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UN Independent Experts express serious concern at the execution of four men after concluding their mission to Equatorial Guinea

GENEVA (27 August 20109 - Two members of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries* Amada Benavides de Pérez, Chairperson, and José-Luis Gomez del Prado, member of the Group, concluded a five day visit to Equatorial Guinea on 20 August 2010, to investigate activities of mercenaries in the country and their impact on human rights. The Group focused in particular on the investigations and prosecutions related to the armed attack on the presidential palace by alleged mercenaries on 17 February 2009 as well as on the 2004 coup attempt and its aftermath. In accordance with its mandate, the Group also inquired about the activities of private military and security companies (PMSC) operating in Equatorial Guinea.

The Working Group is grateful to the Equatorial Guinean Government for its invitation. The Group held meetings in Malabo with the Head of State, Mr Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and senior officials of the executive, the judiciary and the legislature, including the Third Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights, the Presidential Advisor on Human Rights, the Minister and Vice-Minister of Justice, the Deputy Defence Minister and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General, the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, the Speaker of Parliament as well as the as well as the Vice President of the National Human Rights Commission. The independent experts also met with representatives of political parties and civil society, and held meeting with the U.S. Ambassador as well as representatives from the Embassy of Spain, France, Nigeria and South Africa. It met with the UN Resident Coordinator as well as with representatives of a private military and security company operating in Equatorial Guinea.

The experts also visited Punta Europa, the port facility of oil companies on the island of Bioko, to get information on the security arrangements of oil companies in this area.

Concerning the 17 February 2009 attack on the presidential palace by alleged mercenaries, the Working Group received information that the Government arrested seven Nigerians and nine equato-guineans in relation to this attack. The Working Group regrets the lack of transparency on the part of the authorities, in particular that it did not have access to the judicial decisions, nor to those who stood trial and are still in detention.

The Group is particularly concerned at the information that on 21 August 2010, three former military officers and one civilian were executed after a summary military trial in which they were found guilty on treason and terrorism charges. The Working Group strongly condemns this execution, which follows a summary trial that severely lacked due process and the fact that the sentence was carried out the same day denying the defendants all possibility of appeal. The 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.

Two other civilians were sentenced in the same military trial to 20 years imprisonment. The Working Group is concerned that the guaranties to due process were not respected in this case, in particular that these civilians were tried by a military court after having been acquitted on 5 April 2010 by a civilian court in a first instance.

The Working Group has received information that among the 7 Nigerians arrested, two have died in detention while the five others have been sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment. 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. Several sources also raised doubts regarding their involvement in the attack and the lack of evidence presented at the trial.

The lack of transparency regarding these trials, despite the repeated requests by the Working Group to access judicial decisions as well as visit the detainees, points to severe shortcomings in the implementation of international human rights standards in the administration of justice by the Government of Equatorial Guinea.

In relation to the attempted coup of 2004, the Working Group considers that this is a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs as a means of violating the sovereignty of the State. In this case, the mercenaries involved were mostly former PMSCs personnel and some were still employed by a PMSC as the case of two employees of the company Meteoric Tactical Systems providing security to diplomats of Western Embassies in Baghdad-among which to the Ambassador of Switzerland.

The Group received information regarding the 2004 and 2008 trials of those arrested in connection with this coup attempt, including of the British citizen Simon Mann and the South African Nick du Toit. The Group notes that all foreigners linked to this coup attempt were pardoned in November 2009 by the President. Nonetheless, a number of reports indicated that trials failed to comply with international human rights standards and that some of the accused had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

The Working Group notes that officially there is only one US-based PMSC currently contracted by the Government to inter alia conduct training of the armed forces and the police, as well as one local security company. The Working Group is not aware of any allegations of human rights violations committed by these PMSCs.

The independent experts had the opportunity to assess the geopolitical situation of Equatorial Guinea, a country with important natural resources, which has experienced several coup attempts involving organized groups including 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.

The Working Group would like to present to following preliminary recommendations to the Equatorial Guinean authorities:

· Requests the authorities of Equatorial Guinea to provide full information in a transparent manner regarding the 17 February 2009 incident, and in particular, that:
- all judgements rendered in the criminal cases related to the attack be made available to the public, in accordance with article 14(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that the State of Equatorial Guinea has ratified;
- explanations be given as to how the four ex militaries refuges in Benin- José Abeso Nsue, Manuel Ndong Anseme, Alipio Ndong Asumu and Jacinto Michá Obiang - were brought back to Equatorial Guinea to face a military trial and on the due process guarantees they were given in conformity with international human rights instruments;
- information regarding their summary execution immediately after being sentenced, without a possibility to appeal the decision;

· Calls upon the Government, in accordance with articles 36 and 37 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, if this has not yet been done, to grant the Nigerian Embassy access without delay to the five Nigerians currently in detention and to inform it without delay of any case of death of its nationals. The Government should also grant the ICRC access to the detainees;

· Requests the Government to reply to its communication of 2006 related to allegations of torture and ill-treatment related to the mercenaries tried in relation to the 2004 failed coup;

· Invites the State of Equatorial Guinea to accede to 1989 International Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries as a matter of priority;

· Encourages the Government to consider developing national legislation to criminalize the presence of mercenaries and mercenary-related acts and to regulate the activities of private military and security companies and their employees;

· Encourages the Government to carefully consider the proposals of the Working Group for a possible new legal instrument regulating PMSCs and to support the establishment of an open-ended Working Group with the task of developing a new Convention on this matter.

ENDS

The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination was established in 2005 by the Commission on Human Rights.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/mercenaries/index.htm

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Julie Tétard (+41 22 917 96 03/ jtetard@ohchr.org.) or Ms. Catherine Phuong (+41 22 917 92 71 / cphuong@ohchr.org)