The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Equatorial Guinea

Population: 690,000
Capital: Malabo

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2001200220032004200520062007200820092010

2010 Key Developments: After winning reelection with 95.4 percent of the vote in late 2009, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo reappointed nearly all of his former cabinet ministers in January 2010, including members of his family. His son and favored successor, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who faced money-laundering allegations by a U.S. Senate subcommittee, was appointed vice president of the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea. Trials in connection with a 2009 coup attempt resulted in four executions that were decried by international human rights organizations. Meanwhile, UNESCO suspended plans to grant a prize sponsored by President Obiang after human rights groups lobbied against it.

Political Rights: Equatorial Guinea is not an electoral democracy and has never held credible elections. President Obiang dominates the political system. The 100 members of the unicameral House of People's Representatives wield little power, and 99 seats are held by the ruling pro-presidential coalition. The activities of the few opposition parties are closely monitored by the government. Equatorial Guinea is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and Obiang and members of his inner circle continue to amass huge personal fortunes stemming from the oil industry.

Civil Liberties: Although the constitution guarantees press freedom, the 1992 press law authorizes government censorship. Libel remains a criminal offense, and all journalists are required to register with the government. The state holds a monopoly on broadcast media, with the exception of RTV-Asonga, a private radio and television outlet owned by the president's son. The government reportedly does not restrict access to the internet or monitor e-mail. The constitution protects religious freedom, though in practice it is sometimes affected by the country's broader political repression, and official preference is given to the Roman Catholic Church and the Reform Church of Equatorial Guinea. Freedoms of assembly and association are severely restricted, and political gatherings must have official authorization to proceed. The few international nongovernmental organizations in the country promote social and economic improvements rather than political and civil rights. The constitution provides for the right to organize unions, but there are many legal barriers to collective bargaining. The judiciary is not independent, and security forces generally act with impunity. Prison conditions are deplorable. The authorities have been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including torture, detention of political opponents, and extrajudicial killings. All citizens are required to obtain exit visas to travel abroad, and some members of opposition parties have been denied such visas. Constitutional and legal guarantees of equality for women are largely ignored, and violence against women is reportedly widespread.

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