Wednesday, June 12, 2019

ABA, Clooney Foundation preliminary report on Equatorial Guinea mass military trial

Juan E. Mendez, former UN special rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and member of the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch Expert Panel, has issued a preliminary report on a mass trial on behalf of the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights and as part of CFJ’s TrialWatch Project. Concerning the degradation of judicial impartiality and independence, he writes:
Perhaps the most serious due process violation that occurred was the blatant lack of judicial impartiality and independence. In placing undue restrictions on the defense and adopting a permissive attitude towards prosecutorial misconduct, the judge demonstrated a strong bias against the defendants to the point of ignoring their presumption of innocence. Although acts of insurrection and attempted assassination are extremely serious, it is precisely because of their gravity that the trial should have been conducted with complete and visible impartiality at all stages before conviction as well as with absolute autonomy, absent any pressure or orders from other branches of government.

To the contrary, the President of Equatorial Guinea directly intervened in the trial. On April 1, 2019, with the proceedings already underway, it was announced on state television that the President had appointed two new magistrates from the military and two new prosecutors from the military via executive decree. Moreover, on April 8, a military official appeared in the audience to serve - according to local journalists - as an “observer.” Monitors noted that throughout the remainder of the proceedings, the official relayed messages to the prosecution and judges. The encroachment of Equatorial Guinea’s political masters was thus evident at trial.
TrialWatch is a terrific idea -- bravo to the Clooney Foundation for Justice for establishing it, and to both organizations for partnering on the report. Mr. Mendez is the gold standard among human rights experts.

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