Abdoul Aziz Goma
Abdoul Aziz Goma is an Irish citizen of Togolese origin who has been held in pre-trial detention since December 2018 on charges related to assisting local protestors.
Prior to his arrest, Goma made regular business visits to Togo. His most recent trip was in November 2018. On December 19, 2018, Goma received an unexpected call from a friend residing in Accra, Ghana requesting help for eight young people who had traveled from Accra to Lomé, Togo and were stranded as they were unable to reach their local contact. Although Goma did not know these individuals, he decided to help them and contacted a friend who agreed to take them in. He also provided them with money to assist in their return to Ghana. Goma later learned that the individuals were originally from Togo and were in Lomé to participate in a peaceful protest march surrounding the then-upcoming elections. However, the protest never occurred due to a government crackdown. The eight individuals finally reached their local contact the following evening and moved to a hotel. Goma never saw them again.
On the evening of December 21, 2018 Goma was arrested on the streets of Lomé by a group of armed men in plain clothes, later revealed to be members of the Special Intervention Unit of the Gendarmerie (U.S.I.G). The armed men assaulted and then handcuffed Goma and his companions. They were taken to the headquarters of the special police where they were again physically assaulted and continued to be mistreated into the next day. Goma was handcuffed to a car and then a tree and beaten until he vomited blood and passed out. He ensured repeated beatings and torture for two weeks.
Goma appeared before the public prosecutor 10 days after his arrest and informed of the charges against him, which included aggravated disturbance of public order, willful destruction of public property, criminal conspiracy, and undermining the internal security of the State, but was not presented to a judge for another two weeks. The charges of destruction of public property and undermining state security were later dropped. At no time during these events did Goma have access to an attorney or contact with his relatives.
In October 2020, nearly two years after his arrest, Goma was granted his first access to lawyers, who requested provisional release. This request was denied by the court without any justification. The court subsequently ordered an official inquiry into Goma’s allegations of torture, which nearly two and a half years later has still not taken place.
On January 20, 2022, Goma was transferred from a secret prison at the National Gendarmerie of Lomé, where he was held since June 2020, back to the Civil Prison of Lomé, where he remains incarcerated. The Civil Prison of Lomé is meant to house 600 prisoners, but is currently home to more than 2,000. During his detention, Goma was typically only fed once per day and often not at all.
Due to the torture he suffered, Goma’s health has been rapidly deteriorating. He has been diagnosed with a slipped disk, which has since been left untreated. He is also developing symptoms of Charcot–Marie–Tooth, a degenerative nervous disorder that causes weakness and atrophy in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. As a result, he has gradually lost the use of both his legs and cannot walk. The torture has left him in a state of permanent muscle, joint, spine, and abdominal pain. His requests to be released on humanitarian grounds have been denied.
In March 2023, Freedom Now and the law firm McKool Smith petitioned the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Goma.
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