The 40 year old Equatorial Guinean cartoonist and activist, Ramón Esono Ebalé, was arrested in Malabo, the capital of the country, on 16 September. He was leaving a restaurant at around 7pm in the company of two Spanish nationals, when state security agents arrested them. The three were handcuffed, had their mobiles phones confiscated, and were then taken to the Office against Terrorism and Dangerous Activities located at the Central Police Station. Once there, they were questioned by more than a dozen security agents. After answering questions regarding their reasons for being in the country and their relationship with Ramón, the two Spanish nationals were released. However, Ramón remained at the police station and was questioned about his cartoons that criticised Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang and his government. The security agents warned Ramón that his cartoons depicting the president and him sharing them on the internet, could be considered defamatory.
Ramón, who has been living abroad for several years, had returned to his country on 29 August 2017 to renew his passport. He was in the country waiting for his new passport to be processed when he was arrested.
On 7 December 2017, Ramón was unexpectedly brought to Court. The Court served Ramón with an indictment (Auto de procesamiento) which was dated 27 November 2017 in which he was charged with counterfeiting money.
Human rights defenders and activists in Equatorial Guinea are regularly harassed, intimidated, arbitrarily arrested and detained simply for the work they do. All these attacks are meant to obstruct their work and force them into silence.
On 2 February 2018, the Spokesperson on the human rights situation in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea of the European Union (EU) issued a statement expressing serious concern for the continuing restrictions of freedoms and arrests in the country. For the EU, these restrictions confirm the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the country. The EU also reminded Equatorial Guinea that, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, it is expected to take all necessary steps to fulfil its international obligations regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Name: Ramón Esono Ebal
Further information on UA: 219/17 Index: AFR 24/7867/2018 Issue Date: 12 February 2018