In January the navy seized a boat carrying military supplies when it made an unscheduled call in Malabo and held it for about a month. The boat had been chartered by the UN and was carrying weapons for its peace-keeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, President Obiang Nguema and the Gabonese President, Omar Bongo, began talks in February aimed at resolving a 34-year dispute over ownership of the island of Mbañe. However, no agreement was reached by the end of the year.
In July the European Union signed an agreement with the government to assist the country in areas of human rights and democratization. These included legal reform and training for law enforcement and prison officials.
In August the President unexpectedly dismissed the government and appointed a new one led by Prime Minister Ricardo Mangue Obama Nfube, the first member of the Fang ethnic group to be appointed to that position which was previously reserved for members of the Bubi ethnic group. He declared that the fight against corruption was the main priority of the new government.
In September parliament approved a law forbidding torture, which came into force in November.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions
Although there were fewer arrests of political opponents than in previous years, 14 prisoners of conscience continued to be held, including one held without charge or trial since 2003. Five people "extradited" from Libreville, Gabon, in 2004 appeared to be prisoners of conscience. They were provisionally charged with terrorism and rebellion in May, but the charges were not formalized and they were not tried. Four remained in prison at the end of 2006 while one was released in a presidential pardon in June.
Members of the Convergence for Social Democracy (Convergencia para la Democracia Social, CPDS) and other political activists were arrested and briefly detained, mainly in towns on the mainland, although some were arrested in Malabo. They were often prevented from holding meetings even when they had official permission. None was charged with any offence.
• In April, a government official and several police officers entered the CPDS office in the town of Rebola, Bioko Island, and arrested Carlos Oná Boriesa, Carmelo Iridi and about eight others. They were having a meeting which the authorities claimed was illegal. Carlos Oná Boriesa and Carmelo Iridi were taken to the police station in the nearby town of Baney and reportedly flogged. Each was subjected to 50 lashes. All were released without charge by the end of the day.
• In October, police officers in Bata arrested four members of the banned Progress Party of Equatorial Guinea (Partido del Progreso de Guinea Ecuatorial). They were arrested at home without warrants and at least one, Filemón Ondó, was hit when he was arrested and again two weeks later when being interrogated. The four were taken to Bata Central Police Station where they were threatened with torture. About three weeks later they were transferred to Bata Public Prison. They were released without charge in mid-November. José Antonio Nguema, one of the detainees, had been arrested in June 2004 and held without charge or trial until June 2006.
Several people, including some CPDS members, were reportedly arrested in districts of the mainland for refusing to clear roads without payment. They included Antonio Eusebio Edu, a 75-year-old member of the CPDS in Nsok-Nsomo, who was arrested and briefly detained in May.
Death in detention
One person was known to have died in police custody, apparently as a result of torture. The authorities, however, claimed that he had committed suicide.
• In August, José Meviane Ngua was arrested in Kogo, on the border with Gabon, following a domestic dispute. He was reportedly drunk and resisted arrest. That night two police officers carried him out of Kogo police station and took him to the local hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. The police claimed that he had committed suicide. However, hospital personnel stated that he had bruises in his neck and marks on his back consistent with beating. No autopsy was carried out. The next day a police commission came from Bata to investigate but left without having interviewed the family or hospital personnel. No officers were known to have been prosecuted in this case.
Fernando Esono Nzeng, who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death in early 2004, was publicly executed in April in Evinayong, on the mainland, after the Supreme Court turned down an appeal.
On his birthday in June, President Obiang Nguema "pardoned" 40 prisoners. They included 15 prisoners of conscience convicted of plotting to overthrow the government in an unfair trial in June 2002. They also included about 20 political detainees held without charge or trial since their arrest in 2004 who appeared to be prisoners of conscience. A South African national convicted in November 2004 in an unfair trial of attempting to overthrow the government was released on humanitarian grounds.
• Weja Chicampo, a leader of the Movement for the Self-Determination of Bioko Island (Movimiento para la autodeterminación de la isla de Bioko, MAIB), had been held without charge or trial since his arrest in March 2004. Following his pardon, he was expelled from the country, despite being an Equatorial Guinean national. Without informing him or his family, several security officers took him from Black Beach prison, drove him to the airport and put him on a plane bound for Spain, where he was granted asylum.
The combination of pressure on land, government programmes to rehabilitate major cities and infrastructure, and lack of security of tenure led to several mass forced evictions, carried out without consultation, compensation or due process. Hundreds of homes were destroyed in Malabo, and hundreds more families were at risk of forced eviction in Malabo and Bata.
• In July, the Prime Minister and other civilian officials, armed soldiers and police officers arrived in Atepa and Camaremy communities in the Banapa neighbourhood of Malabo. They forcibly evicted some 300 families and demolished their homes. Soldiers hit residents who resisted and one man, Santiago Obama, was arrested and briefly detained. He was subsequently released uncharged.
There was some improvement in prison conditions, particularly in Black Beach prison following the opening of a new block in late 2005. However, four South African prisoners held there since 2004 remained permanently handcuffed and shackled. The provision of food and medicines remained inadequate, although ill prisoners were seen by doctors. The International Committee of the Red Cross continued to visit prisons periodically.
Human rights defenders
The order suspending lawyer and human rights defender Fabian Nsue Nguema from the Bar Association, which was arbitrarily imposed in June 2005, was lifted in July.
AI country reports/visits
• Equatorial Guinea: Prisoners of conscience released (AI Index: AFR 24/002/2006)
• Equatorial Guinea: 300 families evicted and homeless (AI Index: AFR 24/006/2006)