1. Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: The state of human rights in Togo is largely influenced by its recent past and its socio-economic context. In a country where 55% of the population is under the poverty line, and with significant inequality, Togo is struggling to get over its authoritarian past. While a legal framework exists to a large extent, the consolidation of democracy, the rule of law and the respect of human rights are hindered by weak state institutions and lack of political will from the authorities.
In 2018, human rights remained unsatisfactory, as the political crisis which started in 2017 continued between the government and the united opposition, despite the mediation organised by ECOWAS and partly due to the lack of trust between the two blocks. The roadmap agreed in July 2018 to deescalate and adopt institutional and constitutional reforms leading to parliamentary elections in December 2018 and presidential elections in 2020 allowed the legislative elections to take place as foreseen on the 20 December 2018. They were boycotted by the opposition, despite a strong implication of ECOWAS and the international partners and organisations in Togo. Numerous demonstrations, mostly peaceful, degenerated in dozens of arrests, making prisons even more overcrowded (double the normal capacity). Freedom of the press and media is generally respected in the written press, radio and internet, less so on TV.
While formally recognised in the legislation, equal rights for women are not well respected. Due to the levels of poverty, cases of slavery impact women more than men, and access to education is also restricted for them. Furthermore, other challenges exist, such as genital mutilations, in particular in rural areas, or the discrimination of people suffering from albinism.
2. EU action – the key focus areas remain the same as last year, and concern:
· Reform of the judicial system: As Togo only attributes 1% of its budget to Justice, progress is slow, and justice is not independent. But under the EU funded Support to the Justice System programme, aiming at improving the functioning of the judicial system, and increasing the cooperation with judicial police, some results have been visible, and the government has also increased recruitments in the sector.
· Support to national reconciliation: Some local NGOs have received grants to raise awareness within the population, and encourage dialogue and reconciliation.
· Support to the modernisation of State services: The government is working on a reform of local self-government, with the creation of 116 municipalities, with EU support on the delivery of public services.
· Professionalisation of law enforcement bodies: A new National Police School has opened in 2017 as a centre of education and retraining of the police officers, with EU financial support.
· The implementation of the gender Action Plan: Clear indicators have been selected for various budget support programmes in various sectors. Additionally, some training activities for women in politics have been undertaken, and some awareness campaigns took place, including on TV.
· Support to civil society: It took place in the framework of EU funded programme PROCEMA, for instance with a mapping of local NGOs and a roadmap of EU support towards civil society.
3. EU bilateral political engagement: The EU Delegation has followed closely the situation around the 2018 elections, together with its partners of the "Group of 5" (EU, France, Germany, US, UN). The Group of 5 supported the ECOWAS mediation and encouraged all the Togolese political actors to uphold the dialogue and implement the roadmap leading to a resumption of a pacified political life. The road to a long-term solution, under a consensus leading to credible, inclusive and transparent elections seemed close by, but neither the government, which did not fully implement the measures agreed upon to deescalate, nor the opposition, who decided to boycott the elections, raised themselves to the existing challenge.
While there are doubts about the effective turnout, the legislative elections did take place on 20 December 2018 in a relatively peaceful way, but the overall goal of national reconciliation remains unfulfilled. However, the Presidential pardon announced in January concerned 454 persons, according to two criteria, having less than 6 months to serve, or being gravely ill. This pardon is a result of the EU funded project to support the judicial sector and a partial response to the overpopulation in Togo's jails. It also demonstrates the importance of the EU's engagement in promoting justice reform and of the constant dialogue that the EU has kept open with the Togolese authorities during 2018, leading to an improvement of the situation with NGOs working on the national reconciliation, inter alia.
4. EU financial engagement: The Presidential pardon, which was officially announced in January 2019, is fully in line with the EU objective to help reduce the overcrowding of Togolese prisons an improve conditions in detention. The EU financially supports the reform of the Togolese justice and penitentiary system.
An EU funded programme PRODEGOL, co-financed with Germany is being implemented on the improvement of the delivery of civil service, such as birth certificates and other administrative acts.
On freedom of the press, the EU Delegation and partners from the US, France and Germany organised in 2018 a competition aiming at the promotion of quality journalism.
5. Multilateral context: Togo has been re-elected to the Council of Human Rights for a two years mandate (2018-2020). During the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR), in October 2016, the Council has noted a number of positive developments, such as a new Criminal Code. But Togo has refused to implement proposals linked to the accession to the Rome Statute, or those linked to LGBTI rights.