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Togo resumes prison visits after two-year ban

Togo is to allow prison visits to resume from Friday, phasing out a two-year-old ban that was imposed to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

As in many African countries, family visits are crucial for many detainees as they allow relatives to bring food, clothing and medicine. “Parents of detainees as well as friends, members of NGOs and civil society, are allowed (visits) starting on Friday 22 April,” Justice Minister Pius Kokouvi Agbetomey Agbetomey said in a statement issued late Tuesday. Visitors will have to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a PCR test done less than 72 hours before and will have to wear a mask, the minister added.

Togo imposed the ban on April 13, 2020, with exemptions granted for lawyers who still had to get prior authorisation. But with officially just 36,969 coronavirus cases, 273 of them fatal, as of April 19, 2022, the measure was considered disproportionate by many.

Opposition parties and civil society groups had been lobbying for prison visits to resume. “Banning visits to detainees infringes on their rights. The minister’s decision (to lift the ban) is a relief,” Pastor Edoh Komi, a civil society activist, told AFP. “The past two years have been a nightmare for detainees who could not see their relatives. This is a good measure that we were waiting for and that will enable court cases to move forward,” said Elom Kpade, a lawyer, representing several prisonners.

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