Proposed Democratic Reforms Need Greater Substance

Proposed Democratic Reforms Need Greater Substance

March 28, 2011
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The limited constitutional reforms proposed by Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang late last week could be a positive step toward increased respect for democracy. But to be credible and effective these reforms must be accompanied by broader fundamental reform measures that guarantee full citizen participation, the rule of law, and the protection of basic civil liberties and human dignity, EG Justice said today.

(Washington, DC, March 28, 2011)—The limited constitutional reforms proposed by Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang late last week could be a positive step toward increased respect for democracy. But to be credible and effective these reforms must be accompanied by broader fundamental reform measures that guarantee full citizen participation, the rule of law, and the protection of basic civil liberties and human dignity, EG Justice said today. By themselves, the proposed reforms would not resolve the country’s underlying democratic deficiencies.

In a March 24 meeting with political parties, Mr. Obiang signaled an interest in imposing a two four-year term limit on the president, instituting a second chamber of Parliament, and creating a government agency to combat corruption. The suggested reforms, however, would not address the consistent abrogation of political rights and civil liberties that have plagued the country under Obiang’s 32-year rule.  

“If Mr. Obiang is serious about democratic reform, he must implement fundamental reforms aimed at protecting citizens’ civil liberties and political rights,” said Tutu Alicante, executive director of EG Justice. “The government must allow independent journalists and media outlets to operate without harassment, enact a Freedom of Information Law to grant access to and protect the dissemination of information, investigate and prosecute all cases of torture, and allow citizens their legally mandated right to hold public demonstrations.”

All domestic media outlets are controlled by the government. Citizens critical of the government are frequently harassed. Last week, the government rejected applications submitted by opposition political parties to hold public demonstrations and meetings, despite the fact that the country’s laws explicitly allow such gatherings.

“True reform is the result of action, not words,” said Mr. Alicante. “We urge President Obiang and his government to implement a robust and comprehensive agenda for political reform rather than piecemeal measures that do not fundamentally change things in the country.”

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