Human rights and democracy activists today condemned the conviction of Wenceslao Mansogo Alo (left), a leading member of Equatorial Guinea’s beleaguered political opposition, as “a travesty of justice.”
“The conviction of Mansogo does not stand up to scrutiny and should be overturned on appeal. His prosecution was clearly opportunistic, designed to remove a vocal opponent from the political arena, and not supported by the facts of the incident in question,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch:
Mansogo, a leading member of the political opposition and prominent human rights defender, has been detained since February 9, 2012, following the death of a patient during surgery. The court also granted the prosecution’s request for an order to close Mansogo’s private health clinic and ordered him to pay five million CFA (approximately US $10,000) to the patient’s family and a fine of 1.5 million CFA (approximately $3,000) to the government of Equatorial Guinea, according to one of his lawyers who was at the court when the verdict was read. Mansogo has also been barred from practicing medicine for the duration of his sentence. His lawyers plan to appeal the conviction and sentence, as well as the order to close the clinic and impose the fines.
In addition to owning and operating the Espoir Litoral Medical Center in Bata, where he specializes in gynecology and obstetrics, Mansogo is a leader of the opposition Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) party and serves as its secretary for international relations and human rights. He is also a member of the local city council.
The CPDS is the main opposition party and also conducts human rights education and monitors, investigates, and reports on human rights violations. Party members are regularly harassed, intimidated, and arrested by governmental authorities.
Freedom House, which listed Equatorial Guinea as one of the “Worst of the Worst” countries in 2011 for its abysmal record of civil liberties and political rights, was one of many human rights and democracy groups to oppose the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s attempt to award a life sciences prize associated with Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo:
UNESCO’s Executive Board approved a plan that would reinstate the prize, but exclude any reference to Obiang. Freedom House believes that this cosmetic change is not enough, as the prize would still be tainted by its association with one of the world’s most repressive and corrupt regimes.
The $3 million prize originally bearing Mr. Obiang’s name was proposed in 2008, and then indefinitely suspended by UNESCO in October 2010 after an unprecedented global outcry seeking its cancellation. A number of notable public figures, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Congressman Howard Berman publicly urged UNESCO to reject the Obiang Prize. They cited a record of corruption, abuse, and restricted press freedom under President Obiang that is well documented, including by UN reports and foreign government investigations.
Despite considerable oil wealth, rights monitor IREX reports: Equatorial Guinea is a closed country with an extremely poor population, and the corruption rate is said to be among the highest on the continent (Transparency International ranked it 168 out of 180 countries worldwide in 2009).
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