Equatorial Guinea
30.05.18
Statements

Artist, Finally Free, Leaves Country

EquatorialGuinea: Artist, Finally Free, Leaves Country

Jailed for 6 Months, Barredfrom Leaving for 3 More

(Nairobi, May 29, 2018)—The Equatorial Guineanartist Ramón Esono Ebalé left the country on May 28, 2018, after beingimprisoned for six months on apparently false charges and then waiting threemonths for travel documents, 13 rights organizations said today.

“Ramón Esono Ebalé’s nine-monthsaga shows how many tools the Equatorial Guinean government has at its disposalto silence critics,” said Sarah Saadoun, of Human Rights Watch. “But it also isa powerful example of how solidarity and activism can confront abuses.”

Esono Ebalé, a prominentartist and cartoonist often critical of the government, who traveled toEquatorial Guinea to request a passport, was arrestedon September 16, 2017 in Malabo, the capital, and chargedalmost three months later with counterfeiting around US$1,800 worth of thelocal currency. The line of questioning during the interrogation and a lack ofevidence raised serious concerns that the allegations were politicallymotivated. These concerns were bolstered during the trial, when thegovernment’s sole witness admitted on the stand thathe was just following his bosses’ orders.

The judge dismissed the caseon February 27, and Esono Ebalé was freed,but he remained effectivelytrapped in the country because he lacked the proper travel documents. Hewas finally issued a passport on May 23 and left the country five days later.

Throughout this ordeal, dozensof cartoonists’ rights and human rights organizations and advocates worked topublicize the case internationally, including with the United Nations andglobal policymakers. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights wrotea letter of appeal tothe Equatorial Guinean government, and US Senator Richard Durbin remainedactively engaged with the case.

“We, the #FreeNseRamoncoalition, hundreds of artists, journalists, activists, rights defenders and supportersfrom around the world, celebrate that Ramón will finally be able to see his lovedones after an ordeal that lasted almost nine months,” said Tutu Alicante,executive director of EG Justice, a group that monitors the government’s humanrights record. “Many critical voices remain silenced and imprisoned inEquatorial Guinea, but today, we rejoice that one of those talented activists isfree and can go back to drawing truth to power.”

The human rights groups andadvocates are APIM, Arterial Network, Committee to Protect Journalists, CRNI, CaoilfhionnGallagher QC, Jonathan Price, Paul Mason, International Media Defence Panel,Doughty Street Chambers, EG Justice, FIDH, within the framework of theObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders, FREEMUSE, Human Rights Watch, Index onCensorship, PEN International, and Reporters without Borders.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting onbusiness and human rights, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/topic/business

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Equatorial Guinea, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/africa/equatorial-guinea

For moreinformation, please contact:
In Chapel Hill, for EG Justice, Tutu Alicante (Spanish, English, French):+1-615-479-0207 (mobile); or tutu@egjustice.org.Twitter: @TutuAlicante
In New York, for Human Rights Watch, Sarah Saadoun (English): +1-917-502-6694(mobile); or saadous@hrw.org. Twitter: @sarah_saadoun

In New York, for Committee to Protect Journalists, Angela Quintal(English): +212-300-9004 (office); or aquintal@cpj.org. Twitter: @angelaquintal

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