Faced with terrorism, Togo and Benin are fighting against armed groups, but respect human rights too little, according to the NGO Amnesty International.
While Benin claimed, a few months ago, to have experienced "nearly twenty attacks by armed groups" between the end of 2021 and May 2022, Togo suffered, for its part, several attacks, especially last July. The authorities of these two neighboring countries are on their toes. On the one hand, Patrice Talon asked Emmanuel Macron for help. The French president promised his Beninese counterpart to cooperate on “training and equipment”. On the other, Faure Gnassingbé announced the sending of reinforcements to the Savanes region, on the Burkinabe border.
But now, the fight against terrorism in both countries seems to have repercussions on human rights. The NGO Amnesty International claims to have heard of "arrests, arbitrary detentions, violations of the rights to freedom of assembly" which, according to her, "constitute a serious failure on the part of the authorities of Benin and Togo in the context of the fight against armed groups”.
According to Amnesty, "people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in these two countries, in particular because of their community affiliation". It would be the Fulani ethnic group who would be the privileged target of the armed forces. The NGO cites the case of two political gatherings which have been banned in Togo. But it is especially the case of a newspaper director who worries Amnesty: he was summoned by the Togolese judicial authorities after having mentioned a "blunder" by the army. A proven fact, however.
Call to order by the UN
What to fear the worst? “These human rights violations risk becoming systematic and worsening, as is the case in neighboring countries which have been fighting the same armed groups for several years. The Beninese and Togolese authorities must now put an end to this situation", asks Samira Daoud, regional director for Central and West Africa at Amnesty International for whom "the threat posed by armed groups is also used as a pretext for restricting civil and political rights”.
Indeed, since June 13, 2022, Togo has established a state of security emergency in the Savannah region. The army would take advantage of this situation to carry out arbitrary arrests. In Benin, the situation is similar. However, “as reaffirmed in a resolution on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2022, urgent measures must be necessary, proportionate to the assessed risk and applied in a lawful and non-discriminatory manner, even in times of crisis,” Amnesty International said.