Independent United Nations human rights experts today voiced serious concern at last weekend’s execution in Equatorial Guinea of four men over their alleged involvement in an armed attack on the country’s presidential palace last year.
Three former military officers and one civilian were executed after a military trial in which they were found guilty on charges of treason and terrorism, according to a statement issued in Geneva by two members of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries.
The working group’s Amada Benavides de Pérez (chairperson) and José-Luis Gomez del Prado, who visited Equatorial Guinea in the days before the execution, said they strongly condemned it, noting it “follows a summary trial that severely lacked due process.”
Mrs. Pérez and Mr. Gomez del Prado also voiced concern that the sentence was carried out the same day as it was issued, denying the defendants – José Abeso Nsue, Manuel Ndong Anseme, Alipio Ndong Asumu and Jacinto Michá Obiang – any possibility of appeal.
“The [working] group could not obtain information on how the four men, who had taken refuge in Benin, were brought back into the country. They appear not to have been subjected to formal extradition procedures.”
Mrs. Pérez and Mr. Gomez del Prado issued a series of preliminary recommendations to authorities in Equatorial Guinea, including “full information in a transparent manner” regarding all matters connected to the armed attack by alleged mercenaries on 17 February 2009.
Two other civilians were each sentenced in the same trial to 20 years’ imprisonment, even though a civil court had acquitted them over the same events earlier this year.
Seven Nigerian nationals were arrested by the Government over the same attack and the working group said it had received information that two had since died in detention while the other five have been jailed for 12 years.
“It has also received information that the Nigerian embassy has not been granted access to them, nor officially been informed of their arrests, the charges held against them, the status of proceedings and the death of two of them.”
The independent experts criticized the “lack of transparency regarding these trials,” despite repeated requests from the working group to visit the detainees and access the judicial decisions.
The statement said this “points to severe shortcomings in the implementation of international human rights standards in the administration of justice by the Government of Equatorial Guinea.”
Turning to the attempted coup d’état in 2004 and its aftermath, the working group members said they considered the case to be “a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs [private military and security companies] as a means of violating the sovereignty of the State.”
The mercenaries involved in the coup attempt were mostly former personnel of PMSCs or in some cases still employed by a PMSC.
While President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo last year pardoned all foreigners linked to the incident, “a number of reports indicated that [the earlier] trials failed to comply with international human rights standards and that some of the accused had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment.”
During their five-day visit to Equatorial Guinea, Mrs. Pérez and Mr. Gomez del Prado held meetings in Malabo, the capital, with Mr. Obiang and numerous senior officials of the executive, judiciary and legislature, as well as with representatives of the UN, political parties, the diplomatic corps, civil society and PMSCs.
The two experts noted that Equatorial Guinea, which has important natural resources such as oil, has experienced several coup attempts involving mercenaries, paramilitaries and ex-combatants from neighbouring countries.
“In this regard the working group believes that in addition to the right and the duty of States to defend its borders and natural resources, the Government would reduce its vulnerability to mercenary attacks by promoting and strengthening democracy, economic, social and cultural rights and development in general as well as good governance.
“Therefore the group calls on the Government to ensure free political participation, the independence of the judiciary and a transparent and efficient administration of justice.”
Other preliminary recommendations include: calling on the Government to develop laws criminalizing the presence of mercenaries; inviting the country to accede to a 1989 convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries; and grant both the Nigerian embassy and the Red Cross immediate access to the Nigerian detainees.