Washington, DC - The United States is deeply concerned by reports of the arrests and indefinite detentions of Equatoguinean citizens protesting the expenditures incurred by the Government of Equatorial Guinea to host the ongoing Cup of African Nations (CAN) football tournament. Celestino Okenve, a member of the opposition party Popular Union, and Antonio Nguema were both detained on January 14, and Miguel Mbomio was arrested on January 16, accused of distributing or possessing literature calling for a peaceful public boycott of the CAN football matches.

All three remain in police custody in the mainland city of Bata, though no official charges have been filed.

We are also concerned by reports that one of the detainees may have been assaulted by the police while in custody and that these individuals have not been allowed access to legal counsel. Okenve, Nguema and Mbomio have been held without charges for more than the 72 hours permitted under Equatorial Guinea law and should be released immediately.

We call upon the Government of Equatorial Guinea to ensure the humane treatment of individuals arrested, in accordance with the Constitution of Equatorial Guinea and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Equatorial Guinea has ratified. We also call upon Government of Equatorial Guinea authorities to adhere to protections afforded to all Equatoguinean citizens, who under Equatorial Guinea law are entitled to protection against arbitrary arrest and to fair trial guarantees, including the right to legal counsel. They have the right to be informed of the charges against them and are entitled to a prompt hearing or release within the mandated time period allowed by law.

Equatorial Guinea must respect the right to freedom of expression for all of its citizens, including members of opposition political parties.