Togo: Building a strong institution to prevent torture

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Following OPCAT ratification in 2010, Togo initially made slow steps in fulfilling its treaty obligations. However, progress has accelerated in the past year, with the passing of a new law in 2018, designating the National Human Rights Commission as a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) and the new Commissioners taking office in April 2019.

Since April, the APT has engaged in a constructive dialogue with the Commission to help them implement their new torture prevention mandate. This engagement has translated into a number of high-level meetings with commissioners and civil society organisations and capacity-strengthening workshops for authorities and NHRC staff.

Engagement began this year with the participation of two of the newly appointed NPM representatives to a regional meeting in Morocco, co-organised by the APT, where the Togolese NPM learnt from the realities of other French speaking National Human Rights Commissions which have been designated as NPMs.

On the heels of Togo’s examination by the UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) in Geneva – where a number of issues relating to NPM functioning were raised – the APT and the Commission President agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding which will govern our work together over the coming years. In particular, the Commission requested APT’s assistance to strengthen their institutional capacity to perform their new functions, and to help them train key authorities on their obligations to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. This also includes ongoing support for the Commission in the development and execution of its new strategic and operational plans.

In August, the APT travelled to Togo to conduct two targeted activities to respond to the Commission’s needs. The first was a two-day workshop where (for the first time in many years) 30 participants, including, the Commissioners and Commission staff, both from the capital and regional offices, gathered in one place. The workshop aimed at strengthening the capacity of the Commission through a better understanding of torture prevention and an enhanced articulation between different departments and regional offices. The APT facilitated interactive discussions amongst participants, through case studies and examples from other countries. It also took the opportunity to pilot some of the content of its soon-to-be launched “NPM toolkit”, in particular regarding governance and planning.

The second activity took place in Kpalime, in the middle of the country. Here, the APT supported the Commission’s educational programme, targeted at 30 justice and law enforcement officials whose work will be directly affected by the NPM’s detention monitoring. During a two-day workshop, the APT and the commission explained the new NPM mandate to the participants, who gained detailed insights on the legal framework related to torture and their obligations to prevent it, including through the implementation of key detention safeguards in the first hours of custody– one of the major concerns raised by the Committee against Torture. Through interactive sessions, participants also understood and experienced the kinds of interactions they are likely to have when the NPM visits places of deprivation of liberty and engages in dialogue with the authorities. Following the mission, the NPM then used APT’s training materials to conduct a second workshop for another group of 30 officials in the north of the country.

Both in-country activities were additionally supported by OMCT and the Collectif des Associations Contre l'Impunité au Togo (CACIT).