Artist and activist, Ramón Esono Ebalé, has been detained by the Equatoguinean state since September 2017. Mr Ebalé was arrested on 16th September 2017 and questioned about his cartoons. For many years, he has been a critic and satirist of President Obiang’s regime in Equatorial Guinea. His work continues to receive international recognition and he is the recipient of multiple awards.
On 1st December 2017 his international legal team (Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Jonathan Price and Paul Mason of Doughty Street Chambers’ International Media Defence Panel), along with the organisations EG Justice and Cartoonists Rights Network International, filed urgent appeals with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr David Kaye, and with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The appeals requested urgent steps to protect Mr Ebalé and to call on the authorities in Equatorial Guinea to comply with their international legal obligations. The urgent appeals were filed after the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, failed to respond to an urgent open letter calling for Mr Ebalé’s immediate and unconditional release, sent on 15 November 2017 by a large number of expert international organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The letter was also signed by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Chair of JUSTICE.
Although detained since September 2017, Mr Ebalé was initially detained without charge. He was only charged with offences after the complaint was filed with the UN bodies in December. He has only been able to see his local lawyers once, on 20th September, and was denied access to them for the months he spent on remand and in the lead-up to his trial.
Today, the first day of his trial, the charges were suddenly dropped, and he is to be released imminently.This news has been widely welcomed by his supporters, friends and legal team. A press release with further detail will follow.
More background information is available here and here.