Equatorial Guinea: Leading human rights organisation forced to shut down, despite government pledge to improve civil society participation and join global oil and gas accountability initiative
A group of civil society organisations* condemn the move and call for the immediate reinstatement of the organisation
Today, Publish What You Pay, Oxfam America, Natural Resource Governance Institute, Global Witness, EG Justice and LOGI Lebanon* firmly condemned the unwarranted dissolution of the Center for Studies and Initiatives for the Development (CEID), a prominent and respected human rights organisation in Equatorial Guinea.
This decision follows the government’s announcement of its intention to rejoin the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global initiative for good governance in the oil, gas and mining industries. It also follows the government’s opening of a bidding round to attract new oil and gas investors.
“Investors should take note. CEID is the leading human rights, transparency and development organisation in Equatorial Guinea. Its work supports many other civil society groups and individuals in the country. Dissolving it makes its activities illegal. This will have a chilling effect for many activists who will rather stop their important work rather than face reprisals.” said Elisa Peter, Executive Director of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), “This is a red flag for the EITI Board, as well as investors seeking a stable investment climate.”
The EITI requires the government of Equatorial Guinea to protect civil society’s ability to participate and comment publicly on the management of oil, gas and mineral resources. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is requiring Equatorial Guinea to implement the EITI as a condition for a loan under negotiation. The small size of the country’s population – under 1.3 million people, smaller than 35 of Africa’s largest cities – means that the poor treatment of one of the last government’s prominent critics and their organisations creates a ripple effect that silences all criticism. This is in direct conflict with the requirements and mission of the EITI.
“We are watching the case of Equatorial Guinea very closely. The country’s appalling human rights record and the inability of the government to allow public criticism of its governance raise fundamental questions about its capacity to meet the basic requirements of the EITI,” said Diana El Kaissy, Executive Director of the Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative (LOGI) and alternate EITI Board Member. “It is critical that the government demonstrates to the EITI, its citizens and the international community its seriousness in addressing these systemic and very well-documented problems. ”
The recent attack against CEID follows a clear pattern of intimidation and harassment to silence criticism. Since 2010, the organisation and several of its members have been the subject of systematic harassment, violent physical assaults, criminalisation, arbitrary arrests, and detentions and smear campaigns. The most recent decision to dissolve CEID is the latest attempt by the government to shut down one of its most vocal critics. The government’s previous suspension of the organisation in 2016 invoked the same reason, for allegedly ‘carrying out political activities’ illegally. The most recent suspension follows the brutal beating and arrest of CEID’s Vice President Alfredo Okenve, and the appearance of the country at its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the Human Rights Council, a process in which CEID participated actively to expose ongoing human rights abuses.
“The dissolution of a civil society organisation is one of the severest types of restrictions of the right to freedom of association and should only be used when there is a clear and imminent danger resulting in a flagrant violation of national law, in compliance with international human rights law. Article 22 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights – ratified by Equatorial Guinea – provides that restriction should be enforced only if the strict principles of necessity and proportionality are respected,” highlighted Tutu Alicante, Executive Director of EG Justice, an organisation promoting human rights and good governance in Equatorial Guinea.
Civil society groups condemning the EG government’s dissolution of CEID call on the government to immediately reinstate the organisation. In a position statement attached to this release, they also call for action by the EITI Board, the IMF, companies operating in EG and the President of the Human Rights Council as well as the UN Assistant Secretary General. The group has made government officials aware of the situation, but, as of the date of this release, have not received a response on how the government plans to address the dissolution of CEID and the continued deterioration of civic space in the country.
“If Equatorial Guinea wants to continue the process of re-joining the EITI, it needs to seriously and meaningfully address its troubling civic space issues and reinstate CEID as one of the key stakeholders to be engaged in the EITI process,” concluded Elisa Peter.
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22 July – Position on Latest Attempt by the EG Government to Shut Down Civil Society
Publish What You Pay, Oxfam America, Natural Resource Governance Institute, Global Witness, EG Justice and LOGI Lebanon are deeply concerned that while the Government of Equatorial Guinea has pledged to improve its efforts on civil society participation in governance, it has intentionally taken formal action to proactively close down civic space.
We call on:
- The Government of Equatorial Guinea to immediately reverse its decision to dissolve CEID and abide by the human rights obligations it has committed to along with its other recent commitments on civil society participation and the Rule of Law.
- The EITI Board and the International Secretariat to remain vigilant and monitor the situation closely and to insist with the authorities in Equatorial Guinea that an application will only be considered once the country has taken concrete measures to safeguard civil society participation in resource governance, including by respecting the right to freedom of association.
- The President of the Human Rights Council and the UN Assistant Secretary General to consider this case as an act of reprisals against CEID after its involvement in the UPR process and ask the authorities to reverse their decision.
- The IMF to express its concerns over the continued attacks against CEID and pro-EITI and transparency advocates who demand accountability from the government in its management of public finances.
- Oil companies in Equatorial Guinea, notably Exxon Mobil, CNOOC Limited, Glencore, Kosmos Energy, Marathon, Noble Energy, Orphir Energy, Tullow Oil, to immediately denounce this attack as unfit for a country wishing to join the EITI.
Natural Resource Governance Institute
Publish What You Pay
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