Togo: Repressive Violence and Cybersecurity Law Hit the Country Before the Boycotted Parliamentary Elections

At least four people were killed by government forces in the unrest before the boycotted elections on the 20th of December, including a 12-year-old boy who was shot in the head.

Protests have been reported around the country. Protesters pieced together barricades in the streets, while they were shot at. Many protesters were injured by gunshot wounds in the capital Lomé and the northern city of Sokodé.

To-map

Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Regional Director, Evelyne Petrus Barry, said “Even after a child was killed, Togo’s authorities continue to fuel the violence by deploying military officers carrying firearms to protest sites, which risks exacerbating an already tense situation.”

Amnesty International’s digital verification experts were able to authenticate video of demonstration sites which appear to have been filmed December 8th.

Before the recent elections, a group of 14 opposition parties rejected the December 20th date and called for boycotts leading to incredibly low turnout, and president’s ruling party claimed victory. The protests were scheduled between December 8th and 18th. On December 6th, the government banned protests citing “very high risk of serious breaches to public order.”

Rights groups say demonstrations in the country were banned on arbitrary grounds. Despite the ban, the opposition decided to go ahead with protests, which were quickly dispersed by security forces.

The violence comes with an intensifying crackdown on the right to freedom of expression in Togo. Togo’s National Assembly adopted a new law on cybersecurity which significantly restricts freedom of expression. The law criminalizes publishing ‘false information’ with consequence of up to three years in prison; breaching ‘public morality’ with up to two years; and making it illegal to produce or share data that undermines ‘order, public security or breach human dignity.’

The law contains vague provisions that can be used against whistleblowers and others reporting on human rights abuses, as terrorists and as treason, carrying sentences up to 20 years in prison.

 

 

 

Images from the top: “freedom of expression” by Jason Taellious is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 and “Map of Togo” by Central Intelligence Agency is in the Public Domain

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