Summary and Current Status
Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo Alo is a gynecologist, human rights advocate, and opposition politician in Equatorial Guinea. He owns and runs a private medical clinic in the mainland city of Bata. On February 1, 2012, while Dr. Mansogo and several medical colleagues were performing hysterectomy surgery at his clinic on a 36-year-old patient, Isilda Manque Engo, she died. Dr. Mansogo reportedly was detained on February 9, 2012, after giving a voluntary statement at the Bata central police station. According to Amnesty International (AI), it appears that the police decided to detain him following an accusation made by a relative of Ms. Manque who claimed that part of Ms. Manque’s external genital organs had been removed from her body. An autopsy performed at Bata Regional Hospital on February 9 confirmed that the immediate cause of the patient’s death had been a heart attack and that her external genital organs were intact. An inquiry the following day by a medical team led by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Salomón Nguema Owono, concluded that the patient died of a heart attack caused by the maladministration of anesthetics.
One of Dr. Mansogo’s lawyers, Elias Nzo Ondo, alleges that, on February 13 while he was waiting to obtain a copy of the judge’s order regarding his client, Ms. Manque’s father threatened him. Her father—who is the chief archivist at the Bata central police station—reportedly told Mr. Nzo Ondo that he may be jailed or physically harmed if he continued to defend Dr. Mansogo. AI reports that a witness confirmed the lawyer’s allegation.
Dr. Mansogo was charged with professional negligence. His trial took place on April 4 and 5, 2012. Although, according to AI, he was not responsible for administering the anesthetics, the prosecution presented no other evidence in court to support the charge but the maladministration of anesthetics. The anesthetist who worked with Dr. Mansogo and had sole responsibility for administering the anesthetics was also charged with professional negligence.
More than one month later, on May 7, 2012, Dr. Mansogo was convicted of professional negligence and sentenced to three years in prison by the Litoral Provincial Court. (Initially, he had also been accused of mutilation of a body, but that allegation was dropped before the trial began.) He was also ordered by the court to pay compensation to the patient’s family of about U.S. $10,000 and a fine to the state of about U.S. $3,000. He reportedly was ordered to be suspended from practicing medicine and to close his clinic for the three-year period. The anesthetist who worked with him was also convicted. She, however, received a six month prison sentence and was ordered to pay the patient’s family U.S. $1,500 compensation. She was also suspended from practicing medicine during her six-month imprisonment.
In early June 2012, Dr. Mansogo was one of several prisoners granted a pardon by Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. It is unclear whether Dr. Mansogo’s release from prison is unconditional.
Dr. Mansogo trained and practiced medicine in France for many years before deciding to return to his native country to help improve the poor health care there. At the request of the Equatorial Guinean government, he headed a special unit at the Bata Central Hospital from 1994 to 1998. According to Human Rights Watch, he reportedly was fired from the position when he proposed that doctors should be required to show proof of their qualifications to practice medicine before being permitted to do so. He then went into private practice and opened his own clinic, Espoir Litoral Medical Center in Bata, considered one of the country’s leading clinics.
In addition to his work as a medical doctor, Dr. Mansogo is a leader of Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), the main opposition political party in Equatorial Guinea, and its secretary of international relations and human rights. He is also a member of the council of the city of Bata and has been openly critical of the government’s health care policies. For example, in an interview published on July 6, 2011, in EG Justice titled “A Broken Health System in Equatorial Guinea,” Dr. Mansogo was outspoken in his criticism, saying, for example, “In this undeniably politicized system, the ideological loyalty to the ruling regime takes precedence over competency and the quality of patient care.” When asked what improvements he has noted in recent years, he replied that “the modern health clinics La Paz and Guadalupe have been built with state funds, but they function as private entities for President Obiang and his wife. In addition, these two health centers are not accessible to ordinary citizens . . . one night of hospitalization in the La Paz hospital in Bata is equivalent to two and a half months salary.”
Given that no credible evidence was presented to support the charge against Dr. Mansogo, it is widely believed that he was targeted because of his longstanding activism and outspoken criticism of the country’s health care policies. Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience whose “arrest, detention and conviction . . . were politically motivated and linked to his human rights work and political activities.”