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Equatorial Guinea: Dissolution of an NGO shows escalating crackdown on civil society

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Authorities in Equatorial Guinea should immediately rescind their decision to dissolve a prominent civil society organization and allow human rights defenders and activists to work without fear of reprisals, Amnesty International said today.

The country’s Minister of the Interior and Local Corporations published on 5 July, a decree revoking the authorization granted to the Center for Development Studies and Initiatives (CEID) – one of the few independent NGOs that denounce human rights violations in the country, which the authorities accused of undertaking political activities.

“Forcing NGO to close is a blatant violation of the right to freedom of association and shows the lack of commitment by the Equatorial Guinea government to end its long history of harassing and intimidating human rights defenders and civil society activists,” said Marta Colomer, Amnesty International West Africa Senior Campaigner.

“By dissolving this NGO and ending its operations, the authorities have demonstrated that they are not serious about ending the persecution of human rights defenders and independent civil society. Authorities should immediately rescind their decision to dissolve the CEID and allow civil society organizations to carry out their work without fear of reprisals.”

In the decree, the Minister accused the CEID for having undertaken “political activities” in recent years. Authorities said the fact that CEID took part in political activities is not in accordance with the statutes authorizing apolitical organizations. Amnesty International considers the dissolution as a clear violation of the right to freedom of association guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Equatorial Guinea is a state party.

The move also took place in the context of a 20-year-old legislation regulating non-governmental organizations’ activities, putting several obstacles on their registration process, independence, functioning and development.

Furthermore, human rights defenders in Equatorial Guinea are increasingly under attack on an alarming scale. In the last three years, several prominent human rights defenders have been targeted, ill-treated and arbitrarily detained.

Examples include the case of Alfredo Okenve who is also the vice-president of the CEID who, in March was arrested after having been banned from receiving in the capital Malabo the “Franco-German prize for human rights” for his work. Amnesty International has documented other instance where he was beaten in October 2018 by unidentified armed men using the butts of their guns and sticks.

Violations of the rights of human rights defenders occur with repression and crackdown on political activists and the civic space. Some opposition supporters even face torture when arrested. Joaquín Elo Ayeto, a member of the opposition party Convergence for Social Democracy and member of the Platform Somos+ was subjected to torture at least twice while at Central Police Station after his arrest earlier this year which resulted in physical injuries. He was also threatened with death by police. At present Joaquín Elo Ayeto remains in preventive detention in Black Beach prison.

As President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is marking his 40 years in power, Amnesty International is calling on him to ensure that his government moves swiftly to respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights of everyone in the country including the rights of human rights defenders and civil society activists.

“A first step would be to ensure that his government allows registration of non-governmental organizations and enables their full and independent functioning,” said Marta Colomer.

“The government should also adopt concrete and effective measures to prevent and punish cases of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and civil society activists.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Amnesty International.