CIVIL SOCIETY CALLS ON GABON TO LIFT TRAVEL BAN ON TRANSPARENCY CAMPAIGNER
This press release is being circulated by ISODEC in solidarity with the Gabonese Publish What You Pay Coalition Joint Press Press Statement, June 11th, 2008 for Immediate Release from Revenue Watch Institute & Publish What You Pay Civil Society Calls on Gabon to Lift Travel Ban on Transparency Campaigner Revenue Watch Institute (RWI) and Publish What You Pay (PWYP) deeply regret Gabon's decision to bar transparency campaigner, Marc Ona from leaving the national territory. Marc Ona was detained on the tarmac of Libreville airport on Thursday 6 June while en route to an international meeting on revenue transparency in New York. A Gabonese national, Mr. Ona is the Coordinator of PWYP Gabon and a member of the multi-stakeholder committee implementing Gabon's Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an acclaimed global initiative for disclosure of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas and mining.
Mr. Ona, who had been granted a US visa to attend the New York event, was prevented by police from boarding the airplane after he had already cleared security and passport control. There is no legal basis or justification for this travel ban nor has Mr. Ona been notified in writing by the authorities. Gabon is a member of the EITI International Board, a celebrated global initiative for disclosure of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas and mining. Civil society participation in the oversight of these public revenues is a key component of the multi-stakeholder nature of the EITI, and harassment of NGOs active in the process is contrary to Gabon's obligations under the initiative.
Marc Ona has appealed that the international community and supporters of EITI should make it clear to the Gabonese government that it must respect the rights of civil society campaigners to engage in a constructive dialogue on issues of public interest. Marc Ona was invited by Revenue Watch as part of its training activities to reinforce civil society capacity to successfully participate in the EITI. The unjustified detention and travel ban pose serious questions on Gabon's commitment to the EITI, given that free and independent civil society participation is an absolute pre-condition to becoming an EITI candidate and compliant country, stated RWI Director Karin Lissakers in New York. The travel ban is one in a series of recent intimidations facing transparency campaigners. In January, the Gabonese government temporarily suspended the activities of the PWYP Gabon coalition.
The decision was reversed following international outrage at the suspension, which was in flagrant violation of the right of free speech and expression. Individuals like Ona continue to face pressure and intimidations. Recently Ona's office was burglarized and police reports revealed that campaign files and computer hard disks were taken. PWYP International Coordinator Radhika Sarin has said that it is simply unacceptable that despite increasing government commitments to EITI, transparency campaigners still face harassment, imprisonment and life threats. Civil society activists should receive adequate protection and be able to operate freely worldwide. This is integral to maintaining credibility of the EITI international brand. Carlos Monge, Director of Grupo Propuesta Ciudadana in Peru and a member of the EITI International Board added that as a member of the EITI governing body, Gabon should show strong leadership in ensuring full and unrestricted participation of African civil society members in debates around revenue transparency.
PWYP and RWI call on the Gabonese authorities to allow Marc Ona to travel freely and allow civil society to undertake their activities without fear of interference, intimidation or harassment. PWYP and RWI urge all stakeholders of the EITI, including supporting and implementing countries, companies and international institutions to remind Gabon of its commitment to the EITI principles. The Revenue Watch Institute promotes the responsible management of oil, gas and mineral resources for the public good. RWI provides the expertise, funding and technical assistance to help countries realize these benefits. Publish What You Pay is an international coalition of civil society working in over 50 countries, calling for the mandatory disclosure of company payments and government revenues from the oil, gas, and mining sector. The coalition also calls for the disclosure of licensing arrangements and extractive industry contracts.
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