Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1995 - Gabon, 1 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa0140.html [accessed 27 March 2017]
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Scores of political prisoners, many of whom appeared to be prisoners of conscience, were held without trial. In a single incident, 67 prisoners were suffocated to death. Several people were shot in what may have been unlawful killings. The opposition claimed that presidential elections in December 1993, which returned President Omar Bongo to power, were fraudulent and refused to accept the results. In early October, following international mediation, the government and opposition political parties signed an agreement to end 10 months of tension and frequent violent protests over the disputed elections. For several months at the start of 1994 there were civil disturbances, particularly in the capital, Libreville. A state of alert, imposed from 20 December 1993 to 13 February 1994, was reintroduced between 21 February and mid-March after disturbances during the first day of a general strike organized by the Confédération gabonaise des syndicats libres, Gabonese Confederation of Free Trade Unions. The state of alert provided for emergency laws, including the detention without charge or trial of people considered to be a threat to public order, a night curfew and a ban on demonstrations. At least 40 people, many of whom appeared to be prisoners of conscience, were arrested between 20 and 24 February, when members of the Presidential Guard ransacked a radio station which supported the main opposition party, the Rassemblement national des Bûcherons (RNB), National Rally of Lumberjacks. The auth-orities accused the radio station of encouraging social unrest and inciting violence. By the end of the year, most of these people were allegedly still in detention. Those arrested included journalist Vécka-Brice Nang, who was reportedly beaten while in custody. He was released provisionally in May after being charged with "inciting hatred and violence". It was unclear if he had been tried by the end of the year. At least 14 students were arrested in June, after violent disturbances at Omar Bongo University when students went on strike to demand an increase in their allowances. Amnesty International could not confirm whether any of them had been charged, tried or released by the end of the year but several appeared to have been held in prolonged detention without access to legal counsel. Sixty-seven prisoners held without trial died on 3 February in the Gros-Bouquet Gendarmerie detention centre in Libreville. They apparently suffocated to death after being held with over 200 other detainees in one cell. The victims were reportedly all accused of being illegal immigrants. Despite the scale of the tragedy, no action was reported against those responsible for the prisoners' conditions. Two people, Ferdinand Nguema and Antoine Mba Ndong, both employees of RNB leader Paul Mba Abessole, died while in custody, reportedly after torture. They were arrested on 23 February when the Presidential Guard were searching Paul Mba Abessole's home. No official inquiry was announced to establish the cause of their deaths. Seven civilians were killed in unclear circumstances during disturbances in Libreville between 20 and 24 February at the time of the general strike. In several cases the security forces apparently used disproportionate force against protesters, possibly committing unlawful killings. Amnesty International called for independent investigations into deaths in custody and other killings by the security forces, which appeared to be violations of human rights. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions raised similar concerns about the death of 67 detainees to the authorities. The authorities responded officially, but failed to reveal the precise cause of the deaths or the exact circumstances in which they had occurred, suggesting that no independent investigation had been held to collect the facts and to hold those responsible accountable. There was no direct response from the authorities to Amnesty International on any of the concerns raised by the organization.