Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Election" Day

This is election day in Equatorial Guinea. If past elections are any indication,Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo will win another seven-year term as the country's president with close to 100 percent of the vote.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Welcoming Kleptocrats

In spite of the fact that blogging here has been sporadic, I can't let this story in the New York Times go without notice.

Notwithstanding a federal law and a presidential proclamation designed to bar corrupt foreign officials from entering the United States, Teodoro Nguema Obiang has no trouble visiting his Malibu estate whenever he wants to. His father, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, also manages to visit the United States regularly, most recently in September when he was featured at an event at the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston. This is the gist of a story that once again reminds us just how bad some of America's leading oil suppliers are.

One of the most important aspects of this story is the inclusion of links to a Justice Department memorandum and an ICE presentation to the French government requesting assistance in investigating President Obiang and his family.

(Roger Alford has blogged the story here at Opinio Juris.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blackwater Bribes

On September 16, 2007, employees of the private military corporation Blackwater (now called Xe Services) shot and killed seventeen Iraqis in Baghdad. In a tragic episode, Blackwater employees began firing at Iraqis in response to gunfire that American officials say came from other members of their own unit. An FBI investigation determined that at least fourteen of the deaths involved unjustified killings. Last December, five Blackwater employees were charged with manslaughter in connection with the case; all pleaded not guilty. A sixth employee, also charged with manslaughter, pleaded guilty.

Today the New York Times reports that four former executives at Xe Services allege that the company approved $1 million for secret payments to Iraqi government officials in an effort to calm the furor over the 2007 killings. If payments of this nature were in fact made, they would constitute a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars the payment of bribes by American companies to foreign officials.

Xe Services was denied a license to operate in Iraq in January 2009, forcing the State Department to terminate its $1 billion security contract with the company.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Italian Case

In Milan today, an Italian court found 23 Americans guilty of kidnapping a Muslim cleric and sending him to Egypty for interrogation in 2003. All of the defendants were working for the CIA. All were tried in absentia. It is the first conviction gained anywhere in the world against Americans on charges related to extraordinary rendition, the policy of sending terrorism suspects abroad to be interrogated, often with torture, beyond the reach of U.S. or international legal protections.

If prosecutors obtain international arrest warrants, the Americans convicted today, most of whom have retired from the CIA, could be subject to arrest in virtually any country to which they might travel outside the United States.

Simon Mann's Pardon

Simon Mann, the leader of the "Wonga Coup" that sought to oust Teodoro Obiang from power in Equatorial Guinea in March 2004, has been pardoned and is returning to the United Kingdom. He was in the second year of a 34-year prison term.

A statement released by the Equatoguinean government through Qorvis Communications and Cassidy and Associates, the Washington lobbying firms being paid to burnish the country's image in the United States, suggested that Mann's release is part of an ongoing campaign to reform human rights conditions in Equatorial Guinea:

Our government is committed to continuing to address the protection of human rights and today's release is an important step in this process. While Simon Mann has admitted to participating in a coup attempt, he has also genuinely repented. We have taken this extraordinary measure to prioritize his health and well being and recognize that Mann's medical care would be bestoffered in his home country. The Government of Equatorial Guinea is in the midst of an ambitious effort to reform our judicial process and humanitarian conditions. Today's release is just one of the proactive steps that we havebeen taking as part of this process and demonstrates the sincerity of our efforts.

Others have suggested that Mann's release was part of a deal he made with the regime to gain his freedom by fingering the financiers of the coup attempt, including Mark Thatcher, the son of former British PM Margaret Thatcher. Upon his release, Mann said that he would be willing to testify against Thatcher in a British court.

Mann can be seen expressing gratitude for his pardon and for the good treatment he received while in prison in Malabo in the BBC clip available here.