- In different prisons around the country, the government of Equatorial Guinea in October 2006 still is holding at least 63 political prisoners, according to human rights groups. Many of these have been subjected to heavy torture and most have not been through a fair trial.
Equatorial Guinea never has experienced good human rights standards, neither in the colonial era under Spain's fascist Dictator Francisco Franco, nor under the following indigenous dictators; uncle Macias Nguema or nephew and current President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, which both held the small country for being their personal property. An improved diplomatic situation and oil exports however have taken international attention away from the ongoing human rights abuses in the country.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Madrid-based group Association for Democratic Solidarity with Equatorial Guinea (Asodegue) reminded of the fact that the Malabo government still holds political prisoners. Most of the 63 known political prisoners held in Equatorial Guinea have been accused of one of the many alleged coup attempts, have been subjected to torture and have been through an unfair and questionable trial, Asodegue claims.
Some are even worse off, according to the solidarity group. Several prisoners were illegally put to prison, where they had prevailed months - in some cases even years - without seeing any charges made against them, let alone a lawyer or a trial, according to Asodegue.
The group recalls that during the last five years, the former Spanish colony has been through a series of so-called "macro-trials", mostly following alleged but poorly documented coup attempts. Many of the convicted are said to be victims of an attempt by Equatoguinean President Obiang to wrap up a power struggle within different sectors of the so-called "Mongomo clan" - named after the town that has produced the country's two presidents and which holds all major political and economic positions in Equatorial Guinea.
These so-called "macro-trials" took place in the Equatoguinean capital Malabo in May and June of 2002; in the Rio Muni mainland capital Bata in February 2004; and again in Bata in September 2005. Most of the political prisoners referred to by Asodegue were imprisoned during or following these trials.
Together with these macro-trials, there have also been several large-scale trials including a large number of accused. These include the proceedings against the supposed mercenaries invading Corisco Island in May 2004 and a related process against a relatively well-documented mercenary coup attempts in March 2004.
Asodegue recalls the injustice and existence of political prisoners in Equatorial Guinea at a moment when President Obiang is at his height of good diplomatic relations with African neighbours, Western oil-importing nations and the former colonial power. In fact, the Equatoguinean Head of State only last week announced that he was to go on his first official visit to Spain in 15 years and is set to arrive Madrid on 15 November.
The official visit of President Obiang was also confirmed by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, who in a statement last week said that the upcoming Madrid meetings were a result of the new "constructive dialogue climate" that had been established between Madrid and Malabo. Dialogue was aiming at giving Spanish support for the "modernisation" of Equatorial Guinea.
Minister Moratinos also recently was on an official visit in Equatorial Guinea as part of a West and Central African roundtrip. During his stay in Malabo, the Spanish top diplomat had reminded President Obiang that his government had given Spain its "clear commitment" to strengthen the democratisation process. At the occasion, President Obiang pledged to ratify a bill outlawing torture, which is known to be a widespread practice in the country.
Asodegue was hoping to get its message through to the Spanish government that much more pressure was needed to achieve basic human rights standards in the former colony. The group however has been disappointed by the current Spanish government's lax attitude towards human rights issues in its former colonies and its focus on increased trade relations.
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