Four West African men who have been illegally detained in Equatorial Guinea for more than five months must be immediately released, Amnesty International said today.
The men are irregular migrants — citizens from other African countries who do not have legal residence papers — and have been held in a police station in Malabo, the capital, since mid-November 2021, largely exceeding the 60 days limit provided by Organic Law 3/2010 which regulates the rights of foreigners in Equatorial Guinea. During this time, they have not had access to administrative or legal procedures to challenge the reasons for their detention, a legal guarantee under Equatorial Guinean law. One of the men is sick and requires medical assistance.
“The Equatorial Guinean authorities must immediately release these four West African migrant men, who have suffered the confines of detention for almost half a year and put an end to the use of arbitrary arrests and detention,” said Marta Colomer, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner for West and Central Africa.
Abdoulay Ndom and Mouamed Kalouare, from Mali, and Toba Mammed and Lamin Sisoko, from Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, have been held in detention since November 2021 as a result of mass immigration raids enacted by the police. Kalouare has been suffering from headaches, a fever, a persistent cough and chest pains. Staff at the police station say he has been receiving treatment. As he has shown no signs of improvement, however, his lawyer is calling for him to receive proper medical care.
In March, the four detainees protested against the conditions of their detention and their legal situation by going on a days-long hunger strike, yet their efforts did not prompt the authorities to make any changes.
A backdrop of discriminatory round ups
Between 30 October 2021 and early December 2021, the Equatorial Guinea government launched a campaign against migrants accompanied by immigration raids that took place in major cities such as Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebibeyin. Security forces stopped people on the street who they believed had “African foreign facial features” and demanded that they produce their identification papers. Those who did not have their documents with them were immediately arrested and detained, often regardless of their immigration status.
According to government statements, the campaign aimed to combat irregular migration in Equatorial Guinea. Other reliable civil society sources, however, have indicated that the raids were carried out in response to rumours that some of the migrants intended to launch a coup d’etat against President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
According to local organizations, in total, more than 500 people — mainly nationals from Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Chad and Mali — were detained in several cities around the country. Dozens of those arrested alleged that they were severely beaten and ill-treated during their arrest and detention.
The sudden influx of people being detained in police stations led to severe overcrowding. As a consequence, some people were instead detained in sport facilities, such as the Malabo Sports Complex and the Nkoantoma Sports Stadium in Bata.
Although some embassies, such as the Cameroonian one, provided some support to the migrants, they also reportedly asked the detainees to abstain from sharing information on social media about ill-treatment in the detention facilities or about the existence of deportation flights organized by the Equatorial Guinea army.
The vast majority of detained individuals did not receive any legal assistance, nor had access to appropriate legal procedures and due process relating to their detention. Some were deported to their home countries without due process and without access to a lawyer prior to deportation orders being carried out. Others were released weeks after their arrest but did not receive any explanation for their detention and were never charged.
Nobody should be arbitrarily arrested and detained on the basis of racial profiling. In Equatorial Guinea, however, arbitrary arrests, and a shocking lack of adherence to legal guarantees provided in national and international laws remain the norm, rather than the exception.Marta Colomer, Senior Campaigner for Amnesty International West and Central Africa
“Nobody should be arbitrarily arrested and detained on the basis of racial profiling. In Equatorial Guinea, however, arbitrary arrests, and a shocking lack of adherence to legal guarantees provided in national and international laws remain the norm, rather than the exception,” said Marta Colomer.
“The Equatorial Guinean authorities must urgently launch a thorough, independent and effective investigation into the allegations of illegal racial profiling and violence during arrests, as well as the failure to ensure access to legal protections and ill-treatment in custody.”