Equatorial Guinea 2016/2017
The rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly were severely curtailed ahead of presidential elections in April. Police used excessive force including firearms against members of opposition parties. Hundreds of political opponents and others, including foreign nationals, were arbitrarily arrested and held without charge or trial for varying periods; several were tortured.
In April, incumbent President Obiang won the presidential elections with 93.7% of the votes cast. There were reports of electoral fraud and numerous human rights violations prior to the elections. Independent political opposition parties boycotted the compilation of the electoral register and the elections on the grounds that both contravened electoral law.
Freedom of expression
The right to freedom of expression was suppressed. In January, police in Bata arbitrarily arrested Convergence for Social Democracy members Anselmo Santos Ekoo and Urbano Elo Ntutum, for “disturbing the peace”, as they distributed leaflets and announced a meeting of their opposition party. They were released without charge 10 days later.
Freedom of assembly
Between February and May, over 250 people were arrested for attending opposition parties’ meetings. All but four of those arrested were released without charge after being held for over a week. Members and sympathizers of the opposition party Citizens for Innovation (CI) were particularly targeted, as were relatives of the party’s Secretary-General, Gabriel Nze. Taxi drivers taking people to meetings were also arrested.
On 28 February, plain clothes security personnel disrupted a CI meeting in Bata. CI members Leopoldo Obama Ndong, Manuel Esono Mia, Federico Nguema, Santiago Mangue Ndong and Jesús Nze Ndong were arrested and remained in detention without charge at the end of the year. Over 40 others were arrested over the following days in Bata, and at least 10 others in other towns.
In April, four days before the elections, some 140 people were arrested at Bata airport as they welcomed CI’s Secretary-General. Others were arrested later in their homes; they included Gabriel Nze’s sister and elder brother. Some detainees were held at Bata police station and others in Bata prison. All were released without charge over a week later. Several were tortured and otherwise ill-treated, including a man who was made to lie on the floor while soldiers jumped on his hands.
Excessive use of force
On 22 April, police used excessive force against CI members who had gathered peacefully in the party’s headquarters in Malabo. At about 4am, police in helicopters and armed vehicles surrounded the headquarters and used tear gas and live ammunition to force the approximately 200 party members out of the building. Four people were injured by bullets and taken to hospital over 24 hours later, following the intervention of the US Ambassador. At least 23 people were arrested and taken to Black Beach prison where they were beaten. All were released without charge on 30 April. The police siege of the CI’s headquarters continued until 4 May.
Arbitrary arrest and detentions
In February, police arbitrarily arrested Ernesto Mabale Eyang and Juan Antonio Mosuy Eseng, respectively the son and nephew of the Secretary-General of the party Coalition of the Opposition for the Restoration of a Democratic State. Juan Antonio Mosuy Eseng emailed his cousin a document allegedly signed by the Minister of National Security ordering the arrest of exiled politicians. The document had been published online the previous day. After a week at Malabo Central police station, they were transferred to Black Beach prison where they remained without charge or trial and without access to their lawyer for several months. The Malabo investigating court did not respond to a habeas corpus application issued by their lawyer in March. However, in June, the investigating judge demanded a bribe of 10 million CFA francs (€15,000) to release the two men. In late November, they were formally charged, tried and convicted of revealing state secrets and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment each, and were released as, by then, they had already been imprisoned for nine months.
Right to education
In July, the Ministry of Education issued an order calling for the expulsion of pregnant girls from school, justified by the Vice-Minister of Education as a means to reduce adolescent pregnancies. The measures came into force on 19 September, the start of the school year.