In January a wave of fires swept through several Malabo neighbourhoods which were earmarked for demolition, destroying over 100 houses and leaving as many families homeless. Some neighbourhoods were hit by fires several times. One of the fires in the New Building (also known as Campo Yaoundé) neighbourhood occurred two days after the Prime Minister told residents the area was to be demolished in order to build new social housing. The authorities said the fires were accidental, but in mid-January the police said they had arrested 20 people on suspicion of arson. No further information was forthcoming.
In July the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited the country’s prisons and other detention centres. The delegates were able to speak to most prisoners, but were unable to meet four prisoners brought from Benin and Nigeria in 2005 whose imprisonment the authorities denied, despite credible evidence of their being held in Black Beach prison in Malabo.
In August the authorities acknowledged that 60 per cent of the population lived in abject poverty and that only 33 per cent had access to clean water and electricity, despite economic growth over the previous year of 21.5 per cent, one of the fastest in the world.
In October, Parliament approved a bill to reorganize the justice system. One of the agreed measures was the establishment of a Superior Council of the Judiciary to be presided over by the President.
Arbitrary arrests and detention
Fourteen prisoners of conscience, including one held without charge or trial since October 2003, remained in detention.
Security personnel and civilian authorities, as well as members of the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea, harassed, arrested or ordered the arrest of, and briefly detained political opponents. Most incidents occurred in the mainland region.
- In February, Ireneo Sialo Sialo, the Vice-Secretary General of the political party Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), was arrested without warrant at his home in the town of Sampaka, Bioko Island. The arrest was apparently at the request of the President of the town council, who accused Ireneo Sialo of publicly insulting him because Ireneo Sialo had questioned his administration during a public meeting. He was forced to carry out heavy work before being released the next day after paying a fine.
- Secundino Boleko Brown, a businessman resident in Spain since 2000, was arrested in April at Malabo Central Police Station, the day after his arrival in the country, together with the local administrator of his businesses. The administrator was released without charge two weeks later. However, Secundino Boleko remained in detention in the police station without charge or trial until July. He was not told the reason for his arrest, although his lawyer was informally told that the police accused Secundino Boleko of entering the police barracks and drawing a map of the area. Secundino Boleko admitted visiting the barracks where his administrator, a police officer in active service, lived but denied drawing a map, which was never shown to him. The Appeal Court ignored a writ of habeas corpus issued by his lawyer in April.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Despite a November 2006 law prohibiting torture and other ill-treatment, cases of torture continued to be reported. Most incidents occurred in police stations in Bata and other towns on the mainland. At least two people died as a result of torture by police. At least three officers were arrested in connection with these deaths, but were not known to be charged or tried.
- Salvador Ndong Nguema died in Bata Hospital on 6 October as a result of a beating by a prison guard in Evinayong prison four days earlier. In 2006 he had been convicted of complicity in the killing in December 2005 of a woman by José Nzamyo “Tipú”, who was executed on 22 October. On 2 October a soldier on duty at the prison beat him in his cell. Two days later his sister found him there, lying on the floor with a distended abdomen. He died after an operation to repair damage to his intestines, which had been ruptured in several places. The soldier responsible was arrested in November.
- In February, 16 children aged between five and 16 were briefly arrested and beaten on the soles of their feet by a police officer on the orders of the Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Forestry who suspected they had stolen his watch and clothes while he went for a swim. The children were taken to the local police station in Acurenam, on the mainland, where they were beaten. The officer responsible was not prosecuted.
Four men “extradited” from Libreville, Gabon, in June 2004 and charged in June 2006 with terrorism and rebellion were tried by a civilian court in Bata in July and convicted of the charges. In November, they were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 17 years. They were convicted solely on the basis of statements they made under torture, as the prosecution presented no other evidence to sustain the charges. Following their “extradition” from Libreville they had been held incommunicado and handcuffed in Black Beach prison in Malabo for about two years and were tortured on several occasions. They were transferred to the Central Prison (Cárcel Modelo) in Bata in July prior to their trial and were forced to perform unpaid work in the houses of military and civilian authorities.
At least three people were executed during 2007. According to reports, the executions were carried out in a semi-clandestine manner, without the families of the executed being informed, in the Military Academy of Ekuku, in Bata, on the mainland. Salvador Ncogo, who had been arrested in December 2006 for killing a mentally disabled youth, and Benedicto Anvene were executed on 18 May. Details of their trial were not available. According to reports, the two men had been held in chains in Bata Central Prison for several months. José Nzamyo “Tipú” was executed on 22 October. He had been convicted in 2006 of killing his girlfriend in December 2005.
Housing – forced evictions
Forced evictions occurred in Malabo and Bata although on a smaller scale than the previous year. Hundreds of families remained at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes in both cities. In most cases there was no proper consultation or negotiation and people were not compensated for their losses.
- One morning in July, a tractor appeared in Ikunde, an area outside Bata, without prior notice and created an open pathway between the river and the road, demolishing the houses and vegetable gardens on its way. About 10 families were left homeless. Reportedly, the path was to facilitate access to a hotel in the village of Ntobo, some six kilometres away, owned by a relative of the President. There was no prior notification, consultation, compensation or due process and the families were not rehoused.