U.N. rights agency blamed Togo government in 500 killed

A U.N. rights agency on Monday said up to 500 people were killed and thousands wounded in political violence earlier this year in Togo, and blamed the government and its police and security forces.

The human rights violations are "highlighted by the large number of victims ... the scale of the disappearances, the wide use of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment and the systematic and organized destruction of assets and property," concluded the report compiled by a fact-finding mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The investigators estimated between 400 and 500 people were killed and thousands wounded.

In July, London-based Amnesty International accused Togo security forces and allied militia of killing at least 150 people since an April presidential vote.

Many of the thousands who began streaming from Togo around election time have accused the Togolese security forces of abuses and say they are afraid to go home even months after the vote.

"The main responsibility for the political violence and the human rights violations in the Feb. 5-May 5 period in the context of the April 24 presidential elections lies entirely with the government's repressive forces together with supporters of the political powers," the U.N. report said.

Togo tumbled into crisis Feb. 5 when longtime dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema died suddenly of a heart attack and the military named his son Faure Gnassingbe hours later to replace him, contravening the constitution. Within weeks, Gnassingbe bowed to foreign and domestic pressure and stepped down. Gnassingbe arranged April 24 elections that he officially won, but the opposition said they were rigged.

While putting most of the blame on the government, the U.N. report also accused opposition militia of "committing grave acts of violence" in the aftermath of the vote, when riots and street battles broke out between government forces and opposition.

The mission said the tiny west African country now faced a "complete political impasse" after it failed to build a "credible unifying government that includes principal parties of the so-called radical opposition."

The U.N. fact-finding mission, which took place in June, was led by Doudou Diene of Senegal, who also serves as the racism expert of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.


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