Weakening of the Judiciary in Equatorial Guinea

Weakening of the Judiciary in Equatorial Guinea

EG Justice May 26, 2015
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Teodoro Obiang declared the total dissolution of the judiciary.

As it can only be seen as another step to weaken the rule of law and to take total control of the State institutions ahead of the general elections, President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang declared the dissolution of the judiciary, from the magistrates of the Supreme Court to the judges of first instance.

The dissolution of the judiciary by a Presidential decree blatantly violates the principle of independence of the judiciary guaranteed by the Constitution and the national legislation. Yet another tactic to control all State institutions, this measure exposes President Obiang’s will to go beyond the powers granted by the Constitution to ensure his preservation in power.

The Constitution clearly establishes that “all civil servants and career judges can only be appointed and removed according to the procedures established by law” (Article 98.2 of the Constitution). The Judiciary’s Regulatory Framework further guarantees the principle of immobility of judges and magistrates, and narrowly defines the causes to remove a judge. The Presidential Decree 036/2015 of May 20, 2015 cites the prerogative of the President to “appoint and remove all civil and military high level officials;” this prerogative does not include the judiciary given its status as an independent power and the procedures of removal are clearly defined by the national law. Furthermore, the decree does not cite any cause to proceed to the dissolution, failing to meet the requirements of the regulatory framework.

Since May 20 there has been no appointments and as a result there are no judges in the country. “This is the first time the judiciary is dissolved since our independence,” said Ponciano Mbomio, a prominent lawyer in Equatorial Guinea. The international community has expressed in numerous occasions its concerns for the lack of independence of the judiciary but nothing has been done to address the problem despite the numerous commitments made by the Government of Equatorial Guinea.

The dissolution of the judiciary is illegal and does not respect the procedures established by the national law. Equatorial Guinea must respect the independence of the judiciary and immediately appoint judges following the procedures established by the national law.

The judiciary in Equatorial Guinea has a long list of problems that need to be addressed to ensure its independence and effectivity, including: capacity building and training of judges; an effective civil service; ensuring the appointment system is followed; and providing adequate resources to operate. Equatorial Guinea must take immediate steps to strengthen the judiciary and provide adequate resources to prove its commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and National Horizon 2020 Plan. Without a functioning judiciary Equatorial Guinea is on the verge of becoming a failed State.

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