Equatorial Guinea: Release of Mr. Nsé Ramón Esono Ebalé

07/03/2018
Urgent Appeal

New information
GNQ 001 / 1017 / OBS 0113.3

Release
Equatorial Guinea
March 7, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Equatorial Guinea.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the release of Mr. Nsé Ramón Esono Ebalé (aka Jamón y Queso), cartoonist and blogger [1]. Mr. Esono Ebalé published a graphic novel entitled “Obi’s nightmare [2] in which he depicts President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo spending a day living as an ordinary Guinean citizen and suffering the consequences of the regime he himself has created. The cartoons especially criticise the lack of access to electricity, healthcare, education and the restriction to freedom of expression in the country.

According to the information received, on March 7, 2018, Mr. Esono Ebalé was released from the Black Beach prison where he had been arbitrarily detained since September 20, 2017, following his arrest on September 16, 2017 (see background information). On February 27, 2018, the Court of Malabo Province (Audiencia Provincial de Malabo) dropped all pending charges of “engaging in counterfeit” on the basis of Article 283 of the Criminal Code and Article 384 of the Law on Criminal Procedure against Mr. Esono Ebalé.

The Observatory welcomes the release of Mr. Esono Ebalé and the decision to drop all charges against him and thanks all the persons, institutions and organisations who intervened in its favour.

However, the Observatory recalls that the judicial harassment against him was a retaliation of his legitimate human rights activitiesand constituted a clear breach of his freedom of expression. The Observatory deeply regrets that Mr. Esono Ebalé was arbitrarily detained for nearly 7 months and calls upon Equatoguinean authorities to refrain from using any forms of harassment against him in the future, including at the judicial level.

Background information:

On September 16, 2017, at around 7:00 pm, Mr. Esono Ebalé and two Spanish nationals were arrested by state security guards when leaving a restaurant in Malabo. The security guards have reportedly been waiting for them for hours outside the restaurant. They were taken for questioning at the Office of Counter-Terrorism and Dangerous Activities at the Malabo Central Police Station.

The two Spanish nationals were released on the same day and reported that Mr. Esono Ebalé had been questioned about his drawings of President Obiang, and about a number of cartoons, which the police called defamatory. All the police questions were related to Ramon’s drawings of the President and government officials.

On September 19, 2017, the national television announced that Mr. Esono Ebalé had been arrested and accused by the police of money laundering and currency counterfeiting, crimes that can lead to a 40-year prison sentence.

On September 20, 2017 a judge ordered the provisional detention of Mr. Esono Ebalé and his transfer to Black Beach prison.

On December 7, 2017, Mr. Esono Ebalé was notified that he would have to appear before the Malabo Court on that same day. Mr. Esono Ebalé’s father called the lawyers to inform them. As the judicial year had ended on November 30, 2017, two of his lawyers were out of town and could not attend the hearing.

During the hearing, Mr. Esono Ebalé was formally charged with “engaging in counterfeit” of 1,000,000 Francs CFAs (approx. 1,525 Euros) on the basis of Article 283 of the Criminal Code and Article 384 of the Law on Criminal Procedure. Additionally, the judge confirmed Mr. Esono Ebalé’s detention pending trial and ordered him to pay 20,000,000 Francs CFAs (approx. 30,490 Euros) as surety for any future liabilities. The judge also ordered the seizure of all assets owned by Mr. Esono Ebalé in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Equatorial Guinea urging them to:
i. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Esono Ebalé, as well as all human rights defenders in Equatorial Guinea;

ii. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Articles 1 and 12.2;

iii. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and instruments ratified by Equatorial Guinea.

Addresses:

· Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea;
· Mr. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, Vice President of the Republic, in charge of national defence and state security;
· Mr. Alfonso Nsue Mokuy, Vice Prime Minister in charge of Human Rights; Tel + 240 222 134 407
· Mr. Clemente Engonga Nguema, Minister of the Interior and Local Corporations, Fax: +240 333 09 2683/ 2688/ 3406
· Mr. Salvador Ondo Ncumu, Minister of Justice, Religious Affairs and Penitentiary Institutions;
· Mr. David Nguema Obiang, Chief Prosecutor, Fax: +240 333 09 1338/ 4961
· Mr. Marcelino Nguema Onguene, Ombudsman ; Tel +240 222 275 979
· Permanent Mission of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin de La Voie-Creuse 3c, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 734 39 60, Email: mision.guineacuatorial_gva@yahoo.com
· H.E. Carmelo Nvono-Nca, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea in Belgium, G. van Arezzoplein 6, 1180 Brussels, Belgium; Fax: (+32) 2 346 33 09, Email: guineaecuatorial.brux@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Equatorial Guinea in your respective country.

***
Paris-Geneva, March 7, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken, quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0)1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT: +41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

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