Covering events from January-December 2001

Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Head of state:
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government: Candido Muatetema Rivas (replaced Angel Serafin Seriche Dougan in February)
Capital: Malabo
Population: 0.5 million
Official languages: Spanish, French
Death penalty: retentionist

Around 50 members of the Bubi ethnic group sentenced after unfair trials in 1998 remained imprisoned throughout 2001; many appeared to be prisoners of conscience. Most were detained in poor conditions hundreds of kilometres from their families on whom they relied for food and medical assistance. The authorities harassed the few journalists who continued to defend their right to freedom of expression. Harassment of peaceful political opponents continued, but to a lesser extent than in previous years as opposition political parties were weakened by internal divisions, apparently encouraged by the government and ruling party.


In February, following accusations of corruption against several members of the former government, the President appointed a new Prime Minister, but many of the key ministers remained in post.

In September the government held a meeting of the 13 officially recognized political parties to reassess a 1997 political pact aimed at monitoring elections and free access to the media for all political parties. After their boycott of municipal elections in 2000 because of electoral irregularities by the authorities, opposition parties stepped up their demands for increased access to the official news media. The news media had remained under government control since the return to multi-party democracy in 1992.

UN Commission on Human Rights

In April the UN Commission on Human Rights examined the report of the UN Special Representative on Equatorial Guinea who had been denied access to the country on three occasions in 2000. The Commission urged the government of Equatorial Guinea to respect freedom of movement, association and expression. It called on the authorities to adhere to the UN Convention against Torture and to ensure that the jurisdiction of military courts, which had frequently tried civilians, was strictly limited to military offences committed by military personnel. The Prime Minister, who led the official delegation to the UN Commission session, announced during the session that Equatorial Guinea would ratify the Convention against Torture, but this commitment had not been fulfilled by the end of the year.

In November, the UN Special Representative on Equatorial Guinea was finally allowed to visit the country for the purposes of monitoring the human rights situation.

Harsh treatment of Bubi prisoners

Some 50 prisoners from the Bubi ethnic group continued to be held throughout the year. About 30 of them had been transferred to Evinayong, some 500 kilometres east of Malabo, in 2000; the rest remained in the main prison in Malabo. They had been convicted of offences including "treason, terrorism and the illegal possession of explosives" in 1998 after an unfair military trial. Many appeared to be prisoners of conscience, arrested solely on account of their ethnic origin.

Most were tortured in pre-trial detention and held for two years in extremely harsh conditions. Their conditions improved gradually as they were allowed to work outside the prison during the day. However, their families continued to face difficulties in overcoming the obstacles of distance and cost in order to visit them and bring them food and medicine, vital support given that prison food was inadequate and medical treatment practically non-existent.

Freedom of expression and association

Freedom of association continued to be restricted by the authorities, notably in the field of human rights. The government continued to give no response to applications for the registration of human rights organizations made in previous years. As a result, there were no groups monitoring human rights violations inside the country.

Harassment of peaceful political opponents continued, but to a lesser extent than in previous years. Opposition political parties, undermined by years of repression and internal dissension and defections, often engineered by the ruling party, found it increasingly difficult to mobilize their supporters.

  • In February, the authorities shut down the premises of the country's only journalists' association, the Equatorial Guinea Press Association. The authorities refused to give any reason for this move. The Association, which was registered in 1997, brought together journalists from the private and government-owned press in a country in which there were no regularly published newspapers.
  • In May, Pedro Nolasko Ndong, President of the Equatorial Guinea Press Association, was briefly detained at Malabo airport on his way back from a seminar in Namibia on freedom of expression. The security forces confiscated documents, including information on the human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea, before releasing him.

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