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Equatorial Guinea
28.02.14
Urgent Interventions

Serious concerns for the safety of Mr Roberto Berardi, an Italian businessman currently detained in the prison of Bata

Case GNQ 280214

Torture and ill-treatment/Solitary confinement/ Denial of medical care/ Fear for safety

The International Secretariatof the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Equatorial Guinea.

Brief description of the situation

TheInternational Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by a reliablesource about the alleged torture, prolonged detention in solitary confinementand poor health of Mr Roberto Berardi,an Italian businessman, born on 5 January 1965 in Latina (Italy), detainedsince February 2013 in the prison of Bata, in the city of Bata. OMCT fears forhis safety.

According to the informationreceived, Mr Roberto Berardi has spent more than two months in isolation in theprison of Bata after receiving a visit from a representative of the Italianembassy in Cameroon (also covering Equatorial Guinea) on 14 December 2013. Thevisit reportedly took place in the presence of numerous prison officials andprevented Mr Roberto Berardi to have a private discussion with the Italianembassy representative. The next morning, on 15 December 2013, his cell wassearched and in the evening he was placed in solitary confinement withoutfurther information.

Mr Roberto Berardi has reportedlyonly been able to communicate with the outside world thanks to a mobile phonethat has been occasionally given to him since December. On 22 January 2014, hemanaged to speak with his wife’s lawyer and informed him about his conditionsof detention. The isolation cell is about 2 and a half to 3 meters and canreach temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. The door is reportedly only openonce a day when he receives a bucket of water and food, which is poor andinsufficient. The cell is infested with cockroaches and horseflies, and itlacks proper sanitation facilities.

Since his arrest and detentionin January 2013, Mr Roberto Berardi has reportedly lost weight and has sufferedfrom malaria and dysentery. He has also reported having suffered torture and ill-treatmentby the prison guards on various occasions, including beating and flogging. Despiterepeated requests, he was only allowed once access to medical attention, inJune 2013. Furthermore, his lawyer has been denied access to the prison sinceAugust 2013.

The International Secretariatof OMCT is gravely concerned about the physical and psychological integrity ofMr Roberto Berardi and recalls to the authorities of Equatorial Guinea thatthey are legally bound to effectively ensure the physical and psychologicalintegrity of all persons deprived of liberty in accordance with internationalhuman rights law, notably the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Tortureand Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

OMCT urges the competentauthorities to ensure that Mr Roberto Berardi is immediately granted fullaccess to his lawyer, consular or embassy representative and proper medicalattention.

The UN Special Rapporteur ontorture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment stressedin a 2011 report to the UN General Assembly that “solitary confinement is aharsh measure, which may cause serious psychological and physiological adverseeffects on individuals regardless of their specific conditions”. The SpecialRapporteur therefore recommended that prolonged solitary confinement, in excessof 15 days, should be subject to an absolute prohibition (paras 79 and 88,Report A/66/268 to the UN General Assembly, August 2011).

Furthermore, OMCT urges thecompetent authorities to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independentand impartial investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatmentsuffered by Mr Roberto Berardi, in accordance with international human rightsstandards, the result of which must be made public, in order to bring thoseresponsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and applypenal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law.

OMCTrecalls that the authorities have to fulfil their obligations underinternational human rights law to protect the right not to be subjected totorture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and tobringing to justice those responsible for violating this right.

Backgroundinformation

According to the informationreceived, Mr Roberto Berardi, business partner of Mr Teodoro Obiang NguemaMangue, Second Vice President of Equatorial Guinea and President Obiang’seldest son, was arrested without a warrant late at night on 18 January 2013 at hishome in Bata. He was held without charges for 21 days during which he wassubjected to violence and denied access to a lawyer and family members. MrRoberto Berardi was only later informed that his business partner had accusedhim of misappropriation, swindling and fraud of their company assets, ElobaConstuccuion S.A., which is operating in the construction sector. On 26 August2013, the Bata Provincial Court sentenced him to 2 years and 4 monthsimprisonment for misappropriation. His trial was reportedly marred byirregularities.

According to the sameinformation received, Mr Roberto Berardi had found out early 2013 about theasset forfeiture action by the United States Department of Justice against theUS-based properties that his business partner had purchased by using accountsin Equatorial Guinea banks in the name of Eloba Construccion. Mr RobertoBerardi had subsequently raised the issue with his partner Mr Teodoro ObiangNguema Mangue. There are reasons to believe that Mr Roberto Berardi could be avery damaging witness in the US investigation and was therefore arrested andimprisoned.

Action requested

Pleasewrite to the authorities in Equatorial Guinea urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in allcircumstances, the physical and psychological integrity ofMr Roberto Berardi;

ii. Cease the practice of solitary confinement and anyother punitive measures;

iii. Grant Mr Roberto Berardifull access to his lawyer, consular or embassyrepresentative and his family, as well as guarantee that he is promptlyexamined by independent doctors and receives adequate medical care, inaccordance, inter alia, with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment ofPrisoners;

iv. Order his immediate release in the absence of validlegal charges and judicial process that are consistent with international legalstandards, or, if such charges exist, bring him promptly before an impartial,independent and competent tribunal that will ensure due process at all time andallow the presence of international observers;

v. Carry out a prompt,effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the allegationsof torture and ill-treatment, the result of which must be made public, in orderto bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartialtribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided bylaw;

vi. Guarantee the respect of humanrights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance withnational laws and international human rights standards.

Addresses

- President TeodoroObiang Nguema Gabinete del Presidente de la República Palacio del Pueblo Malabo,Equatorial Guinea, Fax: +240 333 09 3313/3334

- Attorney General, DavidNguema Obiang, Fiscal General de la República, Fiscalía General de la República,Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Fax: +240 333 09 1338/ 4961

- Minister of Interior and Local Administration, Clemente EngongaNguema, Ministro de Interior y Corporaciones Locales, Ministerio del Interior yCorporaciones Locales, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Fax: +240 333 09 2683/ 2688/3406

- Permanent Mission of Equatorial Guinea to the United Nations inGeneva, Chemin de La Voie-Creuse 3C, 1202 Geneva, Fax: +41 22 734 39 60, Email:mision.guineaecuatorial_gva@yahoo.com

Please also write to theembassies of Equatorial Guinea in your respective country.

Geneva, 28 February 2014

Kindly inform us of any actionundertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

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