EG trial ‘unlikely to be fair’

EG trial ‘unlikely to be fair’

15/07/2004 14:38 – (SA)

Cape Town – The DA says it “cautiously welcomes” an announcement by
Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma that government
officials will travel to Equatorial Guinea to monitor the trial of
eight South Africans accused of plotting to overthrow the regime in
that country.

“However, the DA remains deeply concerned about the prospects of a
fair trial actually taking place,” Democratic Alliance foreign affairs
spokesperson Douglas Gibson said in a statement on Thursday.

This is in contrast to reports earlier in the day that the eight
alleged mercenaries will receive a fair trial, following assurances
made in this regard to President Thabo Mbeki by his counterpart in the
West African country, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

According to South Africa’s foreign affairs, officials from their own
and three other local government departments – justice, safety and
security, and correctional services – will go to the former Spanish
colony and monitor the trial of the eight alleged mercenaries.

The trial will take place within a month, but no firm date has been

Gibson said Equatorial Guinea had a notorious history of gross human
rights violations.

“President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has for many decades been viewed as
the one of the worst dictators in the world.

“He has instigated waves of repression, including killings and torture
in prisons, which has resulted in Equatorial Guinea becoming one of
the most corrupt, oppressive and anti-democratic states in the world.

“In April this year, Jan Henning of the national prosecuting authority
stated that South Africa should take no part in legal proceedings in
that country, as there is no chance that a fair trial can take place.

“This assessment has been echoed by Amnesty International, who stated
in May this year that it has ‘documented for years the routine use of
torture in detention facilities in Equatorial Guinea’.

“Furthermore, Amnesty raised the concern that ‘accused persons in that
country are subjected to trial proceedings which routinely fail to
meet international standards of fair trial’.”

A further cause for concern was that when the death penalty was
imposed in that country, it was swiftly applied.

“These grave concerns about Equatorial Guinea’s justice system are
borne out by the fact that since their arrest more than four months
ago, the alleged mercenaries have not appeared in court, nor been
allowed access to their lawyers. This in itself constitutes a serious
violation of the men’s basic legal rights,” he said.

Eight South Africans and six Armenians, accused of being the advance
party in a planned coup, are being detained in Black Beach Prison,
outside Equatorial Guninea’s capital city, Malabo.