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© CEIDGE

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  • Sub-Saharan Africa

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Last updated: 2 Jul

Human rights defender's story: Alfredo Okenve

Story behind

A former mathematics and physics professor, Alfredo Okenve is a human rights defender and anti-corruption activist from Equatorial Guinea. He is the president of the NGO Centro de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo de Guinea Ecuatorial (CEIDGE).

His advocacy and activism, including his engagement with UN bodies, and in particular his efforts to highlight issues of transparency related to the work of extractive industry actors present in the country, have been met with stark responses from Equatoguinean authorities. The latter have engaged in repeated acts of reprisals against him in recent years.

What happened

Repeated threats, arrests and harassment

In 2016, Okenve and his colleague and then-president of CEIDGE Enrique Asumu defied a government order for their organisation to suspend its activities. In response, they were fined close to 15,000 euros. A year later, in April 2017, Okenve and Asumu were arbitrarily detained by police for two weeks after being prevented from boarding a flight, following an event marking the 20th anniversary of the CEIDGE. They were only released after agreeing to pay another arbitrary fine.

In October 2018, unidentified men alleged to be plainclothes officers of Equatorial Guinea’s security services assaulted Okenve. They reportedly threatened him at gunpoint before severely beating him and abandoning him in an uninhabited area. Following the assault, which CEIDGE equated to torture, Okenve received intensive health care in Spain and was only able to return to Equatorial Guinea in February 2019. There, he was once again detained and put under temporary house arrest in March 2019, on the day he was supposed to receive the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

Despite continued threats and pressures, Okenve continued to engage with UN-system processes for human rights. He took part in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process for Equatorial Guinea, making a statement in September 2019.

Okenve's case was not included in the Secretary-General's 2021 report on reprisals, despite having been mentioned the previous year and despite the fact that the government never responded to the administrative appeal against the dissolution of CEIDGE.

'Civil society is in its inception [in Equatorial Guinea],' Okenve told CIVICUS, 'and faces internal difficulties such as the lack of tradition and experience in working for development and human rights […] However, the largest current difficulty is in the government system of Equatorial Guinea.'

What do we want

ISHR calls on the government of Equatorial Guinea to take specific actions to resolve this case, to commit publicly to protect human rights defenders and condemn any intimidation or reprisals against them.

What do we want

ISHR calls on the government of Equatorial Guinea to take specific actions to resolve this case, to commit publicly to protect human rights defenders and condemn any intimidation or reprisals against them.

How you can take action

Look through our 2021 campaign to learn more about ISHR's work to #EndReprisals against human rights defenders and how you can help us ensure they are able to work safely and effectively wherever they are, including unhindered engagement with the UN and other major international human rights bodies.