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Public Statement: Equatorial Guinea (November 2012)

The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concerns about the Arbitrary Detention of Human Rights Lawyer Fabián Nsue Nguema

The Law Society of Upper Canada is gravely concerned about the arbitrary detention of human rights lawyer Fabián Nsue Nguema in Equatorial Guinea.

Fabián Nsue Nguema is a prominent lawyer and human rights defender.  He has acted as a defence lawyer for a number of political opponents and prisoners of conscience.  He is also a leading member of the People's Union, a political party that monitors and frequently denounces human rights violations.

Reliable reports indicate that on October 22, 2012, Nguema was detained by authorities when he went to visit his client at Black Beach Prison in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.  From October 22, 2012, until October 24, 2012, Nguema's whereabouts were unknown.  On October 24, 2012, Nguema's wife was granted access to the prison and they confirmed that Nguema was being held there.  She was denied permission to see him. On October 25, 2012, Nguema was moved to Comisaria Central (Central Jail) in Malabo.  His wife was able to see him that evening.  At the time, Nguema reported to her that he has not suffered any ill-treatment since being detained. 

According to the reports, Nguema has not been officially charged with a criminal offence and has not been given access to his family and legal representatives.  Nguema has been harassed and intimidated by authorities on many occasions as a result of his human rights work. 

The Law Society is deeply concerned about situations where lawyers who work for the protection and respect of human rights are themselves targeted for exercising their freedoms and rights under international law. Article 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that 'governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely; and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.'

Therefore, the Law Society of Upper Canada calls on the government of Equatorial Guinea to, 

  1. immediately release Fabián Nsue Nguema and guarantee in all circumstances his physical and psychological integrity;
  2. ensure that all lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of physical violence or other human rights violations;
  3. put an end to all acts of harassment against Fabián Nsue Nguema and other human rights defenders in Equatorial Guinea;
  4. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Equatorial Guinea.

 The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for some 44,700 lawyers and 4,700 paralegals in the Province of Ontario, Canada and the Treasurer is the head of the Law Society.  The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in Equatorial Guinea in their effort to advance the respect of human rights and to promote the rule of law.

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