- The human rights group Amnesty International yesterday evening urged the government of Equatorial Guinea to stop the "extrajudicial executions, torture and rape by security personnel" in the country. The oil rich Central African dictatorship is known as one of the world's worst violators of human rights.
Following gunfire between an unknown group termed as "terrorists" by Malabo authorities and the national security troops on Corisco Island on 29 May, the government is reported to have "unleashed a wave of arrests in Bata, the main city on the mainland," Amnesty reports.
The background for the clashes on Corisco Island remain in the dark, as only the state-controlled broadcaster's version has been known. Four men and one woman, presented as "terrorists", were paraded on national television where they "confessed" to using Corisco Island as the stepping stone from where to launch attacks on Malabo, the capital on Bioko Island, and Bata, the main city on the mainland.
Since that, national security forces have continued their action. "Relatives and associates of those who took part in the Corisco incursion were primarily targeted," the human rights groups says in a statement released yesterday. People associated with the banned Progress Party of Equatorial Guinea (PPGE), their relatives and friends, had also been targeted.
Reports arriving from the closed country suggest that, after being discovered by soldiers, the attackers dispersed and tried to escape. At least five reportedly succeeded in reaching a boat and fleeing to Libreville in nearby Gabon. The remainders had been hunted down by the soldiers who are reported to have shot them on sight.
- Those who surrendered were also summarily executed, says the Amnesty statement. The executions were reported to have only stopped with the arrival of a high-ranking military officer on Corisco Island. Five survivors were arrested and are, according to Amnesty, "believed to have been subjected to torture and rape."
- The number of people killed is estimated to be between 12 and 16, the human rights group says. This included executions on Corisco Island and in Bata.
After the attack on Corisco Island, the Gabonese security forces are reported to have rounded up Equatoguineans in Libreville, and friends and relatives of those who took part in the attack. Gabonese authorities are earlier known to have surrendered Equatoguinean refugees to the Malabo government, who later were executed.
An undetermined number were arrested in Gabon, including the suspected leader of the incursion. Most detainees appear to have been released within days. However, five people who fled Corisco Island were arrested and "extradited" to Equatorial Guinea.
They are believed to be currently held in the infamous Black Beach prison in Malabo, which is reputed for the torture practiced there. Neither the Gabonese nor the Equatoguinean authorities have released details about these detainees, their place of detention or the charges against them.
In the absence of an extradition treaty between Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Amnesty said it regarded such extradition to be "illegal and in violation of international human rights law." The group further called on the authorities of Equatorial Guinea to "stop the unlawful arrest of relatives of those sought by the security forces who have not committed any criminal offence."
- They should investigate all reports of human rights abuses following the attack on Corisco Island, the group's statement said. Amnesty accused Equatoguinean troops of "extrajudicial executions, torture and rape."
The statement added that Equatoguinean authorities "should immediately allow immediate access to all detainees by their lawyers, medical doctors and family. They should launch an urgent, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the killing of alleged attackers on Corisco Island and the deliberate shooting of Marcelino Nguema Esono, a former member of the PPGE, as well as into the numerous reports of torture and rape."
The group said it was seriously concerned about the health and safety of Mr Nguema Esono, who was arrested for unknown reasons on the evening of 27 June in the house of his brother-in-law. The PPGE member had been in hiding since March. After "deliberate shooting" him in the stomach, the police then took him and three others to the main police station in Bata. On 29 June, the four were transferred to Malabo prison where they have had no access to medical treatment or lawyers.
In March 2004, Equatoguinean authorities accused Severo Moto, the exiled former leader of the PPGE of plotting to overthrow the government with a group of alleged mercenaries who had been arrested in Malabo and Harare. Several PPGE members went into hiding to avoid arrest. Their close family members were arrested so as to force them to give themselves up.
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