GABON: Torture, and barbaric and inhumane treatment of students by counter-intelligence officers
The trial of Ondo OBAME Nicolas, president of the Students Mutual of Omar Bongo University and his colleagues, who were arrested on 17 and 18 December 2014 gave lawyers the opportunity to expose this Tuesday, January 20, 2015, at trial court in Libreville, torture and other inhuman treatment of detainees regularly by so-called Judicial Police Officers (JPOs), from the prosecutor’s office to gabonese prison settings. Those inhuman treatments were raised during procedures of nullity presented by councel Paulette Oyane Ondo and supported by her colleagues defense attorneys, Gisèle Eyué, Nkoulou Ndong and Moumbembé. The account of facts by Paulette Oyane Ondo (defense lawyer for the students) gave cold back to all those who were in the courtroom, shed in tears for sensitive souls present, except the one of the attorney general (or public prosecutor, Ms Ouwé) and her substitutes, for whom the abuse suffered by these students seemed to be made only of cat pee. Normal as one would say, an executioner has never pitied the victims.
According to councel Paulette Oyane Ondo, everything starts on December 17, 2014, the day of the arrest, when in the state prosecutor’s office, young Nicolas Obame Ondo and Mint’O Ella Duphy are riddled with abuse, strip-searched, and their personal belongings taken. While a JPO executed this dirty work, a phone rings in a pocket of one of the students, and state attorney directs JPOs to break it off. One put the phone down and crushed it with his rangers boots. The state prosecutor asked the two students to take their shoes off, then ordered that they be handcuffed and escorted by police at the courthouse where they are thrown into a cell as taro bags. Stripped and left in their underwear, they had to sit on the floor in a cell so dirty it is unlivable for every human.
Nearly two hours later, they were dressed again, handcuffed and taken to the central prison by the judicial police armed to the teeth. There, they are again stripped, put down on their knees, faces against the ground, handcuffed behind their back and they remained in this position for another 2 hours, before being transferred to the General Directorate of the Counter-intelligence and Military Security (so-called B2), where they will receive a serious a beating several times a day, undergoing treatments alternating between beatings, abuse of all kinds, death threats and psychological lowering. This, from 17 to 29 of December 2014, fed with canned sardine and a small piece of bread thrown on a floor infested by urine and all kinds of parasites; same as some would do for animals.
Because of that torture, Nicolas Obame Ondo had developed pleurisy, his repeated requests for doctor visit were denied, until he was brought to the military hospital much later. As for Ella Minto’o Duphy, it will be suffering from acute dysentery contracted three days after arriving at B2, but was taken to the military hospital on 23 December 2014. It is not healed up ‘to date. On December 18, 2014, following a telephone call from Nicolas Obame Ondo under threat, around 9 am, asking them to bring him some food in emergency, young Obame Mebiane Edvin Ballack and Lionel Ella Engongha responded to the request of their colleague. But once in the premises of B2, they are themselves taken to the office of a JPO who threatened them, and eventually the students were undressed and thrown in isolated cells in panties. At 2 am, Nicolas Obame Ondo and Lionel Ella Engongah are driven forcibly in the office of a JPO where Lionel ELLA ENGONGAH is summoned to grovel, while being beaten with belts by two officers on the orders of the JPO, and then returned to the cell.
This kind of treatment meted out to them every day until December 20, when one of them was awakened in the middle of the night by two police officers that enter the cell. One steers him a gun to the temple while the second subjected him to unspeakable acts of barbarism (sodomy) worthy of Sodom and Gomorrah which prejudice is shown in the photo below. He was threaten of death if he ever talks about what just happened to him.
Regarding Obame Mébiane Edwin Ballack, he will suffer the same inhuman treatment. As Lionel Engongah Ella, will be copiously beaten the first day, and the second, until he went into a coma. Although he was in such a weak state, his torturers who believed he was playing comedy, continue to beat him from all sides, before realizing that he is becoming inert. Fearful of having finally killed the student, the torturers carried him at night to the Army’s hospital. This is why rumors about his death spread in all Libreville and social media. Shocked by his condition, the doctor who treats the student recommended that he never be put in confinement again, and prepared a report for this purpose, the counter-intelligence (B2) authorities completely ignored the doctor’s recommendations. Edwin Ballack was sent back to jail until December 29, 2014 at 11 pm, at which time he was put before the State Prosecutor, together with his colleagues after an illegal custody of 12 days, and 13 days for Nicolas Ondo Obame and Mint’O Ella Duphy in complete violation of Article 50 paragraph 3 of the gabonese Penal Code.
Incarcerated in secrecy, the students had no right to visit; nor their families nor their lawyers, suffering inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by both the Code of Criminal Procedure of Gabon (Article 50 paragraph 3 and Article 53) and by the provisions of the international law of human rights which Gabon is a signatory. This treatment is considered torture, including Article 5 of the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples, as well as the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons against Torture and Other Inhuman or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment described as torture: “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person by agents of the public service or at the instigation for such purposes obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or others. ”
This is the ordeal of these students, in Gabon’ jails, a so-called «state of laws», without any emotion or sympathy from «Madam the State Prosecutor» and her substitutes whose primary mission is the promotion and defense of human rights, regardless of the social status of the person. Yet behind such horror and bestiality, they show different faces: one in public speeches and in front of television cameras, another in secrecy within Gabon’s jail system. Here are some silly questions, silly but useful:
• Why Judicial Police Officers (JPOs) of counter-intelligence police (B2) who say they have completed the hearing minutes on Dec. 17? Did they wait 12 or 13 days before presenting the students to the state prosecutor?
• Who did they get permission from to keep them in custody, beyond the legal time and why?
• These practices appear to be regularly used in the prison system, do they started only in December 2014? And would they be totally unknown for prosecutors, hierarchies of the gendarmerie, police and the Ministry of Justice?
• Would a judiciary or court system concerned about rendering Justice give any value to confessions obtained under torture and open a debate on such a biased background?
The court decided to join the merits, the procedural invalidity raised by the defense and to decide at a future hearing. But the defense has decided to appeal. Hope that the appeal court will give due to students’ lawyers, for the prosecution and the JPOs of Gabon to no longer feel entitled to violate the code of criminal procedure and human rights within the prison system.
Translated from text by Marcel Djabioh in french