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TITLE: EQUATORIAL GUINEA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY









                       EQUATORIAL GUINEA


Equatorial Guinea is nominally a constitutional republic, but 
in reality power is held by a small subclan of the majority 
Fang tribe which has ruled since the country's independence in 
1968.  Despite the formalities of a multiparty form of 
government, President Obiang, in power since 1979, together 
with his associates, dominates the Government.  The President's 
Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (DPEG) controls the 
judiciary and the legislature, the latter through fraudulent 
elections.

President Obiang exercises control over the police and security 
forces through the Minister of Interior.  These forces 
committed well-documented human rights abuses, including 
unwarranted searches, arrests, and physical abuse of prisoners 
in their custody.  The authorities took no action against any 
security force member accused of human rights violations.

The majority of the population lives by subsistence 
agriculture, supplemented by hunting and fishing.  Barter is a 
major aspect of an economy in which the small monetary sector 
is based on exports of petroleum, increasing quantities of 
timber, and declining quantities of cocoa.  The economic crisis 
is compounded by the suspension of international assistance due 
to the lack of economic reform and the Government's continued 
violation of human rights.

Serious human rights abuses continue, although there has been a 
significant diminution of abuses from 1993 levels.  
Nonetheless, citizens still do not have the right to change 
their government.  The Government continues to use torture, 
arbitrary arrest, and illegal detention with impunity.  It also 
restricts freedom of the press.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

These abuses are serious, frequent, and widespread.  Government 
security forces arrest prominent members of the opposition, 
beat and torture them, and release them within days.   Beatings 
are severe, and some victims require hospital care after 
release.  Access to prisoners while in custody is not generally 
permitted.  The Government uses the psychological effect of 
arrest, along with the fear of future beating, to intimidate 
opposition party members.  The Government has not prosecuted or 
punished any security officials for these abuses.

Prison conditions are extremely primitive and life-
threatening.  Rations are highly inadequate and sanitary 
facilities range from nonexistent to minuscule.  Prison 
authorities do not target women, but female prisoners are not 
housed separately from men.  Prison conditions are not 
independently monitored.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Police routinely hold persons in incommunicado detention.  
Although there are no long-term political prisoners, the 
Government continues to arrest political figures and detain 
them for short periods of time, usually less than 1 week. 
Although the Government apparently no longer holds political 
prisoners for extensive periods of time without trial, the 
current short arbitrary detentions constituted a dubious 
improvement over past patterns of abuse.

There are nominal, but unenforced, legal procedural safeguards 
as to detention, the need for search warrants, and other 
protection of prisoner rights.  Judicial warrants are 
required.  Generally, police arrested suspects without having 
obtained warrants; on occasion they beat them, then released 
them within days.

Authorities also continued to hold Nigerians, Ghanaians, 
Gabonese and others to secure bribes.

The Government does not force citizens into exile and does not 
harass returned exiles.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trail

The court system, composed of lower provincial courts, appeal 
courts, and a Supreme Court, is rarely used.  The President 
appoints the Supreme Court, which is responsive to him.   There 
are traditional courts in the countryside, in which elders 
adjudicate civil claims and minor criminal matters.  Military 
courts are seldom used for political offenses; there were no 
reports of such use in 1994.  There are no religious or 
political courts.

The Constitution and laws passed by the Chamber of Deputies 
provide for legal representation, the right of appeal, and the 
use of search warrants.  In practice, authorities do not 
uniformly respect these provisions.  Civil cases rarely come to 
public trial.

The judiciary is not independent; judges serve at the pleasure 
of the President and are appointed, transferred and dismissed 
for political reasons.  Corruption is reportedly rampant.

The Government recently responded to international donor 
pressure by releasing all political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Government does not enforce the law requiring judicial 
warrants and security forces conduct arbitrary searches of 
homes.

The Government does not overtly force officials to join the 
DPEG, but lawyers, government staff, and others understand that 
party membership is necessary for employment and promotion.

There is reportedly some surveillance of members of the 
opposition parties.  There does not appear to be systematic 
interference with correspondence, and there is no coercive 
population control or forced resettlement.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press 
but the Government severely restricts these rights in 
practice.  Although there is no press, opposition pamphlets and 
statements circulate.

Government-controlled television, which broadcasts only a few 
hours per day, is the voice of the Government, and the 
Government withholds even minimal access to broadcasting from 
opposition parties.

There are no universities or other institutions of higher 
learning in this country with a deteriorating educational 
system.  The question of academic freedom is, therefore, 
largely irrelevant.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The right of assembly and association is provided for in the 
Constitution.  However, the Government must authorize any 
gathering of more than 10 persons for discussions that the 
regime considers political, even in private homes.

The Government generally permits opposition parties to hold 
conferences and private meetings.  It requires permits for 
public events, which it routinely grants and as quickly 
cancels, effectively undermining the right of assembly.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Government generally respects freedom of religion.  There 
is no state religion, and the Government does not discriminate 
against any faith.  However, the Government must recognize a 
faith as a legally inscribed religion.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government does not restrict internal travel for political, 
security reasons.  Local police demand bribes from occupants of 
cars, taxis, and other vehicles traveling outside the capital.  
Members of opposition parties often travel abroad with no 
restrictions on their right to return.

