Letter from Dr Mansogo

Letter from Dr Mansogo

Wenceslao Mansogo March 5, 2012
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A letter from Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo, a prisoner of conscience, to UNESCO, urging it to abolish the Obiang prize.

Dear Executive Board Members,

My name is Wenceslao Mansogo. I am a medical doctor and a member of the political party Convergencia para la Democracia Social in Equatorial Guinea. I am taking a great risk in contacting you from the dirty, foul-smelling, and oppressively hot cell in Bata Central Prison, where I have been held without cause for nearly four weeks in retribution for my work on behalf of the dignity and wellbeing of my fellow Equatoguineans.

In 1994, I returned home to Equatorial Guinea after studying and practicing medicine at some of the premiere universities and hospitals in France. I arrived full of ideas for improving the health care system in my country. I received a government appointment to lead a special unit at the Central Hospital in Bata, but was then fired for attempting to establish a national physician’s association and institutionalize basic requirements for the practice of medicine.

After being fired from Central Hospital, I started seeing patients privately, first in my house, and then in what has become one of the best clinics in the city of Bata. I named the clinic “Espoir” (Hope) to symbolize the desire of my patients to enjoy a better quality of life.

Until my current detention, my patients included Equatoguineans from all political affiliations, foreign expatriates based in Bata, and highly-ranked members of the current government. They came to Espoir Clinic because they wanted quality healthcare, a fundamental human right not provided to them by the government.

Since 9 February, I have been detained at the Bata Central Prison without charge, allegedly for professional negligence and desecration of a corpse, in connection with the death of my patient, Ms. Isilda Mangue Engó, during a surgery I was performing on 1 February.

It is now nearly four weeks since my arrest, which was carried out without warrant in violation of Equatoguinean law. The authorities have failed to present any evidence that I committed a crime.

n the contrary, an autopsy performed by the Bata General Hospital, and a follow-up investigation by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Salomón Nguema Owono, concluded that the patient died of a heart attack and that no desecration of the corpse had occurred. My lawyer has informed me that on 15 February, the international organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a public statement calling for my immediate and unconditional release. I am told that Amnesty International considers me to be a prisoner of conscience.

I am very sorry for Ms. Mangue and her family, but my arrest and ongoing detention resulted not from her unfortunate death, but from ongoing government efforts to suppress my human rights advocacy.

For many years, I have documented and publicized numerous accounts of torture, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, land expropriations, and countless other violations in Equatorial Guinea. I have traveled to Geneva to speak to the UN Human Rights Council about human rights violations in my country. I have spoken about these issues at universities and academic institutions worldwide. My government has repeatedly persecuted me for doing so.

A responsible and transparent government should do better for its people, especially when it has vast resources available to do so. Unfortunately, my government fails to use those resources in ways that significantly improve the lives of Equatoguineans, while expending considerable time and resources to repress and abuse its people.

While I must express my sincere gratitude to everyone, both in Equatorial Guinea and abroad, who has spoken on my behalf and called for my release, I must stress that I am not the only Equatoguinean being unjustly held in prison today. Through a veneer of laws and irrelevant judicial procedures, the government locks away and silences many critical voices, causing irreparable damage to the families and careers of all those involved.

From the confines of my current cell, I implore UNESCO delegates to call upon the Equatoguinean government to release all those who have been unjustly imprisoned. In addition, I urge delegates to closely analyze the record of the Obiang government and carefully weigh the wisdom of honoring President Obiang with a prize for “research in the life sciences” when the actions of his government consistently contradict that endeavor.

UNESCO’s Executive Board has the power to impact the struggle for an open and peaceful society in Equatorial Guinea, a country where improvements in quality of life are desperately needed. I hope that it acts to do so.

Respectfully yours,

Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo

Bata, Equatorial Guinea

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