The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar

Title:  Equatorial Guinea Human Rights Practices, 1995 
Author:  U.S. Department of State  
Date:  March 1996  
 
 
 
 
                       EQUATORIAL GUINEA 
 
 
Equatorial Guinea is nominally a multiparty constitutional republic, but 
in reality power has been exercised by President Teodoro Obiang through 
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 (PDGE) 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.  The security forces committed serious 
human rights abuses. 
 
The majority of the population of 400,000 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.  Most international assistance has been suspended 
due to the lack of economic reform and the Government's continued 
violation of human rights.  Substantial new oil deposits were discovered 
in 1995 and will provide important additional revenue in the future. 
 
Serious human rights abuses continue.  After some progress in 1994, the 
humans rights situation deteriorated in 1995.  Citizens do not have the 
right to change their government.  Principal abuses by the security 
forces included:  arrests and physical abuse of prisoners in their 
custody; several extrajudicial killings; torture; beatings of detainees; 
arbitrary arrest and detention; and searches without warrants.  With few 
exceptions, the authorities took no action against any security force 
members suspected of human rights violations.  Prison conditions are 
life threatening.  The judicial system does not ensure due process and 
is subject to executive influence.  The Government severely restricts 
freedom of speech and the press and effectively limits the right of 
assembly.  In September municipal elections, the Government used 
arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and beatings with impunity in an 
unsuccessful attempt to restrain active political opposition.   
Discrimination and violence against women are problems. 
 
The only mass media in the country are the government-owned television 
and radio stations.  There are no print media, and no newspapers or 
magazines from abroad are available. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were several political and extrajudicial killings.  On September 
17, the day of the municipal election, a policeman shot and killed a 
member of the political opposition in the town of Mbibiyiin.  The 
policeman was in turn severely beaten by a mob. 
 
In January a police commissioner killed a farmer near Malabo, then cut 
open his abdomen and chest to remove several organs used in witchcraft-
related rituals.  Although the commissioner was tried by a court and 
found guilty, he was sentenced only to house arrest for 20 years.  His 
movement, however, is apparently unrestricted. 
 
  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.  The police 
routinely beat detainees severely, and victims often require 
hospitalization after release.  Access to prisoners is not generally 
permitted.  The security forces arrested prominent members of the 
opposition and beat and tortured them.  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.  In the 
year's most celebrated arrest case, Severo Moto, a leading opposition 
figure, and three other members of his Progressive Party were arrested 
in February for treason, along with six retired and active duty military 
officials.  At the trial in April, Moto was the only defendant who did 
not show evidence of torture.  The others could barely walk or sit 
because of beatings to their feet and buttocks.  One defendant, Pedro 
Massa Mba, had two broken arms; another, Norberto Nculo, had one broken 
arm.  According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human 
Rights, all of the military personnel showed evidence of having been 
hung by their wrists for extended periods of time.  During the September 
election campaign, a guard at the former U.S. Embassy was arrested by 
police and beaten.  Police released him after high level diplomatic 
intervention.  His late uncle, a political opponent of the regime, had 
been beaten to death in Malabo's Blackbeach Prison 2 years before. 
 
Prison conditions are extremely primitive and life-threatening.  Rations 
are inadequate, and sanitary facilities are practically nonexistent.  
Prison authorities do not normally target women for harassment, but 
female prisoners are not housed separately from men.  Prison conditions 
are not monitored by independent organizations. 
 
  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
Police routinely hold persons in incommunicado detention.  The 
Government arrested political figures and detained them for 
indeterminate periods.  There were also credible reports that around 
five members of the Movement for the Autodetermination of the Island of 
Bioko (MAIB), an ethnically based political opposition group, were 
detained in prison for several weeks.  At least 15 members of the 
opposition were arrested for political activity during the year. 
 
In February, opposition leader Severo Moto and nine additional 
opposition and military figures were arrested and charged with treason.  
At their trial in April (which lasted only 7 hours), one defendant was 
acquitted.  The others were convicted and sentenced to long prison 
terms.  Moto received a 28-year sentence.  The trial was held in a 
military court which did not have jurisdiction over Moto, a civilian.  
After extensive international criticism and an international campaign 
for his release, he and his fellow defendants were pardoned and released 
in August.  Although the Government did not force Moto to leave the 
country, he left to reside abroad soon after his release. 
 
There are nominal but unenforced legal procedural safeguards regarding 
detention, the need for search warrants, and other protections of 
prisoners' rights.  Judicial warrants are required.  Generally, however, 
the police arrest suspects without having obtained warrants. 
 
Authorities also continued to hold citizens of Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, 
and other countries to secure bribes. 
 
The Government does not force citizens into exile. 
 
  e.  Denial of Fair 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 rampant. 
 
The court system, composed of lower provincial courts, appeals courts, 
and a Supreme Court, is rarely used.  The President appoints members of 
the Supreme Court, and they are responsive to him.  There are 
traditional courts in the countryside, in which tribal elders adjudicate 
civil claims and minor criminal matters. 
 
The Constitution and laws passed by the Chamber of Deputies provide for 
legal representation and the right of appeal.  In practice, authorities 
do not uniformly respect these provisions.  Civil cases rarely come to 
public trial. 
 
The trial of Moto and his codefendants was an example of the way the 
courts operate.  Apart from statements that were extracted by torture, 
the only evidence presented by the prosecution was a letter that Moto 
had written in 1992 which discussed the military's possible reaction to 
a democratic change of government.  This type of evidence is an example 
of how the courts respond to political imperatives.  The quick guilty 
verdict, handed down by a judge appointed by the President, was a 
foregone conclusion. 
 
