Hundreds of opposition activists were detained for days or weeks, many of whom were prisoners of conscience. There were two political trials, both manifestly unfair, but those convicted were released under a presidential amnesty. Torture of political detainees was widespread. Two people were alleged to have been extrajudicially executed. Negotiations between the government and the opposition, which had been broken off when the government reneged on promises to involve the opposition in a census (see Amnesty International Report 1995), resumed in January. The government agreed to hold municipal elections and to compile an electoral register with the participation of opposition parties. The electoral census was held between March and mid-April, with members of opposition parties acting as observers, although in some areas they faced obstruction from local officials. In early 1995 both the Constitution and the electoral law were altered, without the promised consultation with the opposition. The new laws increased the powers of the President and failed to relax the restrictions on opposition parties. The UN Special Rapporteur on Equatorial Guinea visited the country in late May 1995. He reported that he had observed slight improvements and had been given commitments by the government that it would improve respect for human rights. However, two weeks later there were renewed political arrests. Municipal elections were held in September. In some areas opposition parties were not allowed to hold rallies, while in others their meetings were broken up by government supporters. Opposition parties contested the results, but the ruling Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial, Equatorial Guinea Demo-cratic Party, of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, claimed to have won a majority. Hundreds of opposition activists were arrested during the year, especially in remote areas of the continental region of Río Muni. Most were released without charge after a few days or weeks; many of them were prisoners of conscience. Scores of peaceful political activists delegated to observe the electoral census from March to mid-April 1995 were arbitrarily arrested. Many were beaten and about 12 were detained for over a week. Among them were Baltasar Nsogo Ntumutu, a member of the opposition Convergencia para la Democracia Social (CPDS), Convergence for Social Democracy, and Pascual Nsomo Mba, Elías Nso Ondo and Avelino Mocache, members of the opposition Partido del Progreso de Guinea Ecuatorial (PPGE), Equatorial Guinean Progress Party. In May a number of people were arrested in Malabo, the capital on Bioko Island, for possessing or distributing the CPDS newspaper La Verdad (The Truth). They included Rafael Obiang, a leader of the Convergencia Social Demócrata y Popular, Social Democratic and Popular Convergence; Celestino Bacale and Andrés Esono, both CPDS members; and several students. Rafael Obiang, Celestino Bacale and Andrés Esono were held for five days and released only after paying large fines. The April/May issue of La Verdad contained criticisms of the amendments to the Constitution and electoral law governing presidential elections. Juan Nzo, the CPDS Vice-Secretary General, had papers confiscated on his return from Spain in May. When he went to the police station to recover them, he was arrested and held for two days. Two weeks later his wife, Elvira Lawson Otavenga, was arrested when police went to their home to arrest Juan Nzo. The only apparent reason for her arrest was to put pressure on her husband to give himself up to the police. She was forced to leave her 14-month-old baby daughter behind in the house unattended. Elvira Lawson Otavenga was held for two days before being released. In the second half of May about 20 members of the Bubi ethnic group were briefly detained in Riaba, southeast of Malabo. They were among hundreds of people who had marched to Riaba from Bahó Grande to demand the release of a man who had been arrested the previous day for criticizing the authorities. Weja Chicampo (see Amnesty International Report 1995), a leader of the Bubi party, the Movimiento para la Auto-determinación de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB), Movement for the Self-determination of Bioko Island, was also detained in May. In June, two other MAIB members, Aurelio Losoa and Enrique Boneke, both over 70 years old, were also detained. The three were released in late August. There were further arrests immediately after the municipal elections in September. At least 60 people were arrested in Malabo, including Eustaquio Alogo Edjang, who was arrested at his home and accused of holding an unauthorized meeting, and Antonio María Nsue Osa of the Acción Popular de Guinea Ecuatorial, Equatorial Guinea Popular Action Party. Scores of people were arrested in Río Muni at around this time, but few details were available. There were two political trials; both were manifestly unfair. In February several leading members of the PPGE and dozens of soldiers were arrested