Equatorial Guinean Medical Doctor Wenceslao Mansogo Alo Granted Presidential Pardon
June 11, 2012
Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo Alo, a gynecologist, human rights advocate, and opposition politician, was among several prisoners granted a pardon by Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in early June. Arrested in February 2012, he was convicted and sentenced on May 7 to three years in prison for alleged professional negligence in a case that appeared to be politically motivated. In addition to a prison sentence, he was ordered to close his private health clinic and pay a fine. He was also banned from practicing medicine for five years. It remains unclear whether Dr. Mansogo’s release from prison is unconditional.
Dr. Mansogo owned and ran a private medical clinic in the city of Bata, Espoir Litoral Medical Center, which is considered one of the country’s leading clinics. On February 1, 2012, while Dr. Mansogo and several medical colleagues were performing hysterectomy surgery at his clinic on a 36-year-old patient, she died. Dr. Mansogo reportedly was detained on February 9 after giving a voluntary statement about the death at the Bata central police station. It appears that the police decided to detain him following an accusation made by a relative of the patient who claimed that her body had been mutilated. 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 body was intact. A medical inquiry conducted the following day by a medical team led by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare concluded that the body had not been mutilated and that the patient died of a heart attack caused by the maladministration of anesthetics. Although Amnesty International reported that Dr. Mansogo was not responsible for administering the anesthetics, the maladministration of anesthetics was the only “evidence” presented by the prosecution in its case against him. (The anesthetist who worked with him was convicted as well, but received a lesser six-month prison sentence.)
After training and practicing medicine in France for many years, Dr. Mansogo decided to return to his native country in the early 1990s to help improve its poor health care. At the request of the government, he headed a special unit at the Bata Central Hospital from 1994 to 1998. 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. In addition to his medical work, he is a leader of the Convergence for Social Democracy, 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. 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.”
In announcing his release, the government of Equatorial Guinea said: "Among those pardoned by this order are particularly noted Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo Alo, and the nurse who worked with him, Asuncion Asumu Mangue. They were both arrested for a crime of recklessness, derived from professional negligence after the death of the patient Isilda Mangue Engo, who died after cardiac arrest in the Espoir Litoral Clinic of Bata, owned by Dr. Mansogo. His arrest had led to protests from various international organizations, although his incarceration came exclusively from the private prosecution of the family of the deceased."
The CHR and the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies undertook Dr. Mansogo’s case shortly after his detention. More than 20 letters of appeal were sent to the Equatorial Guinean authorities by the CHR, its Correspondents, and Academies that are members of the H.R. Network.