involved in subsistence agriculture. The country's economic
prospects improved in 1988. As in 1987, excellent rains in
1988 produced an abundant harvest in the south, but floods
followed by drought have created a food shortage in the
north. Foreign exchange earnings were still down due to Ic.
world prices for Togo's major exports, e.g., phosphates and
cocoa. However, overall government revenues were up following
Togo's successful conclusion of agreements with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the donor community. In
addition, the Government's reform program has been taking
effect, notably in introducing new fiscal policies aimed at
regulating expenditures and ensuring a balanced budget for the
first time in several years.
Although human rights in Togo continued to be circumscribed,
the Government in 1988 instituted a series of positive
measures which increased public awareness of human rights.
The independent Togolese Human Rights Commission, which was
established in late 1987, was officially activated in February
in a highly publicized conference presided over by President
Eyadema. The President publicly declared his support for the
Commission and its task and warned that the human rights
abuses which exist in Togo must stop. With this high-level
support, the Commission successfully started investigating
individual cases and conducted a campaign throughout Togo to
educate Togolese about their rights and the legal limitations
on officials' powers. In April Togo hosted a United Nationssponsored
seminar on human rights in Africa. The conference
was followed by a training seminar in Lome for Togolese
security officials to sensitize them to human rights concerns
and abuses.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political killing
There were no reports of political killings.
      b. Disappearance
There were no reports of disappearances.
c. Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
There is no specific Togolese law prohibiting torture, and in
the past beating of male detainees was routine police
procedure. With the intensive human rights campaign in 1988,
however, members of the Togolese Human Rights Commission and
attorneys report that the level of such treatment has
dramatically decreased. Conditions have improved for persons
held in civilian detention centers though less for persons
detained in military prisons or the gendarmerie camp in Lome.
Prison conditions are harsh. The prisons lack proper
lighting, ventilation, and sanitation, and are seriously
inadequate in food and medical care. Prison administration
has generally been neglected. The situation commanded public
attention in July when the prisoners in Lome's prison rioted
to protest newly issued regulations limiting their sick
leave. (The Prefect of Lome was relieved of his post by the
President because he had ignored the signs of prison unrest.)
Prisoners in civilian prisons are permitted family visits,
since it is the family which usually has to assume
responsibility for providing much of the prisoner's food,
clothing, and linen. About 18 percent of the prison
population is foreign (mostly Ghanaians and Nigerians) , and
those foreign prisoners who have no family members in Togo to
supply extra food often suffer from severe malnutrition.
In late 1987, the International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) was permitted to visit all civilian prisons of Togo and
was invited by the Government to return at its initiative.
During these visits the ICRC members were allowed unrestricted
access to civilian facilities and prisoners. Military prisons
to date have remained closed to inspections as only military
and paramilitary personnel are granted access to these
f aci lities
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, and Exile
The President restored in 1987 the 48-hour limit on the length
of time a person may be held incommunicado without charge,
with an additional 48-hour extension if the case is deemed
serious or complex. Most arrests and detentions in 1988
followed this 48-hour charge requirement.
However, persons accused of "political crimes," such as
defaming the Government or person of the President, can be
arrested and detained without regard to prescribed legal
limitations, including the 48-hour charge regulation. Such
persons have been routinely charged as "administrative
detainees," a status which does not permit recourse to normal
legal remedies.
In practice, a substantial number of prisoners, both political
and nonpolitical , are held for long periods of time--in some
cases 6 months or more--before being brought to trial, owing
to a shortage of judicial personnel and lack of enforcement of
judicial procedures. Sometimes these long detentions are by
design and sometimes through administrative negligence. One
such case involved a Burkina Faso citizen whose file was lost
by the prison. (When the case was brought to the personal
attention of the President, the prisoner was released.) A
detainee's right to counsel is not guaranteed but depends on
the status of the person and the level of political interest
in the case.
Prefects have the authority to order detention at will,
although they sometimes have been removed for abusing this
authority. The power to arrest in cases involving national
security is arbitrary and practically unlimited. In such
suspected cases, any permanent officer of the Gendarmerie may
arrest and temporarily detain any person without seeking prior
approval or submitting a subseguent report. The Gendarmerie
holds some persons outside the structure of the judicial
Persons arrested and detained by the military are processed
through the military judicial system.
While there are no precise figures available, there were
several persons in detention at the end of 1988 categorized as
"administrative detainees" whose "crimes" were "disrespect"
toward the Chief of State or the Government. With the
increasingly active role of the Togolese Human Rights
Commission, however, even political detainees now have the
possibility of bringing their cases before the Commission.