There are no refugees or asylum seekers.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens do not have the right to change their government by 
democratic means.  The Constitution nominally provides citizens 
with the right to change their government peacefully, but in 
fact there have been no free elections since independence in 
1968.  The President exercises complete power as Head of State, 
commander of the armed forces, and leader of the government 
party, the DPEG.  Leadership positions within the Government 
are in general restricted to the President's subclan and 
closest supporters.  While there is an elected Chamber of 
Deputies, it is not representative and is dominated by the 
Government.  During 1994 there were no elections.

Although there are no legal restrictions on women's 
participation in politics, they are seriously underrepresented 
in the political process.  The 42-member Cabinet has 2 women, 
while the 80-member legislature has only 5 women.

The Government does not overtly limit participation by ethnic 
minorities, but the Fang's monopolization of political power 
persists in spite of the Government's very preliminary steps 
toward democratization.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The first human rights organization was formed in early 1994; 
its registration is pending with the Ministry of the Interior.  
Another local human rights organization, the League for the 
Defense of Human Rights in Guinea, was organized in April.  The 
Minister of the Interior had not acted on its registration 
request at year's end.  Based on the Government's record of 
human rights abuse, many citizens are fearful of associating 
with the League.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights visited 
Equatorial Guinea three times, receiving grudging government 
cooperation.  The Government refused to permit the 
International Committee of the Red Cross to establish an office 
and to visit prisons and detainees.  Amnesty International 
visited twice.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Both governmental and societal discrimination continue to exist 
and is reflected in traditional restraints on women's education 
and in the circumscribed opportunities for professional and 
occupational achievement for ethnic minorities.  The Government 
deliberately limits potential opportunities for ethnic 
minorities (see Section 3).

     Women

Although the Constitution and laws provide for equal rights for 
women, they are largely confined by custom to traditional 
roles, especially in agriculture.  Polygyny, which is 
widespread among the Fang, contributes to women's secondary 
status, as does limited education opportunity; women receive 
only one-fifth as much schooling as men receive.

Violence against women, particularly wife beating, is common.  
Medical professionals estimate that 30 to 35 percent of women 
experience violence in the home.  The Government does not 
maintain records of such incidents, nor does it prosecute them.

There is no discrimination against women with regard to 
inheritance and family laws.  For an estimated 90 percent of 
the women in the country--i.e., virtually all ethnic groups 
except the Bubi--tradition dictates that if a marriage is 
dissolved, the woman must return the dowry given her family by 
the bridegroom at the time of marriage, and the husband 
automatically receives custody of all children from the union.  
Similarly, in the Fang, Ndowe, and Bisio cultures, 
primogeniture is practiced and as women become members of their 
husband's families upon marriage, they usually are not accorded 
inheritance rights.  In theory, women may buy and sell property 
as well as goods, but in practice the male-dominated society 
permits few women access to sufficient funds to engage in more 
than petty trading or to purchase real property beyond a garden 
plot or modest home.

     Children

The Government devotes little attention to children's rights or 
welfare and has no set policy in this area.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There is no legal discrimination against ethnic or racial 
minorities per se, but in practice some members of minorities 
face discrimination because they do not come from the Fang 
clan, or belong to a subclan other than the President's.  
Minorities do not face discrimination in inheritance, marriage, 
or family laws.

     People with Disabilities

There is no constitutional or legal provision for the 
physically disabled with respect to discrimination in 
employment or education.  There is no legislation mandating 
accessibility for the disabled to buildings or government 
services.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Although the Constitution provides for the right to organize 
unions, the Government has not passed enabling legislation.  In 
the small wage-economy, no labor organizations exist, although 
there are a few cooperatives with limited power.  The law 
prohibits strikes.  There is a Labor Code which purports to 
uphold the dignity of the worker, but the Government generally 
does not enforce it.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There is no legislation regarding these rights or addressing 
antiunion discrimination, and no evidence of collective 
bargaining by any group.  Wages are set by the Government and 
the employers, with little or no input by workers.  Employers 
must meet the minimum wages set by the Government, and most 
companies pay above the government-established minimum.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law forbids forced labor and slavery, and there is no 
evidence that such activity takes place.  Convicted felons do, 
within the law, perform extensive labor outside prison without 
compensation.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age for child employment is 16 years, but the 
Ministry of Labor does not enforce this law.  The Government 
also does not enforce the law, which stipulates mandatory 
education up to the age of 18.   Underage youth perform both 
family farm work and urban commercial vending.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law prescribes a standard 40-hour workweek and a 48-hour 
rest period; these are observed.  The minimum monthly wage is 
approximately $46 (CFA 27,500).  The Labor Code provides 
comprehensive protections for workers from occupational 
hazards, but the Government does not enforce these in 
practice.  Employees who protest unhealthy or dangerous working 
conditions risk loss of their jobs.
(###)

[end of document]

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