Amnesty International Report 1998 - Equatorial Guinea

(This report covers the period January-December 1997)

Scores of suspected opponents of the government were detained and held without charge or trial, for periods ranging from a few days to several months. At least 150 appeared to be prisoners of conscience. Torture and ill-treatment were routinely used and one prisoner reportedly died as a result. Two people were sentenced to death but there were no executions.

In February President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo publicly announced that several measures would be adopted to put an end to human rights violations in the country, without specifying the nature of these measures. He also acknowledged that some military and security officers were "systematically violating human rights", and announced that perpetrators would be held responsible and punished.

In April the government and some opposition parties signed a National Pact, but one of the main opposition parties, the Convergencia para la Democracia Social (cdps), Convergence for Social Democracy, was excluded from these discussions. In May the authorities claimed to have discovered a plot to overthrow the government by the leader of the Partido del Progreso (pp), Progress Party, Severo Moto. Severo Moto was tried in absentia in August and sentenced to 101 years' imprisonment on charges of plotting against the government and attempting to kill PresidentObiang.Theauthoritiesalsoannounced that they were going to ban his party.

In April the UN Commission on Human Rights examined the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Equatorial Guinea who had visited the country in December 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997). The Commission called upon the government to implement the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur, including those aiming to put an end to arbitrary arrests and torture.

Scores of government opponents were arrested throughout the year, including at least 150 prisoners of conscience. Most of those detained were arrested for peaceful political activities. Some were held for organizing an unauthorized meeting, others for criticizing the government or for being members of parties which had not been legalized. Most were held for some days or weeks without charge or trial. No one was brought to trial but some were restricted to their villages after their release

Political repression increased sharply after the discovery in May of an alleged plot by the pp leader, Severo Moto, to overthrow the government. Dozens of pp members were detained, despite the fact that there appeared to be no evidence of their personal involvement in the alleged plot. Most were held for some days or weeks and none was tried or charged. José Ekang Nangomo, leader of the pp in Gabon, and Francisco Edù, both arrested in July, were held until December.

Several members of the Bubi ethnic group, the indigenous population of Bioko Island, were arrested for allegedly belonging to the Movement for the Self-determination of Bioko Island (maib), a non-violent political party which had not obtained legal recognition. Antolin Banch, arrested in January for possessing copies of the maib newspaper, O Bojuelo, was released without charge in December. Silvestre Orichi, a senior member of the maib detained because a Bubi flag was found at his home, was still held at the end of the year.

            In November, two members of the opposition party Fuerza Demócrata Republicana (fdr), Republican Democratic Force, which had not yet been legalized, were arrested by the Gabonese security forces in Libreville, Gabon. Felipe Ondó Obiang and Guillermo Nguema Ela were transferred the same day to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in the plane of the President of Equatorial Guinea. The arrests were carried out shortly after the arrival in Libreville of President Obiang for the acp-eu (countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific–European Union) summit. They were released one week later but were not allowed to leave Equatorial Guinea.

Many detainees appeared to have been ill-treated or tortured in order to force them to pay heavy fines or to join the ruling Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (pdge), Equatorial Guinea Democratic Party. In August, two members of the fdr – Sinecio Ngua Esono and Francisco Abeso Mba – were held for three weeks in a container in the Bata harbour where they were severely beaten.

            In September several members of the cdps, including six women, were held in Akurenam because they were preparing to welcome their leaders with songs. The women were stripped and severely beaten. They were released one month later without charge or trial after paying a heavy fine.

One person died, reportedly as a result of torture by the security forces. In January Evaristo Abaga Ndongo died after reportedly being beaten by police at the time of his arrest and in the vehicle that transferred him to Evinayong. As a result, he lost consciousness and was later taken to hospital, where he died shortly after arrival. No post-mortem appears to have been carried out and his family was told to bury the corpse without delay. Three weeks later, a military court convicted two police officers of responsibility for the death of Evaristo Abaga Ndongo and sentenced them respectively to prison terms of 10 and 20 years.

In October Matías Evung was sentenced to death after being found guilty of ritual murder. He appealed, and was provisionally released pending the appeal decision. In November Teófilo Ntutume Abogo was sentenced to death for murder.

In July Amnesty International published a report, Equatorial Guinea: An opportunity to put an end to impunity, in which it called on the authorities to act against impunity with no exception and in compliance with international standards. In October Amnesty International expressed concern about the increasing number of opposition party activists arrested and tortured for their peaceful political activities, and called for the unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience. The organization also strongly protested against the fact that one of its staff members, who was due to take part in a research visit to Equatorial Guinea in September was refused access to the country by the authorities. The organization said that the authorities were trying by that means to hide information on the human rights violations committed by the security forces.

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