The number of Togolese political exiles is unknown. With
regard to forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
There is an established judicial hierarchy for routine
criminal and civil cases from traditional (African) to
codified (French) practice. At the lowest level, the village
chief or council of elders can hear criminal and civil cases
by taking testimony, listening to evidence, interviewing all
parties, and making a decision. Those who do not accept the
traditional ruling can take their cases to the codified
judicial system. Cases can also be taken directly to the
regular courts. The Supreme Court stands at the apex of the
court system.
In Togo's statutory judicial system the investigative
(pretrial) process is undertaken by a special judge who must
examine the adeguacy of the evidence for trial and decide on
bail. Due to an insufficient number of judges, this process
is often protracted, with many months elapsing before the case
actually comes to trial. Crowded court dockets, in turn,
cause further delays. Trials, however, are public, and
judicial procedures are followed. Defendants have the right
to counsel, but only in potential capital punishment cases
will the Government appoint counsel if the accused is unable
to afford it. Special courts exist to handle cases related to
public security (State Security Court), embezzlement of public
funds (Tribunal for Recovery of Public Funds), and violent
crimes (Court of Assizes). Amnesty International has asked
the Togolese Government to institute a right of appeal to a
higher court for those convicted by the State Security Court.
Trials in this Court are held in camera, but this Court has
been inactive for over 2 years.
Persons who embezzle money in large sums are generally not
released from jail, even after serving their sentence, until
the money is repaid (about 80 such persons are currently in
prison). Family members (usually spouses) are sometimes held
in lieu of a suspect who cannot be found or who flees.
Togo's judicial system is not independent of the executive, as
the President can and does intervene in cases of interest.
There is also evidence of executive intervention in judicial
proceedings to determine sentences.
The number of political prisoners is not known. However, 17
persons (10 condemned to death and 7 to life imprisonment)
remained in prison at the end of 1988 for their participation
in the September 1986 coup attempt against the Government.
Exile groups in Ghana opposed to the Government of Togo claim
that many political prisoners are held in Togolese jails.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Mail is routinely opened, and telephone conversations are
frequently monitored. The Government also maintains an
extensive network of informants which permeates all sections
of Togolese society to keep check on actual or perceived
opponents. Religious publications of the Jehovah's Witnesses
often disappear in the mail. In routine criminal or civil
cases, searches of private residences are authorized in
advance by a judge or senior police official. In cases
involving national security concerns, searches take place
without prior authorization. While all Togolese are
automatically members of Togo's sole political party and are
required to vote, no one is forced to take an active party
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
While freedom of speech is restricted, some easing of controls
took place in 1988. Direct and open criticism of the
Government, and especially of the President, is perceived as
serious antigovernment activity and is not tolerated.
However, in line with the human rights campaign, official
abuses and general complaints are now aired in public forums
with the President's support. Because of the less restrictive
atmosphere, academicians and professionals have been more open
about airing their political views in public.
The Government owns, operates, and controls all sectors of the
media, which it uses as a means for projecting a positive
self-image and maintaining public support. Publication or
circulation of any material criticizing or questioning
government policies is not permitted. Cases of gross
governmental malfeasance are not, however, immune from media
scrutiny. This has been true of the unraveling and final
disposition of the financial scandal involving officers of
Togo's agricultural bank. While the media has provided fairly
complete coverage, no mention has been made of the alleged
involvement of several military officers.
There is government censorship of all films, books, plays, and
other writings published in Togo. Intellectuals are aware
that they must exercise careful self-censorship or else risk
possible imprisonment, exile, or having their works banned.
Some bookstores, however, sell a wide range of books,
including those containing veiled criticism of the system of
government. Foreign publications are offered for sale openly
in bookstores, and only rarely have individual issues (those
which are harshly critical of Togo) been withdrawn by the
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of assembly is strictly controlled in Togo.
Government approval must be obtained before any large group
can meet. This process is an effective means for preventing
any antigovernment groups from meeting. Government permission
for nonpolitical events is given routinely and expeditiously.
Professional groups which do not undertake political
activities are free to hold meetings.
      c. Freedom of Religion
With a few exceptions, the Government promotes a climate of
openness for religious freedom. Although all religious groups
must have government authorization to operate, only the
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Apostolic Faith Mission are
currently proscribed by name. They are not allowed to conduct
services, proselytize, or otherwise carry out religious
activities, although there are no known legal penalties for
being a member of either group. The Jehovah's Witnesses
continue to have members in Togo.
