HRW, APDHE, EGJustice and CEID address the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs


Transcript of the letter to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.

"Dear Commissioner Mogherini,

It is with utmost concern that we are contacting you regarding Celestino Okenve, a Spanish citizen whom we believe is under serious, and potentially life-threating danger in Equatorial Guinea.

Mr. Okenve leads Union Popular, a political party in Equatorial Guinea, and has been a staunch critic of corruption, human rights violations and lack of democracy under the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. He is now in Equatorial Guinea and although he has dual- Equatorial Guinea citizenship, he is there on his Spanish passport and a temporary visa.

His brother, Alfredo Okenve, was brutally beaten by four armed men who appeared to be state security forces in his hometown, Bata, Equatorial Guinea on October 27, 2018. This act was widely denounced by major international NGOs, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

It appears that the attack on Alfredo, who luckily survived, was a case of mistaken identity since they were looking for Celestino Okenve. The men carried a photograph of Celestino and repeatedly asked about him. After Alfredo’s identity became clear, he overheard them call someone to inform them they had the wrong person. The men nevertheless took Alfredo to a remote area, severely beat him, and then abandoned him.

Following the attack against his brother, Celestino Okenve believes his life is in danger and he immediately asked the embassy of Spain in Malabo to assist him in returning to Madrid. In order to reach Spain, Celestino has to drive through at least two police checkpoints and then travel through two airports; at each point he is vulnerable to apprehension or abuse by Equatoguinean government authorities. He requested that the embassy escort him to the airport to ensure his safe arrival. Unfortunately, the Spanish authorities in Equatorial Guinea have not provided him with any practical assistance. On November 2, the embassy formally condemned the beating of Alfredo and on November 10 the ambassador promised to assist Celestino to leave the country. But the only practical assistance the consulate offered was to advise Celestino to contact them if he has a problem at either airport, which does not provide him meaningful protection against the risks of traveling through the country.

In February 2018, the EU spokesperson condemned the “serious deterioration of the human rights situation” in Equatorial Guinea, citing the crackdown on political opposition. The statement notes the arrest of 130 members of the political opposition group, Citizens for Innovation (CI), and the death of one of these men while in police custody; since then, another member of the group died in prison after clear signs of torture and a judge died in un-investigated circumstances while under police custody. Moreover, many other CI members who were arrested described abusive conditions, inhuman treatment, and the complete absence of impartiality of the judiciary.

European residency or citizenship does not appear to protect people from being targeted by the Equatoguinean government. According to media reports, in September 2018, Mr. Fulgencio Obiang Esono, an Italian citizen living in Pisa, and Francisco Micha, a national from Equatorial Guinea and resident in Spain, were allegedly kidnapped while on a business trip in Togo and flown to Equatorial Guinea in a private plane. The reports allege that the government of Equatorial Guinea has unofficially confirmed that both are in the notorious Black Beach prison in Malabo. A local lawyer has inquired about their whereabouts without success. The reason for their apprehension is unclear.

In yet another case, in October, media reported that two men on a motorcycle fired shots at an opposition leader, Salomón Abeso, whom the government authorities reportedly have accused of taking part in a coup attempt against Obiang, while he was with his son in front of their home in London. According to the reports, Abeso was shot in the hand while his son was shot six times and sustained serious injuries. To the best of our knowledge, neither the perpetrators of the attack nor the motivation for the attack have been established. Abeso denies that he was involved in any plot.

Celestino Okenve has already been targeted for his political activities. In 2015, he was held by police for 17 dayswithout charges and one year later he was taken to the Central Police Station in Malabo, known as “Guantanamo,” where police tortured him.

Due to these circumstances, we believe that Celestino may be in danger while he remains in Equatorial Guinea. We urge you to take all possible measures through the Spanish Embassy or any other EU diplomatic mission in the country to facilitate his safe return to Spain.

We also request that EU diplomats inquire about the whereabouts of Fulgencio Obiang and Francisco Micha.

Finally, we urge you to firmly condemn abuses in Equatorial Guinea.


Human Rights Watch