Four people abducted from Benin by Equatorial Guinean security personnel were executed immediately after being sentenced to death by a military court in August. The same court sentenced two prisoners of conscience to long prison terms, although a civilian court had already acquitted them of the charges. Prisoners of conscience were convicted after unfair trials; several were released in a presidential pardon. There were further reports of politically motivated arrests and harassment of political opponents. Soldiers and other security personnel unlawfully killed, tortured and ill-treated detainees and others with impunity. Freedom of expression and the press remained restricted.
In March, when Equatorial Guinea’s report under the UN Universal Periodic Review was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, the government rejected all recommendations related to the abolition of the death penalty and ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Also in March, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international voluntary initiative seeking to promote transparency in oil, gas and mining, rejected Equatorial Guinea’s candidacy. The country had failed to comply with requirements, including participation in the EITI process by independent civil society groups and submission of an oil revenue report.
In June, President Obiang publicly pledged to improve human rights, expand press freedom, ensure judicial credibility and introduce transparency and accountability in the oil industry. None of these pledges was implemented by the end of the year.
In July, President Obiang decreed Portuguese as the country’s third official language to support its bid for full membership of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), but the CPLP postponed making a decision.
In August, the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries visited the country at the invitation of the government. However, they were not allowed to visit prisons.
In October, UNESCO suspended indefinitely the awarding of the UNESCO-Obiang international prize for the Study of Life Sciences. The award had been postponed in March and in June following worldwide opposition by NGOs and individuals.Top of page
Despite repeated promises to improve respect for human rights, the authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained dozens of political opponents. Most were released without charge but some were still held at the end of the year.
In March, prisoners of conscience Marcelino Nguema and Santiago Asumu, both members of the opposition party People’s Union (UP), and seven Nigerian nationals were unfairly tried by the Malabo Appeal Court – a court of first instance. The eight men and one woman were charged with attempting to assassinate President Obiang, in connection with an alleged attack on the presidential palace in February 2009. Eight other UP members had the charges against them dropped at the start of the trial. In April, the court acquitted Marcelino Nguema and Santiago Asumu while convicting and sentencing the seven Nigerians to 12 years’ imprisonment each. The Nigerians, who were traders and fishermen, had been arrested at sea and were accused of taking part in the attack on the palace.
Despite being acquitted, Marcelino Nguema and Santiago Asumu remained in prison. In August they were tried again on the same charges by a military court which sentenced them to 20 years’ imprisonment. Four others tried with them were sentenced to death (see below). None of the six defendants was informed about their trial until they arrived in court. None of them was interviewed by a judge or formally charged. Instead they were interrogated by high-ranking security personnel who were also involved in their torture.Top of page
José Abeso Nsue and Manuel Ndong Anseme, both former military officers, Jacinto Michá Obiang, a border guard, and Alipio Ndong Asumu, a civilian, were executed in Malabo on 21 August, within an hour of being sentenced to death by a military court using summary proceedings. They were convicted of attempting to assassinate President Obiang, treason and terrorism. Their trial was unfair and no evidence was presented in court to substantiate the charges other than confessions extracted under torture. They had no access to a defence lawyer. Two military officers with no legal training were allocated to them minutes before the trial started. The speedy execution denied them their right to appeal against their conviction and seek clemency. They were also denied the right to say goodbye to their families. A week later, President Obiang justified the speedy executions saying that the men presented an imminent threat to his life.
The four had been abducted by Equatorial Guinean security officers in January from Benin, where they had lived as refugees for several years. They were taken to Black Beach prison where they were secretly held until their trial in August. The Equatorial Guinean authorities had refused to acknowledge their detention.Top of page
Soldiers and police officers tortured and ill-treated detainees and others with impunity, particularly in Bata, despite a law prohibiting torture. At least two people reportedly died as a result of torture. The four men abducted from Benin and later executed were repeatedly tortured during their detention.
Marcelino Nguema, Santiago Asumu and seven Nigerian nationals were released in October following a presidential pardon on the anniversary of independence. Five other prisoners of conscience serving long prison sentences for an alleged attack on Corisco Island in 2004 were released in August. The circumstances of their release were not clear.Top of page
Soldiers and police were reportedly responsible for unlawful killings.
Press freedom remained severely restricted with most media outlets controlled by the state. Journalists who asserted their independence faced harassment, dismissal and arrest.
The government still did not provide compensation or alternative accommodation for the hundreds of families forcibly evicted from their homes in recent years. Residents of Bata remained at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for urban development projects.Top of page