Friday, June 8, 2012

President Obiang Pardons Opposition Figure And Others

President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo recently pardoned Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo Alo, whose arrest and trial on charges of criminal negligence had been criticized by human-rights groups. Dr. Mansogo was one of several prisoners pardoned in a decree published on June 4.

Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo Alo and the nurse who worked with him, Asunciรณn Asumu Mangue were among the pardoned prisoners. Some human rights groups had charged that the case was politically motivated because Dr. Mansogo was a member of the opposition party Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS). However, the court found that victim patient at Dr. Mansogo’s clinic had died from improper administration of anesthesia and that the clinic did not have adequate personnel on hand during the surgery. The case was brought by the family of the deceased, and the court functioned with complete independence.

The other prisoners pardoned had been incarcerated for crimes including embezzlement, fraud, offenses against the fundamental laws, criminal negligence, and slander.

President Obiang has used the presidential power of pardon, a prerogative given to heads of state under most national constitutions, on several occasions in the past to free persons convicted of non-violent crimes and who pose no danger to society. In 2011, he pardoned the nation’s last remining political prisoners, including participants in a coup plot. 

The Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 noted the fact that there are no political prisoners in Equatorial Guinea. It also documented several positive developments in the country, including the general availability of uncensored news and efforts to improve health conditions; protect women, children, the disabled and minorities; and improve the penal system.

The West African nation is carrying out a series of governmental changes mandated by the constitutional reform, which was approved in a referendum by 97.7 percent of voters November 2011. It aimed to promote government transparency and improve the country’s judicial and executive branches.