afrol News, 3 April - The Togolese Prime Minister, Agbeyome Messan Kodjo, yesterday addressed the UN Commission on Human Rights and said that the "allegations that hundreds of extrajudicial executions had been carried out before, during and after the country's presidential elections of June 1998 were untrue." An international investigative commission last year confirmed the killings had taken place.
In February 2001, the International Commission of Inquiry for Togo, established by the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), concluded that the reports of hundreds of extrajudicial executions in Togo in 1998 had been rightful. The killings had targeted activists of the Togolese political opposition durinbg the rigged elections. Members of armed militias had been "encouraged by" the same person denying the charges yesterday, Prime Minister Kodjo, the Commission's reports especially noted.
Not so, says Kodjo. The "allegations" against Togo, "to damage its image," had been hatched by members of the political opposition in an effort to seize power, and had greatly harmed the international reputation of the country. The Prime Minister said a national commission of inquiry had proved the allegations were unfounded.
- Today, proof has been established that it was all a political machination, PM Kodjo told the UN Commission on Human Rights. "It is necessary to close the case in the name of justice, ethics and morality," he added. He claimed the International Commission of Inquiry had concluded that "it could not confirm or deny the alleged facts" presented by Amnesty International in a May 1999 report; "Togo: Rule of Terror".
- In order to allow truth to triumph and to proclaim its good intentions in the face of the world, the government has put in place a national inquiry commission composed of four highly respected magistrates to look into the allegations, Kodjo said. "The report of that commission has proved that the allegations were unfounded."
He therefore concluded that, today, the case was "definitively closed" and it was "necessary to discourage the use of human rights for political purposes." A retrospective look at the democratic process of the last decade in Togo had made it clear that the allegations were untrue and were aimed at denigrating the country from outside, Kodjo held.
- In Togo, human rights have been instrumental in the political struggle for power since the start of the democratic process in 1990, and they have served as a way for the opposition to manipulate international public opinion in order to obtain international condemnation and sanctions against Togo, the Prime Minister said.
It was therefore unjust to imagine that Togo violated human rights. "Togo is opposed to such offenses. Togo has been the first African country to create a national commission for human rights, it did so in 1987," Kodjo reminded the critical assembly. "Conscious of the importance of the promotion and defence of human rights, the Government has elaborated and implemented an efficient policy of human rights education at all levels of its military academy."
Kodjo's version is fairly different from the conclusions made by the International Commission of Inquiry, which he said supported the Togolese government. In Togo, throughout 1998, human rights were methodically violated, concluded the UN and OAU inquiry commission. The group called for identifying and bringing to trial the perpetrators of these rights violations, especially of the massive executions. Theoretically, this would include Kodjo himself.
Also, in contrary to the Prime Minister's speech, Togolese officials in February 20001 rejected the conclusions of the international commission of inquiry. Kodjo at that point said the commission had overstepped the bounds of its authority. On "the problem it was created to investigate," Kodjo noted over one year ago, "the commission, in order to avoid offending Amnesty International, limits itself to stating it can neither confirm nor deny the problem."
Sources: Based on UNHCHR and afreol archives