Margaret Sekaggya, UN expert, finds situation of human rights defenders in Togo improved, but not good enough

October 18, 2013

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, on 16 October 2013 called on the Togolese Government to ensure a favourable environment in which human rights defenders can carry out their work. The Government can do this by fully implementing the existing legal framework, avoiding stigmatisation and fostering a spirit of dialogue and constructive criticism, she said at the end of her five-day mission to assess progress made in Togo since her last visit in 2008.

Compared to 2008, “The environment for defenders is more enabling now, but important challenges remain she added. The degree of politicization of the environment in which defenders operate has worsened with respect to 2008: “I call on civil society and media to re-assess their position and role in society to make sure that they act independently and in a professional manner when checking and reporting on the State’s obligation to protect and promote human rights.”

Ms. Sekaggya highlighted that journalism in Togo, which is quite young, is not always exercised with “enough degree of professionalisme” and respect for basic ethics. However, she warned that the existence of defamation as an offence in the Criminal Code can be used to “unduly punish those who are critical of Government policies and considerably reduce the space for defenders to exercise the basic right to freedom of expression, which is key to claiming other rights.

She also cited the need to strengthen the engagement between the National Human Rights Commission and human rights defenders, and to address the lack of trust that seems to exist between them.

Ms. Sekaggya pointed to the challenges faced by certain groups of defenders, notably women defenders and those working on women’s rights, trade unionists, and those working for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

via United Nations News Centre – Situation of human rights defenders in Togo improved, but challenges remain – UN expert.

 

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