On March 25 and the ensuing days, Police used excessive force and teargas to disperse protesting university students, at the Equatorial Guinea National University – UNGE (Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial) in the capital, Malabo, after peacefully protesting against non-payment of scholarships, and the process for the allocation of scholarships. Scores of students were arrested, 56 of them were detained for approximately 10 days before they were released yesterday, April 6 without charge.
Their arrest and detention violated their right to freedom of expression and assembly, which are enshrined in Equatorial Guinea’s Constitution. Furthermore, their prolonged detention was illegal as it exceeded the 72 hours limit allowed by Equatorial Guinea’s law. Some of the detainees were reportedly beaten at the time of their arrest and later at the police station.
"The authorities in Equatorial Guinea must abide by their laws and Constitution and not only stop arresting people for exercising their fundamental rights but they must protect, defend and promote those rights", said Tutu Alicante, EG Justice director
The university students started their protest on March 25, 2015 and were soon followed by UNGE students in Bata, the main city in Río Muni. In Bata, 26 students were arrested on March 25, and released without charge the next day.
In Malabo, after a meeting at the university in the morning to discuss their demands, approximately 200 students left the building and stood outside peacefully protesting with banners and chanting slogans such as "Scholarships for all", (Becas para Todos) "No cuts in education“ (No recortes en la Educación); “we want our scholarships" (Queremos nuestras becas) "we have had enough" (Estamos hartos). The police were called in and around 30 police officers arrived at the site firing teargas and charging against the student with batons. About 20 students were arrested and taken to Malabo Central Police Station.
The next day, March 26, the police again used teargas against the students as they were peacefully marching towards the Ministry of National Security to protest the arrest of their peers and call for their release. A further 30-45 students were reportedly arrested and taken to the Central Police Station. Almost at the same time, there were arrests in the Campo Yaundé neighborhood, near where the university is located. Information received by EG Justice, indicates that police officers began to arrest young people they found in the street, and that they forced their entry into homes and arrested any young people they found. It is believed that in total, between 60 and 80 people were arrested in Malabo, and that between 10 and 15 were released some days later after paying hefty "fines".
According to information obtained by EG Justice, after a few days in detention the Ministers of Education and National Security went to Malabo Police Station, took the detained students to the court yard and questioned them. Allegedly, the ministers wanted to know what political party was behind the students' protest. Once the ministers departed, police officers beat the detainees with batons.
“Once again, President Obiang demonstrates his complete disregard for the basic freedoms of expression and assembly enshrined in the Constitution and international treaties ratified by his government. These recent arrests and illegal detention of students strongly suggests that the Obiang regime will continue to arbitrarily detain and systematically repress dissenting voices as we get closer to the 2016 presidential elections.” Said Tutu Alicante.