Equatorial Guinea must disclose full details of amnesty for political prisoners

Equatorial Guinea’s government should reveal the names and the reasons for the arrest of all prisoners set to benefit from the country’s newly announced amnesty on political crimes, Amnesty International said today.

President Obiang Nguema signed a decree this week granting an amnesty to all individuals convicted or facing trial for political offences in the country. However, it does not clearly define “political crimes”, nor clarify how many people will benefit from the amnesty.

‘‘This decree would be an encouraging step for human rights in Equatorial Guinea if it leads to the release of people imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights, but the authorities must be transparent about the details,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

“The government must ensure that these prisoners are released immediately and that their families and others are kept informed of all developments.”

The amnesty is a precursor to planned discussions with political opponents, including those in exile, on national reconciliation.

Amnesty International has documented ongoing human rights violations in Equatorial Guinea, including the use of torture, arbitrary arrest of political opponents and the use of military courts to try civilians.

“Such an amnesty should be a platform for the government to address wider human rights issues in Equatorial Guinea, not least by ensuring accountability for violations and ending torture and arbitrary detention,” said Stephen Cockburn.

Current political prisoners include Cipriano Nguema, who was abducted in Nigeria in December 2013 and subsequently tortured by authorities at Equatorial Guinea’s National Security Headquarters in Malabo.

On 27 September 2014, five others connected to Nguema - Ticiano Obama Nkogo, Timoteo  Asumu, Antonio Nconi Sima, Mercedes Obono Nconi and Emilia Abeme Nzo – were sentenced to between 15 and 27 years by a military court, without the presence of their lawyers, for allegedly threatening state security. Another man, Leoncio Abeso Meye, was tried in absentia.