Equatorial Guinea: Prominent human rights activist banned from receiving Franco-German prize

  • His passport and phone are confiscated  
  • He was sent back home handcuffed and put on a military plane
  • At least three unidentified individuals seen moving around his house 

Authorities in Equatorial Guinea should immediately return his passport and phone to a prominent human rights activist who was banned from leaving the country and then handcuffed, put on a military plane and sent back to his home town, Amnesty International said today, with a call to guarantee his safety and freedom of movement.

Alfredo Okenve was arrested on 15 March after having been banned from receiving in the capital Malabo the “Franco-German prize for human rights” for his work. 

This ban shows how determined the authorities are in restricting Alfredo Okenve’s ability to do his legitimate work in Equatorial Guinea even when he is due to receive an award for his courageous work to defend and promote human rights.
Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner for West Africa

“This ban shows how determined the authorities are in restricting Alfredo Okenve’s ability to do his legitimate work in Equatorial Guinea even when he is due to receive an award for his courageous work to defend and promote human rights,” said Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner for West Africa.

“Sending him back handcuffed on a military plane will not stop Alfredo Okenve and many other activists in the country from standing up for human rights. The authorities should immediately take all necessary measures to lift the restrictions on his freedom of movement and allow him to carry on doing his work safely, without any threats, attacks or other form of harassment.”

Alfredo Okenve, president of the Center for Development Studies and Initiatives (CEID), was informed at the end of last year that he had won the prize awarded by the French and German embassies. He left Bata, his home town, to arrive in the capital Malabo where the award was due to be given to him during a ceremony in the afternoon of 15 March. 

In the morning, two policemen went to the house of Alfredo Okenve’s close relative, arrested and questioned him about the activist’s whereabouts.  When rumours that police were looking for Alfredo started to spread out, the two organizing embassies, France and Germany, decided to cancel the award ceremony. They also had an agreement with the authorities that Alfredo will be allowed to leave the country that day.

At the airport, Alfredo was prevented from boarding the plane and was escorted by eight security agents, handcuffed and put into a military plane and taken to his home town of Bata. Once they arrived, a military officer told him: “The instruction is to stay at home, do not go out of the city.”

Since the weekend, Alfredo is in Bata without his phone and passport which were confiscated at the airport. At least three unidentified individuals have been seen moving around his house doing surveillance. 

The case of Alfredo is illustrative of Equatorial Guinean authorities’ crackdown on activists and human rights defenders. On 25 February, Joaquín Elo Ayeto, activist and member of opposition party Convergencia para la Democracia Social (CPDS), was arbitrarily detained and tortured by security forces, accused of holding information on an alleged coup attempt. In January, the French lawyer William Bourdon who intervened in a case in France against the son of the Equato-Guinean President, was targeted with others by a warrant of arrest for financing of terrorism.

“French and German representatives should emphatically condemn the most recent attack on Alfredo and send a clear message to the authorities that this concerning trend of harassing and attacking human rights defenders would worsen the deteriorating human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea,” said Marta Colomer.

French and German representatives should emphatically condemn the most recent attack on Alfredo and send a clear message to the authorities that this concerning trend of harassing and attacking human rights defenders would worsen the deteriorating human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea
Marta Colomer

“Alfredo Okenve has dedicated his life to campaigning for human rights. That is not a crime and he should not be harassed because of his legitimate work. His passport and phone should also be given back to him and allowed to travel safely.”