Verges vs. Amnesty

The government of Togo has taken the unusual step of preparing a lawsuit against the human-rights group Amnesty International-with the legal assistance of high-powered French attorney Jacques Verges, who defended Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and the international terrorist Carlos, "The Jackal." Honore Y. T. Blao reports for Inter Press Service that the suit, which will be heard in a Togolese court in September, was sparked by a recent Amnesty International report describing a rule of terror in Togo by security forces and armed supporters of the government of President Gnassingbe Eyadema. Repression in Togo was stepped up during the 1998 presidential elections, which were won by Eyadema and challenged by the opposition as unfair, Amnesty reported. Supporters of opposition parties were detained without trial and tortured, and hundreds of people were executed by security forces before and after the elections, Amnesty said. Bodies of victims, some hand-cuffed, were found in the sea and on beaches in Togo and Benin, reportedly after being dropped from airplanes and helicopters.

The government described Amnesty's findings as a "pack of lies." In June, Amnesty reported that after the release of its report, a Nigerian member of the organization was detained and tortured by Togolese security forces. Three Togolese human-rights activists were also arrested and are still in detention for their links with the organization.