South African Government Co-operation with Equatorial Guinea regarding the Legal Proceedings of the South African Citizens involved in an alleged Coup d' Etat Plot

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

FOR WRITTEN REPLY

QUESTION NO 126

PUBLISHED IN THE INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO 3 OF 4 JUNE 2004

MR DM GIBSON TO ASK THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

Whether, with reference to the recommendations made by a certain person (name furnished) of the National Prosecuting Authority that South Africa should take no part in legal proceedings in Equatorial Guinea as there is no chance that a fair trial can take place in that country and in the light of the alleged statement by the Minister of Defence on 24 May 2004 that the Government is co-operating with the authorities of Equatorial Guinea to assist them in prosecuting South African citizens held in that country for allegedly plotting a coup d' etat, any specific conditions in Equatorial Guinea have led the Government to conclude that a fair trial can take place there; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what specific conditions? N158E

UNQUOTE

REPLY

Following a request by the Government of Equatorial Guinea for South Africa to assist Equatorial Guinea to conduct a fair and transparent trial of the South Africans allegedly involved in an attempted coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea, a team of officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the South African Police Services, the Department of Justice, the South African Security Services and the National Prosecuting Authority travelled to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea from 17 - 20 March 2004 to assess the situation.

Upon their return, the team made several recommendations on the nature and form of South Africa's assistance to Equatorial Guinea. These recommendations were to ensure that the detainees had a just and fair trial. Amongst others, the recommendations resulted in the visit to South Africa of the Prosecutor-General of Equatorial Guinea from 16 - 19th May 2004. During his visit to South Africa the Prosecutor-General met with representatives of the families and legal representatives of the South Africans detained in Equatorial Guinea. The Prosecutor-General and his team were also able to further their investigation into the activities of those detained, prior to their arrest in Malabo.

The Government has stated that it firmly believes that by engaging the Government of Equatorial Guinea on this matter it will make a positive contribution to ensuring that the detainees have a just and fair trial. Naturally this contribution will be consistent with the values and principles on which the South African justice system is based.

The Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development noted in reply to Parliamentary Question No 5, published in Internal Question Paper No 1 of 21 May 2004, that "if any such statement was given (by an official of the National Prosecuting Authority, regarding the trial in Malabo) " it may have been given in a personal capacity and does not reflect the view or policy of the National Prosecuting Authority."

The role of the Department of Foreign Affairs in ensuring a fair and just trial for South African citizens in a foreign country is limited by the customs, norms and legislation in practise in that country. No insult can be given to that country nor can any interference with or implied interference with the sovereignty of that country be contemplated. Nevertheless, the Ambassador, Libreville, responsible for relations with Equatorial Guinea, has worked untiringly in order to ensure that the best possible conditions are obtained for our detained citizens, within the framework of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. He has met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of the Interior of Equatorial Guinea on a number of occasions to discuss matters relating to the detention and trial, and together with the Department of Foreign Affairs has also approached the Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea resident in Pretoria on these issues. Agenda items during these meetings have been the conditions of the imprisonment, the trial itself and the prisoners' access to legal representation. The Embassy, Libreville. and the Department of Foreign Affairs continuously urge the authorities of Equatorial Guinea to meet their commitment to a fair and just trial.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa