Human Rights and Protection of Lawyers

UIA Mediation in Equatorial Guinea - Disciplinary sanctions against Mr. Ponciano Mbomio lifted

The UIA welcomes the success of the mediation efforts it made in January 2014 with the Equatorial Guinea Bar Association. Conducted by Mr. Fernando Tonim, the mediation led to the immediate lifting of the two-year suspension order issued by the Bar against Mr. Mbomio on 27 April 2012.

The sanction against Mr. Mbomio was based on his alleged expression “of opinions, judgments and criticism against the government and its institutions”. The contentious comments pertained to a defence plea in the course of defending his client, Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo Alo, a human rights defender and a member of the opposition to the government in power. In May 2012, Mr. Mansogo Alo was sentenced to three years in prison. According to international observers at his trial, the trial was eminently political . He was granted a presidential pardon and was released in June 2013.

Mr. Mbomio had also been suspended earlier, in 2008, under similar circumstances.

Informed directly of the case by Mr. Mbomio, the UIA was concerned about the motives behind the disciplinary sanction. It requested the Equatorial Guinea Bar Association to provide all relevant information , in order to understand the disciplinary charges and sanction. The UIA also reminded the Bar Association of the principles protecting the legal profession, particularly that of civil and criminal immunity for all lawyers for written or oral statements they make in the defense of their clients.

In particular, the Bar Association’s response revealed a fundamental disagreement between the parties with regard to texts governing the legal profession and, consequently, a lawyer’s rights in disciplinary proceedings.

The UIA initiated a dialogue with the Bar and suggested mediation between the Bar and Mr. Mbomio. Both parties agreed, and at the end of January 2014, Mr. Fernando Tonim successfully mediated the dispute, resulting in the Bar Association lifting restrictions on Mr. Mbomio’s right to practice law.

The UIA intends to continue the dialogue with the Equatorial Guinea Bar Association and will endeavour to use different ways to ensure a better recognition of the principles related to the independence of bodies governing the legal profession.