All religious groups must qualify under one of seven broad
categories specified by the Ministry of Interior to be
officially sanctioned. Qualifying groups are not restricted
in their religious practices. They are free to publish
religious material, conduct services, and teach their faith.
Non-Togolese clergy of these religious groups are welcome to
reside in Togo, proselytize, and engage in other religious
activities. Local religious groups are free to maintain
contacts with coreligionists in other countries, and no
restrictions exist on travel for religious purposes. The
Government does not favor any specific religion, and
membership in any authorized religious group is neither a
benefit nor a hindrance in civil service promotions.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Free movement, including domestic and foreign travel,
emigration, and the right to change residence or work place,
is generally allowed. However, the Government restricts the
issuance of passports in order to control the emigration of
professional Togolese and also to keep known political
dissidents under close scrutiny. Exit visas are required.
The Government maintains customs and security checkpoints
throughout the country on all major routes. Except for the
few political exiles, Togolese who have chosen to reside in
other countries may return at will.
Togo has traditionally welcomed refugees, and the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognizes some
500 refugees in Togo. During 1988 there were renewed
allegations that the Government occasionally forcibly
repatriates refugees to neighboring countries in return for
those countries returning dissident Togolese. There have also
been reports that some refugees avoid registering with UNHCR
to preclude their Government's receiving information about
their whereabouts.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
In the one-party state created by President Eyadema, all
citizens are automatically party members but are unable to
change by democratic means the one-party political system or
the government in power. While active party members may
debate minor issues at party meetings or even raise complaints
against local officials, no challenges are permitted to the
President's programs. Presidential elections were held in
1986, the second since 1979. President Eyadema was again the
only candidate and was elected for another 7-year term with
99.7 percent of the votes cast.
A National Assembly, created pursuant to the 1979
Constitution, has 77 members but does not have the power to
reject laws proposed by the executive. It is limited to
debating certain categories of proposed legislation. In the
1985 National Assembly elections and in elections held in
January 1987 for municipal and prefectural councils, multiple
candidates from the official party were permitted to run, but
each candidate had to obtain party authorization and submit
campaign literature for approval.
Ethnic and religious groups are represented in the National
Assembly in approximate proportion to their actual numbers in
the country, and the Central Committee of the party has a fair
north-south balance. Women, however, are seriously
under represented, there being none in the Cabinet and only 3
in the 77-member National Assembly. The 46-member party
Central Committee has 10 women members.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigations of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
In October 1987, Togo formally inaugurated a National Human
Rights Commission (NCHR) composed of 13 members, one each
elected by 13 private and public bodies, e.g., the bar
association, judges, doctors, teachers, trade unions. The
Commission is authorized by law to receive complaints from any
Togolese citizen or foreign resident, to investigate, and to
have access to government and police files. If a violation is
found to exist, the Comm.ission is also authorized to negotiate
with the responsible governmental authority either to bring
about rectification or to submit the case to the courts or to
the President. Commission members enjoy immunity from arrest
or prosecution during their term of office and for 1 year
The Commission became active in February 1988 and received a
number of cases to investigate, including petitions concerning
arbitrary detentions, torture, attacks on religious freedom,
and illegal withdrawal of documents. According to its first
annual report, the NCHR reviewed 151 cases falling within its
competence, and "ultimately kept 116 petitions which it
considered of such a nature as to justify its advocacy of the
victims before the Administration." The report noted that
over half of the petitions involved arbitrary detentions, and
that the NCHR had been successful in resolving a number of
these cases, either by obtaining the release of persons from
police custody or by ensuring transfer of the cases to the
Prosecutor's Office. The President has played an active and
supportive role, encouraging the Commission to take cases to
whatever levels necessary for resolution.
The Government has been active in recent years in
participating in international forums, such as the United
Nations Human Rights Commission. It has ratified the
international covenants on human rights, the African Charter
on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the Optional Protocol to the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The
Government did not respond in 1988 to Amnesty International's
requests for information.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
There is some discrimination in Togo in favor of northern
ethnic groups over southerners. Prior to President Eyadema '
seizure of power in 1967, political power was dominated by
southern ethnic groups who also enjoyed economic and social
privileges. Under President Eyadema, who is a northerner and
a military man, the situation has changed considerably in the
past 21 years, with northerners now forming the bulk of the
military and security forces. At the same time, a serious
effort has been made to integrate all ethnic groups into the
political structure; ministers, prefects, assembly delegates,
and labor and party officials are generally representative of
Togo's ethnic distribution. Southerners, however, continue to
predominate in senior civil service, technical, and
professional jobs. There is no known discrimination on
grounds of religion.
