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UN expert calls on Togo to improve environment for human rights defenders

Independent UN rights expert Margaret Sekaggya on Thursday called on the government of Togo [press release] to work towards providing an environment that allows human rights defenders to carry out their work. Sekaggya explained that this could be done by enforcing existing laws, avoiding stigma and fostering a spirit of open dialogue. She also mentioned the need for improved police tactics. She spoke after a five-day mission to Togo [UN News Centre report], where she found that overall there has been progress since her last visit in 2008[report, PDF]. She specifically expressed concern that the crime of "defamation" could be used to unduly punish those who expressed opinions which were critical of the government. Togo [BBC backgrounder] has been working to overcome its history of human rights violations. The report from this mission will be presented in March.

UN rights experts have continuously urged [JURIST report] many countries establish better legal frameworks for human rights defenders. In February UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged [JURIST report] the international community to continue to prevent human rights abuses and hold perpetrators accountable. Speaking at the opening of the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Pillay specifically mentioned the ongoing situations in Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Palestine, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan and Syria. Also in February, Pillay expressed concern [JURIST report] over reports that three Palestinians being held in Israeli custody are in poor health from hunger strikes protesting Israel's use of administrative detention. In the same timeframe, Pillay unveiled a report [JURIST report] criticizing Sri Lanka for failing to investigate widespread reports of killings and other atrocities during the latter days of the nation's 26-year civil war it fought with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Also in February, Pillay expressed shock and sadness [JURIST report] concerning the brutal rape and murder of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in South Africa. Pillay urged South Africa to take a stronger approach to prevent the ongoing sexual violence incidents against tens of thousands of South African women every year.

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