Equatorial Guinea: Release of detainees should be catalyst for human rights change

Following yesterday’s announcement that Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has decided to grant an amnesty to all activists and opposition members jailed for political activity, Amnesty International’s Campaigner for West Africa Marta Colomer said:

The President’s decision to release prisoners jailed for their political activities and opposition figures must be a first real step towards their effective freedom. In 2014, a similar announcement was made by the President but not all activists were released.
Marta Colomer, Amnesty International West Africa Campaigner

“The President’s decision to release prisoners jailed for their political activities and opposition figures must be a first real step towards their effective freedom. In 2014, a similar announcement was made by the President but not all activists were released.

“While by all means this new announcement is a welcome step, much more needs to be done to make a decisive break with the country’s history of repression.

“For decades, activists, opposition members and those expressing dissent have faced arbitrary arrest and detention without charge or contact with their families or lawyers, while some have been tortured. The authorities must take urgent steps to guarantee that these wrongful detentions do not continue to take place.

“Following the long overdue release of these prisoners, President Obiang should go further by laying out clear steps to protect and respect human rights and ensure that all people can speak out freely without reprisals.”

Background

According to a presidential decree read on national television on the evening of 4 July, President Obiang said that he grants “amnesty to all citizens condemned by the courts... for political offenses in the exercise of their activity, serving or not serving their sentence” and “for all those deprived of their liberty or prevented from exercising their political rights”.

The decree also said, “the amnesty must allow wide participation of all political actors and guarantee security for those taking part in talks with international observers present”.