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Equatorial Guinea scraps death penalty eight years after last execution

Equatorial Guinea scraps death penalty eight years after last execution
The President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang. EPA-EFE/MARIO CRUZ

MALABO, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Equatorial Guinea has abolished the death penalty, according to a new criminal code signed by veteran President Teodoro Obiang eight years after the last executions took place.

With a population of about 1.4 million split between a mainland on the Central African coast and an island in the Gulf of Guinea, Equatorial Guinea has a poor record on human rights. Campaign groups and foreign powers have accused the Obiang government of torture, arbitrary detentions and sham trials.

Amnesty International says the last executions there took place in the tiny, oil-producing state in 2014. Obiang had said in 2019 that he would propose a law to end capital punishment.

The new penal law, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, is dated Aug. 17 but was officially published over the weekend. It will come into force 90 days after publication, the document said.

Obiang’s son, Vice-President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, described the abolition as “historical and memorable”.

“I write it with capital letters to seal this unique moment,” he tweeted on Monday. “EQUATORIAL GUINEA HAS ABOLISHED THE DEATH PENALTY.”

Capital punishment remains legal in just over 30 African countries, but more than 20 of those have not carried out executions for at least 10 years, according to data provider Statista.

Obiang, 80, has ruled Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, since he seized power in a coup in 1979, making him the world’s longest-serving president in office.

Political dissent is suppressed under Obiang, and the wealth he and his family have acquired from offshore oil wells has failed to benefit most of the population.

Obiang Mangue was tried in absentia and convicted of embezzlement by a French court in 2020 in relation to luxury assets seized in France, including a mansion in the heart of Paris. He denies any wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Bernardino Ndze Biyoa; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Estelle Shirbon and Mark Heinrich)

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