The economic and social rights of Togolese women are spelled
out in the "family code" which was adopted in early 1980.
Under this code, women's rights include maternity leave
benefits. In the economic sphere, women dominate local market
activities and commerce with Togo's neighbors and often amass
considerable wealth. But formal equality under the law and
economic power have not given women an effective role in
political decisionmaking. Nor do they spell out economic or
social equality for women. Unlike civil law, customary or
traditional law gives all property to the male in the event of
separation or divorce. Similarly, although women are legally
allowed to acquire contraceptives and undertake family
planning, custom and tradition prohibit women from access to
contraception without the permission of their husbands or
Far fewer women than men receive university education, and the
number of women graduates from secondary schools is low. In
addition, the pensions of working women who die do not go to
their families, unlike those of working men. Although working
women pay into the pension fund in the same proportion as men,
their children receive no funds in case of death, creating a
special hardship for families with no father. Economic
conditions in rural areas often leave women little time for
anything other than carrying water, finding firewood, cooking,
childbearing , caring for the family, and helping to raise food
crops. The Government has undertaken a campaign to make women
throughout Togo aware of their expanded opportunities under
the new family code. A government-sponsored women's
organization, the National Union of Togolese Women, is active
in the promotion of women's education and welfare.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
Although under the Togolese labor code all Togolese workers
have the right to organize themselves, actual labor organizing
is permitted only under the auspices of the National
Confederation of Workers of Togo (CNTT) , which under the
direction of Togo's single political party unites various
independent trade unions into one national labor
organization. All wage earners are automatically members of
the CNTT, and all pay dues via an automatic check-off system.
The CNTT is affiliated with the International Confederation of
Free Trade Unions and sends delegates to International Labor
Organization (ILO) conferences. The CNTT also maintains ties
with the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial
Organizations. An affiliate of CNTT is a member of the
International Federation of Commercial, Clerical, Technical
and Professional Employees, which held its 21st world congress
in Lome in August 1987.
Strikes are authorized only as a means of last resort but
rarely, if ever, take place. The Government acts as
arbitrator in cases where labor and management cannot settle a
dispute. The few strikes which have occurred in the past have
been short and ended as a result of government arbitration.
The Government has not used coercion, force, or arrests to end
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Workers do not have the right to organize outside the CNTT.
The CNTT is not an independent union and basically conveys the
Government's views and requirements to workers. It does have
a role in the wage bargaining process and does on certain
issues represent the workers' economic interests to the
Government. It also takes the workers' side in disputes with
employers (unless the employer is the Government) . Labor
legislation and practice is uniform throughout the country,
including in the export processing zone near the Port of Lome.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Prisoners are sometimes required to work, and there are
occasional early morning mobilizations of the populations in
larger towns and cities to clean streets and pick up trash.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Under the Togolese Labor Code, the employment of children
under the age of 14 in any enterprise is prohibited. Some
types of industrial and technical employment require a minimum
age of 18. While this is generally enforced in urban
employment, in rural areas even very young children
traditionally help their families with agricultural work or
animal husbandry.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Labor practices in Togo are regulated by the Togolese Labor
Code adopted in 1974. The Code stipulates that there should
be equal pay for equal work regardless of sex. Working hours
of all employees in any enterprise, except for agricultural
enterprises, should not normally exceed 40 hours per week; at
least one period of 24 hours of rest per week is compulsory;
and workers should receive 30 days of paid leave each year.
The minimum wage in the agricultural sector is about 20 cents
per hour, and in the nonagricultural sector about 25 cents per
hour. The amounts are not sufficient for workers to maintain
a decent standard of living, and minimum wage workers
supplement their incomes through second jobs or through some
subsistence farming. Enterprises must run a regular medical
service for their employees.
Health and safety standards in the workplace are determined by
a technical consulting committee at the Ministry of Labor and
instituted by decrees. There are penalties for employers who
do not meet the conditions of the decree. These provisions
are believed to be respected by large state-owned and private
enterprises but are probably ignored by many smaller firms and
the large subsistence agricultural sector involving family
units. Due to Togo's significant unemployment, few workers in
the smaller firm>s where working conditions are poorest are
willing to complain and risk losing their jobs