An alleged attack in February on the presidential palace in the capital, Malabo, led to arbitrary arrests of political opponents and others, all of whom appeared to be prisoners of conscience. Detainees were tortured with impunity. Soldiers allegedly killed at least two people unlawfully. Prisoners continued to be held incommunicado, some in isolation cells, with limited or no access to fresh air and direct sunlight. Scores of families were forcibly evicted from their homes in several cities and hundreds more remained at risk.
In February, the authorities said that members of the Nigerian Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had attacked the presidential palace in Malabo with assistance from inside Equatorial Guinea. The alleged attack led to the arrest of political opponents and a crackdown on irregular migrants. Some 500 foreign nationals, mostly Nigerians and Cameroonians, were expelled between February and May. Following the alleged attack, the Ministers of Defence and National Security were dismissed and new ones appointed. MEND denied involvement in the alleged attack.
In March, the new National Security Minister condemned the level of illegal detentions in Malabo police station, the poorly kept records of detainees, and illegal payments received by immigration officers. He warned officers against such practices, adding that their duty was to protect citizens and their property and not to violate their rights.
Law 5/09 on the Judiciary was passed in May. It provides for the creation of family courts, with com-petence to deal with cases of violence against women.
In November, President Obiang pardoned four South African nationals serving prison sentences of between 17 and 34 years for attempting to overthrow the Equatorial Guinean government in March 2004. A British national convicted in July 2008 of the same offence and serving a 32-year prison sentence was also pardoned.
Also in November, President Obiang won presidential elections with 95.4 per cent of the vote.
In December, the UN Human Rights Council, under its Universal Periodic Review, examined the situation of human rights in Equatorial Guinea. The government accepted in principle the recommendations of the working group. The final report was due to be adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2010.
Right to adequate housing – forced evictions
Scores of families were forcibly evicted from their homes in several parts of the country and hundreds more remained at risk. In Bata, on the mainland, there were further forced evictions in the Comandachina neighbourhood where dozens of families lost their homes to make way for a luxury hotel complex and shopping centre. In Bisa, another Bata neighbourhood, over 50 families were forcibly evicted from their homes in January to make room for a promenade along the beach.
Half of Kogo’s town centre was demolished in February to build a marina and promenade. Over 60 families were left homeless. Most of them were elderly people who owned their houses in which they had lived for decades. There was no consultation with the residents or adequate notification of the evictions. Just before the forced evictions, the families were offered a small plot of barren land outside town, without services or facilities, to build new homes. However, they were not given monetary compensation or other assistance, and most remained homeless.
Arbitrary arrests and detention
One prisoner of conscience, Bonifacio Nguema Ndong, was released in March having completed a one-year sentence. Five other prisoners of conscience – Cruz Obiang Ebele, Emiliano Esono Michá, Gumersindo Ramírez Faustino, Juan Ecomo Ndong and Gerardo Angüe Mangue – remained in detention.
Political opponents and foreign nationals were arrested following the alleged attack in February on the presidential palace. The authorities said they had captured 15 Nigerians during the attack, but did not provide further details. Between six and eight Nigerians remained in Black Beach prison without charge or trial at the end of the year. According to reports, they were traders who regularly travelled to Malabo by boat and were caught in Equatorial Guinean territorial waters. Six Equatorial Guinean fishermen in Malabo port at the time of the alleged attack were also arrested. They were released without charge about two weeks later.
In February and March in Malabo and Bata, the police arrested without warrant 10 members of the People’s Union (Unión Popular) political party, including Beatriz Andeme Ondó, the wife of the party’s president, Faustino Ondó Ebang. The authorities accused them of maintaining telephone contact with Faustino Ondó Ebang, a former prisoner of conscience living in Spain. All 10 were prisoners of conscience, detained solely because of their non-violent political activities. Those arrested in Bata were transferred from Bata police station to Malabo. All 10 were held in Malabo police station for two months, where they were tortured (see below) before being transferred to Black Beach prison. Eight were conditionally released in September pending charges and trial, and required to report to the police station twice a week. Marcelino Nguema and Santiago Asumo Nguema remained in prison. The 10 were charged with “acts of terrorism” in late November. They had not been tried by the end of the year.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Torture continued to be used in police stations. No investigations were carried out and perpetrators were not brought to justice.
Most of the 10 members of the People’s Union arrested in February and March were tortured in Bata and Malabo police stations. Santiago Asumo told the investigating magistrate that on one occasion he was placed on the floor on his stomach, his feet tightly bound with cables, and offered money to “confess”. On another occasion, the police put paper in his mouth, put him in a sack which was then tied, and suspended and beat him. Although he named those who tortured him, there was no investigation and no one was brought to justice.
- Epifanio Pascual Nguema was arrested without a warrant on 26 February and taken to Bata police station. At about midnight on 2 March, police officers took him from his cell to the cellar and tortured him for four hours. They beat him around the kidneys, belly and genitals. For several days he passed blood in his urine and was unable to walk or stand up straight. He needed hospital treatment. He had been arrested apparently for procuring travel documents for his wife and for criticizing President Obiang. He was released uncharged in late May.
There were reports that soldiers unlawfully killed two people in the Malabo neighbourhood of Lampert in the aftermath of the alleged attack on the palace. A Nigerian man died four days after being shot by soldiers who tried to stop him in the street. Instead of stopping, the man ran and the soldiers fired at him, hitting him in the back. In the second incident, an Equatorial Guinean man was stopped by soldiers as he was returning home. They beat him severely and he died a few days later as a result of his injuries. Nobody was brought to justice for the killings.
The ban on prison visits was lifted in late November. Some prisoners were held in isolation cells, in shackles, and only allowed in the yard for about 30 minutes every two to four weeks.
In police stations in Malabo and Bata, conditions were life-threatening because of overcrowding and poor hygiene and sanitation.
- According to reports, a woman believed to be a Nigerian national died in Malabo police station on 3 March as a result of overcrowding and poor hygienic conditions. She had been arrested about two weeks earlier, following the alleged attack on the presidential palace. There was no investigation into her death.
At least 20 minors aged between 10 and 17 were arrested in February for receiving money from one of President Obiang’s grandchildren who apparently had stolen the money. Although the age of criminal responsibility is 16 in Equatorial Guinea, all 20 were detained for nearly two months and were held in Black Beach prison, which has no facilities for juveniles.