Title Equatorial Guinea: A country subjected to terror and harassment
Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Country Equatorial Guinea
Topics Access to procedures | Armed groups / Militias / Paramilitary forces / Resistance movements | Death in custody | Extrajudicial executions | Freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment | Impunity | Independence of judiciary | Indigenous persons | Military courts | Opposition | Persecution based on political opinion | Prison or detention conditions | Racial / Ethnic persecution | SGBV | Security forces
Citation / Document Symbol AFR 24/01/99
Cite as Amnesty International, Equatorial Guinea: A country subjected to terror and harassment, 1 January 1999, AFR 24/01/99, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a9c314.html [accessed 21 October 2017]
Comments In January and February 1998 some people were arrested following an attack on several military barracks on Bioko Island, during which three soldiers and several civilians were killed. Most detainees, including women, were arrested solely because of their ethnic origin. Many were tortured by the security forces and at least six died as a result. One year earlier, in February 1997, the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, had publicly admitted for the first time that human rights had been systematically violated in his country and had announced that measures would be taken to end these abuses. The massive human rights violations which followed the January 1998 attacks clearly showed that this presidential statement was just one more unfulfilled promise aimed at appeasing domestic and international criticism and at obtaining economic aid. A total of more than 110 people were tried in May 1998, in connection with the attacks on the military barracks. The five-day summary military trial did not respect international standards of fair trial. The military court pronounced 15 death sentences (four of them in absentia) and sentenced some 70 people to prison terms ranging from 6 to 26 years. All the convictions were based on confessions made under torture. The Amnesty International delegation observing the trial saw clear signs that the defendants had been tortured. Some had fractured bones in their feet and hands, and at least 10 had part of their ears cut off with razor blades. Since the trial, the prisoners who were sentenced to death have been held in life-threatening conditions which amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In September, President Obiang Nguema commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment but prison conditions remained harsh for all the prisoners. One detainee, Martin Puye, died in hospital in July 1998 and many of the prisoners are said to be very weak and not receiving adequate treatment or food. In addition to persecution of the Bubi population, the government has continued to harass peaceful political opponents. The tactics of the authorities have been to detain opposition leaders and activists in police stations for short periods of time, during which they have been beaten and ill-treated. They have then been arbitrarily fined and released without charge or trial. Some have been confined to their villages after their release from prison; others have been banished from their home towns. Most of these human rights violations occured in the continental part of the country. Most if not all detained political opponents were arrested for peaceful party activities, such as organizing an unauthorized meeting, criticizing the government or being members of opposition political parties which were not legally registered. Many appear to have been ill-treated in order to force them to pay heavy fines or to join the ruling Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), Equatorial Guinea Democratic Party. All these human rights violations were committed with impunity. The security forces, both police and army soldiers, are not held accountable for their actions: they commit human rights violations and obey no laws. Amnesty International does not condone human rights abuses by armed opposition, but such attacks cannot be an excuse for violation of human rights by the government. As long as such abuses remain unpunished and nothing is done to prevent further abuses taking place, there can be no serious hope of improvement in the human rights situation. At the end of this document, Amnesty International is makes recommendations to the government, to the UN and to international bi-lateral partners to address this situation, including to act and press for the release of all the prisoners of conscience and to improve the prison conditions of those sentenced in June 1998.
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