ECOWAS COURT ORDERS IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF 14 INMATES DETAINED SINCE 2018 BY THE TOGOLESE REPUBLIC

The ECOWAS Court, on 30 November 2023, ordered the Togolese Republic to release without delay M. Adam Latif and 13 other inmates who were arrested in December 2018 amid planned demonstrations and have been detained since then. The Applicants accused the Togolese Republic of violation of their fundamental rights.

In the judgment delivered by Justice Ricardo Claúdio Monteiro Gonçalves, judge rapporteur, the Court ordered the payment of 30 million francs CFA to each of the Applicants in compensation for the moral damage suffered due to the violation of their rights.

It held that the Respondent State violated the Applicants’ human right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as well as their right not to be arbitrarily detained.

However, the West African Court declared the Respondent not responsible for the infringement to the presumption of innocence, as the Applicants’ allegations did not contain any argument consistent with the meaning of the right to the presumption of innocence.

In suit ECW/CCJ/APP/09/22, Adam Latif, along with 13 others, had lodged an application against the Togolese Republic, alleging violations of their rights to physical and mental integrity following their arrests by state security forces. They asserted infringements of their rights against torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and their rights to the presumption of innocence.  The Applicants had alleged that their arrests occurred amid planned demonstrations in December 2018, spurred by the Togolese authorities’ failure to implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) – a reformative accord among the ruling party, the opposition, and civil society – and the recommendations of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR).

Despite the non-occurrence of the demonstrations, they were apprehended, charged, and subsequently inflicted with the alleged acts for confessions. They argued that these incidents, coupled with the extensive pre-trial detention, compromised their presumption of innocence and depicted the judicial system’s utilization for political gains.

The Applicants informed the investigating judge of the alleged violations and stressed that an impartial investigation should have been conducted immediately, as per the United Nations Convention against Torture. However, he dismissed their reports and their request for provisional release were systematically rejected, even after interventions of the Court of Appeal.

They told the Court that they sought the intervention of the Minister of Justice and the Head of State to no avail, and that they were held in detention for political reasons.

The 14 detainees prayed the Court to order their immediate release and to mandate the Togolese Republic to carry out effective investigations to enable them initiate prosecutions against the alleged perpetrators of the violations. They also asked for 250,000,000 FCFA each in compensation for the endured sufferings resulting from the alleged torture, arbitrary detention, and infringement of their rights to the presumption of innocence.

At its 25 September 2023 session, the Court had dismissed the Togolese Republic’s defense submitted after a year in disregard of article 35 of the Rule of Procedure of the Court which requires that defenses must be lodged within one month after the service of the application.

In its analysis, on the alleged violation of the right to physical and mental integrity and the right not to be subjected to acts of torture or to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the Court considered that the Respondent failed to fulfill its obligations under Article 1 of the African Charter and Article 2 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to protect the Applicants against abuses resulting from the actions of its agents, since ‘it has not demonstrated that it adopted adequate measures to guarantee an independent and effective investigation into the complaint filed by the Applicants.

Also, in the absence of any evidence presented by the Respondent to justify that the Applicants’ arrests were in accordance with national or international law, the Court held that the Respondent violated the applicants’ right not to be arbitrarily detained.

Were also in the three-member panel, Justices Edward Amoako Asante, Presiding and Gbéri-bè Ouattara, Member.