Benin: Working Group On Arbitrary Detention Calls For Madougou Reckya Release

By Samuel Ouma

The Working Group considers that taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate measure would be the immediate release of Ms. Madougou and the granting of her right to obtain redress, including compensation, in accordance with international law.

The Working Group On Arbitrary Detention has called on the government of Benin to immediately release Madougou Reckya, who has been in prison since March 2021.

According to the Group, the detention of Ms. Madougou lacks a legal basis and is contrary to article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 9 of the Covenant.

“The Working Group considers that taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate measure would be the immediate release of Ms. Madougou and the granting of her right to obtain redress, including compensation, in accordance with international law,” said the Working Group.

The Group wants the government of Benin to ensure a thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances of Ms. Madougou’s arbitrary deprivation of liberty and to take appropriate action against those responsible for the violation of her rights.

It also gave out recommendations to be implemented by Patrice Talon’s administration.

A source intimated to the Working Group that the 47-year-old politician returned to the country in December 2020 from international organizations she was working with to vie for the presidency. She was nominated by the former Beninese President’s party, “Les Démocrates,” and launched her campaign.

However, she was arrested on March 3, 2021, by the police based on a warrant dated March 1, 2021, issued by the Special Prosecutor of the CRIET (Court for the Repression of Economic Offenses and Terrorism), pursuant to Article 70 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CPP).

The source said she was arrested without prior summons and without any explanation being given and then taken to the Economic and Financial Brigade, where she spent the night.

On March 4, 2021, Ms. Madougou was brought before the Special Prosecutor of the CRIET, who notified her of the charges, namely acts of criminal conspiracy and acts of terrorism allegedly committed to destabilizing Benin and the regime of the President, who was re-elected on April 11, 2021, during elections that were reportedly subject to tension and a record abstention rate.

As a result, Ms. Madougou was reportedly taken to the Economic and Financial Brigade, and her home was searched. On March 5, 2021, Ms. Madougou was again brought before the Special Prosecutor and charged by the Investigating Committee. Accused of having “formed the intention to disrupt the upcoming elections by perpetrating large-scale acts of terror “by financing an operation that included the murder of an important authority in Parakou.” In accordance with articles 146 and following of the CPP, she was brought before the Chamber of Liberties and Detention, which ordered her detention at the Missérété prison on March 5, 2021.

Ms. Madougou’s appeal against the detention order of March 5, 2021, was reportedly rejected. Her request for provisional release, filed on July 12, 2021, was also rejected by order of July 16, 2021, on the grounds that new investigative acts still to be carried out made it necessary to keep Ms. Madougou at the disposal of justice.

“Furthermore, the source said that Ms. Madougou’s request for provisional release was rejected because new investigative acts were needed. However, no explanation was given for the inadequacy of a judicial supervision measure to ensure Ms. Madougou’s presence at the investigative acts in question, for which no timetable was given,” said the Group.

According to the source, Ms. Madougou’s arrest and detention stem from the exercise of her freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and her right to participate in the leadership of her country, having been nominated in primaries organized by her party, considered the largest opposition party.

Ms. Madougou’s right to the presumption of innocence was reportedly violated by the executive branch’s interference in the decisions made by the various CRIET components and the President of Benin’s public pronouncements regarding her guilt.

Furthermore, the source claims that two police officers were constantly present in the custody room to prevent Ms. Madougou from meeting with her counsel in confidence. The former government spokesperson was also said to have been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, violating article 7 of the Covenant, Principle 6 of the Body of Principles, and the Nelson Mandela Rules on Standards of Hygiene.

The source revealed that the prison administration punitively reduced the possibility for her family to bring her meals to three days a week. She was also brutally and inexplicably deprived of the radio set she had in her cell, while other detainees had television sets and Canal + decoders.

“It is stated that several weeks later, following their denunciation by Ms. Madougou’s lawyers, these measures were generalized to the entire prison to cover up the discrimination against Ms. Madougou,” added the Group.

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