U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Equatorial Guinea
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Equatorial Guinea, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3d2c.html [accessed 24 July 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
EQUATORIAL GUINEAEquatorial Guinea is nominally a multiparty constitutional republic, but in reality power is exercised by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema through a small subclan of the majority Fang tribe which has ruled since the country's independence in 1968. President Obiang was elected to a 7-year term in February 1996 in elections that were marred by extensive fraud and intimidation. The President's Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) controls the judiciary and the legislature, the latter also through fraudulent elections. President Obiang exercises control over the police and security forces through the Minister of the Interior, who serves as president of the national electoral board as well. The security forces committed numerous, serious human rights abuses. The majority of the population of approximately 400,000 live by subsistence agriculture, supplemented by hunting and fishing. Barter is a major aspect of the economy, and the small monetary sector is based on exports of petroleum, cocoa, and timber. Most foreign economic assistance has been suspended due to the lack of economic reform and the Government's repeated violations of human rights. Substantial oil deposits were discovered in 1995, and exploitation began in 1996. However, the investment and other use of oil revenues remains a closed process despite repeated calls from financial institutions and citizens for financial openness. The country's economic potential continues to be undermined by poor fiscal management and a lack of transparency in public finance. A National Economic Conference held in Bata allowed public debate on the use of oil revenues for the first time. The Government's human rights record remained poor. Serious and systematic human rights abuses continued, although there were improvements in some areas. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. Principal abuses by the security forces included: Physical abuse of prisoners; torture; beating of detainees; arbitrary arrest and detention; extortion from prisoners; searches without warrants, and confiscation of property without due process. Officials generally took no action against security force members suspected of human rights abuses. There was one report of extrajudicial killing; security force members involved in this killing were tried, convicted, and sentenced to jail terms. Prison conditions remained life threatening. The judicial system does not ensure due process and is subject to executive influence. The Government somewhat loosened its severe restrictions on freedom of speech and the press. It permitted the establishment of independent newspapers and in August hosted an international press seminar. The Government continues, however, to restrict the right of assembly, and does not always respect the right of association. Discrimination and violence against women and foreigners remain serious problems. Discrimination against minorities, particularly the Bubi minority, persists.