1 Equatorial Guinean authorities must immediately stop arbitrarily and indiscriminately arresting young people in their fight against gang crime, Amnesty International said today after documenting numerous testimonies related to these arrests.
2 In response to an alleged increase in delinquency by youth gangs, especially a group known as the “8 Machetes”, the Vice President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, launched in early May a national plan of fight against these gangs, which was called by the authorities as a “Clean-up Operation”.
3 On May 9, 2022, Vice President Nguema Obiang Mangue said in a video broadcast on national television that he had decided to launch the operation “to clean” the streets of Equatorial Guinea of criminals and bandits, and point out the “right path” to young criminals “The ‘Operation Cleanup’ in Equatorial Guinea is deeply worrying, as it leads to an egregious violation of human rights.
4 Under the guise of fighting crime, young people are being arbitrarily arrested and detained, and many face torture or other ill-treatment, losing their lives or being subjected to enforced disappearance,” said Marta Colomer, Senior Campaigner for West and Central Africa at Amnesty International.
5 “The authorities in Equatorial Guinea must immediately end this campaign, which amounts to little more than a targeted attack on human rights.
6 It is entirely possible to deal with criminal cases while also respecting human rights.” Mass arrests and curfews The government’s plan includes a curfew for young people, as well as the sending of suspected criminals to high-security prisons.
7 In a single week in May, more than 400 young people were arrested, while three months later, thousands of young people were arrested.
8 According to reports, arrested throughout the country.
9 Due to the lack of evidence in some cases, some judges decided to grant parole to the detainees.
10 However, at least two of those arrested died in prison.
11 Amnesty International spoke to relatives of people arrested and detained.
12 In many cases, they said that their family members were mistreated by security forces during their arrest and detention.
13 Rubén, a 21-year-old from Campo-Yaunde, was detained along with a group of other youths on May 20 while they were gathering at the Field -Yaoundé area of Malabo, the capital.
14 The group had been classified by the authorities as criminals.
15 On June 6 he died in prison.
16 The family received his body and a medical report, which indicated that Rubén had suffered from respiratory difficulties and anorexia, among other health problems.
17 The family maintains that Rubén had no health problems at the time of his arrest.
18 An older brother of two arrested boys told Amnesty: “The government is reacting to the actions of a criminal gang that was robbing people, but they are taking people away at random.
19 Some are criminals, but some are just innocent men.
20 They don’t investigate.
21 We are not the only ones affected.
22 Many families are also affected across the country.” ‘He’s a mobster, and we’re going to put him in jail’ For many other young people arbitrarily detained by security forces, their whereabouts remain unknown, while their families are often left with little or no news.
23 Lucas, 24, was arrested by the Rapid Intervention Force on May 8 while spending time with his girlfriend and other friends of his.
24 They were transferred to the Malabo Central Police Station.
25 When Lucas’s girlfriend, Anita, tried to visit him, the police said that her boyfriend “is a mobster and we are going to put him in jail.”
26 The family heard from informal sources that Lucas is reportedly being held at Black Beach, a high-security prison in Malabo, but no one could confirm this information.
27 The lack of official information about his fate or whereabouts could turn his deprivation of liberty into an enforced disappearance, a crime under international law.
28 Anita told Amnesty International: “All they say is that none of the detainees are innocent.
29 If at any point they are proven innocent, they will be released.
30 What happened to Lucas is happening all over the country.
31 He is not only here in Malabo”.
32 Santiago, a 22-year-old student arrested in the municipality of Bata three months ago, continues to be arbitrarily detained by the police.
34 As the family could not pay, Santiago remains detained in an unknown location.
35 “It’s not just my story.
36 All police stations are overcrowded with young detainees.
37 The other day when I went there, there were at least more than 400 children,” said Santiago’s father.
38 According to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Equatorial Guinea is a party, arrested and detained persons have the right to contact and access a family member or another person of their choice.
39 A few days after the launch of “Operation Cleanup”, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo told the people of Equatorial Guinea that the plan does not violate human rights, and that the international human rights organizations that criticize it intend to destabilize the country.
40 “The authorities in Equatorial Guinea must urgently provide transparent information on deaths in detention and torture and other ill-treatment.
41 They must also ensure that criminal suspects are brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civil courts and release all those who they have been arbitrarily arrested and detained,” said Marta Colomer.