Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. In November 2015 the National Assembly passed a revised penal code. It defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for purposes such as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or intimidating or coercing a third person, or for any other reason based on discrimination of any kind.” On September 29, the National Assembly amended the penal code to remove the statute of limitation on torture. Conviction of torture is punishable by a sentence of 30 to 50 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 25 million to 100 million CFA francs ($42,560 to $170,242).
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions and detention centers remained harsh and potentially life threatening due to serious overcrowding, poor sanitation, disease, and unhealthy food. There were reports prison officials sometimes withheld medical treatment from prisoners.
Physical Conditions: Overcrowding was a problem. In 2015 there were 4,427 prisoners and pretrial detainees (including 118 women) in 12 prisons and jails designed to hold 2,720. Men often guarded women. There were 27 juveniles held in the Brigade for Minors facility. Authorities placed the infants of female pretrial detainees and prisoners in the care of government-supported private nurseries. Officials held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Medical facilities, food, sanitation, ventilation, and lighting were inadequate or nonexistent, prisoners did not have access to potable water, and disease was widespread.
There were 27 prison deaths from various causes, including malaria.
Administration: Recordkeeping was inadequate. No alternatives to incarceration exist, even for nonviolent prisoners. Many of those in pretrial detention qualified for release under a provision of law that provides for release of a detainee who had already served half the sentence corresponding to the charge. Because prison administrators did not maintain records of charges against detainees, officials did not know which detainees were eligible for release. There were no ombudsmen to assist in resolving the complaints of prisoners and detainees.
Although authorities allowed prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions, they rarely investigated complaints and, when they did, did not release any findings. The government rarely monitored and investigated allegations of inhuman prison and detention center conditions.
Independent Monitoring: Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) accredited by the Ministry of Justice visited prisons. Such NGOs were generally independent and acted without government interference. The government required international NGOs to negotiate an agreement with the government to gain similar access. The International Committee of the Red Cross and other international human rights organizations had access. The government holds an annual “Week of the Detainee” program during which all prison and detention centers are open to the public, allowing visitors to witness the harsh, sometimes deplorable, realities of prison life.
Improvements: Authorities employed conditional release and other measures to reduce overcrowding.
For example, on September 21, the government opened a modern prison in Kpalime, 82 miles northwest of Lome. It is designed for an inmate population of 1,000 and expected to relieve overcrowding at the Civil Prison of Lome by up to 40 percent. The prison includes a sports field, dining hall, and workshops.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The national police and the gendarmerie are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country, and the gendarmerie is responsible for migration and border enforcement. The National Intelligence Agency provided intelligence to police and gendarmes but did not have internal security or detention facility responsibilities. Police are under the direction of the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection (MSPC), which reports to the prime minister. The gendarmerie falls under the Ministry of Defense but also reports to the MSPC on many matters involving law enforcement and security. The Ministry of Defense, which reports directly to the president, oversees the military. In November 2015 security forces responded to protests that turned violent in the northern city of Mango. This violence followed confrontations between local law enforcement officers and protesters that led to the deaths of at least seven protesters and the hanging of a police official. The security forces intervention lasted one day, during which time an additional protester was killed.
Police often failed to respond to societal violence. For example, on January 30, a mob in Lome burned alive a suspected motorbike thief.
Corruption and inefficiency were endemic among police, and impunity was a problem. There were reports of police misusing arrest authority for personal gain. Abuses by security forces were subject to internal disciplinary investigations and criminal prosecution by the Ministry of Justice, but such action seldom occurred. The government generally neither investigated nor punished effectively those who committed abuses. There were no training or other programs to increase respect for human rights.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
There were no reports of persons arbitrarily detained in secret without warrants. The law authorizes judges, senior police officials, prefects, and mayors to issue arrest warrants. Detainees have the right to be informed of the charges against them, and police generally respected this right. Although the law stipulates that special judges conduct a pretrial investigation to examine the adequacy of evidence and to decide on bail, authorities often held detainees without bail for lengthy periods regardless of a judge’s decision. Attorneys and family members have the right to see a detainee after 48 to 96 hours of detention, but authorities often delayed, and sometimes denied, access. All defendants have the right to an attorney, and the bar association sometimes provided attorneys for indigents charged with criminal offenses. The law gives indigent defendants the right to free legal representation, but the government has provided only partial funding for implementation.
Arbitrary Arrest: There were two reports of arbitrary arrest of participants in lawful demonstrations. On April 1, two protesters were arrested in Dapaong for criticizing the National Day celebrations and demanding justice for the seven persons killed during a November 2015 clash between security forces and protestors in Mango. Following their arrest authorities detained two additional protesters and charged them with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and destruction of public property. On September 6, authorities released the four. Although charges were not dropped, the government had yet to prosecute any of the four by year’s end.
Pretrial Detention: A shortage of judges and other qualified personnel, as well as official inaction, often resulted in pretrial detention for periods exceeding the time detainees would have served if tried and convicted. Pretrial detainees and persons in preventative detention totaled 2,800, or 63 percent of the total prison population.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution and law provide for the right of an arrested or detained person to challenge the lawfulness of detention, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds. An individual found to have been unlawfully detained may file for damages.
Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the executive branch continued to exert control over the judiciary, and judicial corruption was a problem. There was a widespread perception lawyers bribed judges to influence the outcome of cases. The court system remained overburdened and understaffed.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, but executive influence on the judiciary limited this right. The judicial system employs both traditional law and the Napoleonic Code in trying criminal and civil cases. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. They have a right to a fair public trial without undue delay, to communicate with an attorney of their choice, and to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Trials were open to the public and juries were used. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, confront witnesses, and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right to access government-held evidence relevant to their cases, but this right was not respected. Defendants have the right not to testify or confess guilt. Those convicted have the right to appeal. Authorities generally respected most of these rights, which are extended to all defendants including women, members of indigenous groups, older persons, and persons with disabilities.
In rural areas the village chief or a council of elders has authority to try minor criminal and civil cases. Those who reject traditional authority may take their cases to the regular court system.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
The constitution and law provide for civil and administrative remedies for wrongdoing, but the judiciary did not respect such provisions, and most citizens were unaware of them. Some past cases submitted to the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States resulted in rulings the government did not implement.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.