in Río Muni and Malabo and accused of plotting to overthrow the government. The defendants included Severo Moto, President of the PPGE; Agapito Ona, Secretary General of the PPGE; Pedro Esono Masié, a former lieutenant colonel; and Leoncio Miká, director general of the military academy in Bata and a relative of the Vice-President of the PPGE. Their trial was held in April with very little warning and lasted seven hours. The court used summary procedures which severely restricted the rights of the defence. All those questioned, except Severo Moto, stated in court that they had been tortured (see below). The only evidence presented by the prosecutor was a letter written in 1992 by Severo Moto which discussed the possible military reaction to peaceful democratic change. Nowhere did it mention the use of violence by the opposition. Severo Moto was sentenced to 28 years' imprisonment and Pedro Massa Mba to 30 years. Agapito Ona and Pablo Ndongo were sentenced to 20 years' and five soldiers to between six months' and 12 years' imprisonment. One soldier was acquitted. Severo Moto was already serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence imposed after an unfair trial in March. He had been convicted with Tomás Elo, Treasurer of the PPGE, of defaming President Obiang Nguema and of corruption. At the trial the defence was denied the right to call certain witnesses and the prosecution failed to present evidence to support the charges. In March Jacinto Nculu, a former army sergeant imprisoned for reading an old army magazine (see Amnesty International Report 1995) was released. On 3 August, to mark the 16th anniversary of his accession to power, Presid-ent Obiang Nguema released 26 political prisoners in an amnesty. The released prisoners included Severo Moto and his co-defendants and 14 people who had been convicted after a grossly unfair trial in July 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Many of those detained during the year were tortured. All those tried in April, except Severo Moto, said they had been held naked, some for up to a month, inside a locked cupboard measuring 70cm by 50cm. They were deprived of food for prolonged periods and at night they were taken into the forest where they were hung from poles and beaten. They subsequently had difficulty walking and some apparently also found it difficult to sit. Agapito Ona could not walk at all. Pedro Massa Mba had both arms broken and Norberto Nculo, a leading PPGE member, also had a broken arm. In April police arrested Norberto "Tito" Mba Nze, the local representative of the CPDS in Akonibe, Río Muni. He said he was beaten on the soles of his feet and other parts of his body. CPDS members who saw him three days after his arrest in Akonibe police station said that he had difficulty walking and that his left arm was injured. He told them, in the presence of police officers, that he had been arrested for trying to perform his duties as an electoral census observer. He had previously been arrested and tortured in 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Indalecio Abuy was arrested in April by four plainclothes security personnel and taken to a military camp some five kilometres from Bata on the airport road where he was held for two days. Two security personnel held him down while two others beat him on the buttocks and back with high-tension cable; he was made to wear a padded jacket to prevent visible injury. Indalecio Abuy had previously been arrested in 1994 while investigating human rights abuses in Niefang district (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Two people were reported to have been extrajudicially executed. In April Francisco Sulecopa Bapa, a law student, was shot dead at close range by a police officer who went to his house in Basapú on Bioko Island to arrest him. Francisco Sulecopa Bapa had apparently been accused of theft by a neighbour. He was not armed. The bullet went through his body and injured a 14-year-old girl, Africa Ebuera, who was in the house at the time. The police officer was tried a week later in connection with the death and acquitted. In September Félix Esono Mba was killed in Miboman, in the northeast of Río Muni, when the security forces opened fire on villagers who were peacefully celebrating what they claimed was a local election victory for the opposition party Unión Popular, Popular Union. According to reports, plainclothes security personnel led by a high-ranking government official arrived in the village and, without warning, fired indiscriminately into the crowd. A number of people were apparently injured in the attack. Amnesty International repeatedly appealed for the release of prisoners of conscience and for the introduction of safeguards against torture and ill-treatment. In July the organization published a report, Equatorial Guinea: A dismal record of broken promises, which described a pattern of repression of political activists and unchecked brutality by the security forces.

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.