Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Head of state: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government: Angel Serafin Seriche Dougan
Population: 0.4 million
Official languages: Spanish, French
Death penalty: retentionist
Harassment and intimidation of peaceful political opponents continued throughout the year, peaking at the time of legislative elections in March. Dozens of opposition party candidates were arrested or confined to their villages. The elections, which were reportedly undermined by significant levels of fraud, were won by the ruling Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), Equatorial Guinea Democratic Party. The two main opposition parties, the Convergencia para la Democracia Social (CPDS), Convergence for Social Democracy, and the Unión Popular, Popular Union, challenged the results and refused to sit in Parliament.
Despite the fact that the government ended one-party rule in 1992, the authorities continued to tolerate no dissenting views. All opposition political activity was systematically repressed, and torture and ill-treatment of opposition party activists were common. Most detained political opponents were arrested for peaceful party activities, such as organizing an unauthorized meeting, criticizing the government or being members of parties which were not legally registered. Despite several requests, the authorities refused to allow the creation of local human rights organizations.
Arrests to undermine free elections
At the time of the March legislative elections there was a wave of arrests of opposition party candidates in a clear attempt to intimidate them and contradict the government's promise of free elections. Dozens of opposition party candidates and members, including women, were arrested or confined to their villages. Some were tortured or ill-treated. The arrests took place mainly in the continental part of the country.
In September Plácido Mikó, the CPDS Secretary General, was detained for one week. The security forces seized his personal computer and apparently tried to implicate him in a coup attempt. He was released without charge but was obliged to present himself every two weeks before a military court.
Three members of the not yet legalized Fuerza Demócrata Republicana (FDR), Republican Democratic Force, were arrested in June and tried by a military court in December in Bata. Mariano Oyono Ndong and Antonio Engonga Bibang were sentenced to three years' imprisonment and Carmelo Biko Ngua received a six-month prison sentence.
UN Commission on Human Rights
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 1998. The Commission called on the government to implement the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur, including those aiming to put an end to arbitrary arrests and torture.
Harsh prison conditions
Eighty members of the Bubi ethnic group convicted by a military court after an unfair trial in June 1998 continued to be held throughout the year in very harsh prison conditions. They were held in severely overcrowded cells in Malabo, the capital, on Bioko Island. Nine of them, whose death sentences had been commuted, continued to be held incommunicado. Digno Sepa Tobachi "Elako" died in October as a result of torture and lack of medical care and several others did not receive necessary medical treatment. Many of these prisoners appeared to be prisoners of conscience, arrested solely on account of their ethnic origin.
In January AI published a report on human rights violations in Equatorial Guinea. The authorities denied all the information contained in the report and accused AI of supporting those who wanted to destabilize the country. There was no investigation into the allegations of human rights violations described in the report.
AI country report
- Equatorial Guinea: A country subjected to terror and harassment (AI Index: AFR 24/001/99)
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