There were no reports of long-term political prisoners, but during the 
year the Government arrested political figures and detained them for 
indeterminate periods (see Section 1.d.).   
 
  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Government does not enforce the law requiring judicial warrants for 
searches, and security forces arbitrarily search homes. 
 
The Government does not overtly force officials to join the PDGE, but 
for lawyers, government employees, and others, party membership is 
necessary for employment and promotion.  The party banner is prominently 
displayed with the national flag in government offices, and many 
officials wear PDGE lapel pins.  Foreign firms are often pressured to 
hire party members. 
 
There is reportedly some surveillance of members of the opposition 
parties, but there does not appear to be systematic interference with 
correspondence. 
 
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.  No publications 
of any kind are openly available.  The country has no press, and foreign 
publications are not sold.  Shortwave broadcasts and government-
controlled television and radio stations are the only media available to 
citizens.  Opposition pamphlets and statements circulate. 
 
Television is Government-controlled and broadcasts only a few hours per 
day.  The Government withholds even minimal access to broadcasting from 
opposition parties.  It also refused to grant permits to foreign news 
media, including Spanish television.  However, Spanish reporters were 
working in Malabo during the September municipal elections.  It is not 
known if they had Government permission. 
 
There are no universities or other institutions of higher learning; the 
question of academic freedom is largely irrelevant. 
 
  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The right of assembly and association is provided for in the 
Constitution.  However, even for meetings in private homes, government 
authorization must be obtained for any gathering of more than 10 persons 
for discussions that the regime considers political. 
 
The Government generally permits opposition parties to hold conferences 
and private meetings.  It requires permits for public events, which it 
routinely grants but usually quickly cancels, effectively undermining 
the right of assembly.  In the September municipal elections, opposition 
parties were largely free to campaign, although there was some 
intimidation.  The M.A.I.B. movement formally chose not to be a 
political party and it did not take part in the election. 
 
  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, a religious organization must first be formally 
recognized by the Ministry of Justice and Religion before its practice 
is allowed. 
 
  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Government does not restrict internal travel.  Local police may 
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 have not had 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 
presidential 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 PDGE.  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. 
 
Municipal elections in September drew considerable attention.  The 
Government used arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and beatings in an 
unsuccessful effort to control a sudden upsurge in opposition political 
activity.  Despite these impediments the opposition parties were able to 
campaign effectively. 
 
According to U.N.-coordinated international observers, the local 
diplomatic community and other well-informed individuals, the PDGE was 
soundly defeated at the polls in the municipal election, with the 
opposition winning from two-thirds to three-fourths of all votes cast.  
The Government announced the vote totals 11 days later, claiming that it 
had won control of 18 of 27 municipal councils with a 52 percent overall 
majority of the vote.  Most observers believe the national government, 
using its authority as the sole arbiter of the election process, altered 
the vote count after the election. 
 
Although there are no legal restrictions on women's participation in 
politics, women are seriously underrepresented in politics.  There are 2 
women in the 42-member Cabinet, and 5 in the 80-member legislature. 
 
The Government does not overtly limit participation by ethnic 
minorities, but the monopolization of political power by the President's 
Mongomo subclan of the Fang ethnic group persists. 
 
Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The U.S. Embassy prior to its October closing was not aware of the 
existence of local human rights nongovernmental organizations. 
 
The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights visited once this 
year, receiving grudging government cooperation.  The Government refused 
to permit the International Committee of the Red Cross to establish an 
office or visit prisons or detainees. 
 
Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
Both governmental and societal discrimination continue.  These are 
reflected in traditional restraints on women's education and in the 
circumscribed opportunities for professional and occupational 
achievement of ethnic minorities.  The Government deliberately limits 
potential opportunities for ethnic minorities. 
 
  Women 
 
Societal 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 perpetrators. 
 
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 educational opportunity; 
women receive only one-fifth as much schooling as men. 
 
There is no discrimination against women with regard to inheritance and 
family laws, but there is discrimination in traditional practice.  For 
an estimated 90 percent of women, including virtually all ethnic groups 
except the Bubi, tradition dictates that if a marriage is dissolved, the 
wife 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.  According 
to the law women have the right to buy and sell property and 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 
 
There are no legislated provisions for the welfare of children.  The 
Government devotes little attention to children's rights or welfare and 
has no set policy in this area.   
 
  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. 
 
  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
There is no legal discrimination against ethnic or racial minorities, 
but in practice some members of minorities face discrimination because 
they do not come from the Fang ethnic group, or belong to a subclan 
other than the President's, which controls the country's political life.  
Minorities do not face discrimination in inheritance, marriage, or 
family laws. 
 
The MAIB, (see Section 1.d.) composed of ethnic Bubi, has become a 
target of government security forces.  In early October, at least five 
MAIB members were detained for their membership in the organization. 
 
Several thousand citizens of Nigeria and Ghana reside in the country.  
Most are small traders and business people and are harassed and 
persecuted by the police.  A high percentage of the market traders are 
foreigners.  Their merchandise is commonly seized, and they are often 
jailed until they or their families pay bribes to the authorities. 
 
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.  The Labor 
Code contains provisions to uphold workers' rights, but the Government 
generally does not enforce them. 
 
  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
There is no legislation regarding these rights or prohibiting 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 more than 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 street vending. 
 
  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The law prescribes a standard 40-hour workweek and a 48-hour rest period 
which are observed in practice in the formal economy.  The minimum 
monthly wage is approximately $46 (cfa 27,500).  The Labor Code provides 
comprehensive protections for workers from occupational hazard, 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]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1995 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.