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Goldman Prize Recipients Send Open Letter to President of Gabon

Goldman Prize Recipients Send Open Letter to President of Gabon

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Last month, the international community received news that 2009 Goldman Prize recipient, Marc Ona Essangui is facing possible jail time and a fee of nearly $10,000.00 US after recently being convicted of defamation by a Gabonese court.

The defamation charge was filed after Ona allegedly spoke out against possible government corruption involving Soleman Liban, a senior advisor to Gabonese President Ali Bongo, and Olam Gabon, a foreign agricultural company that operates in Gabon.

The global network of Goldman Prize recipients immediately jumped to action, working together to draft an open letter to the President of Gabon which was signed by over 50 Goldman Prize recipients and circulated on their networks.

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Ona was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2009 for his efforts to publicly expose the unlawful agreements behind a huge mining project threatening the sensitive ecosystems of Gabon’s equatorial rainforests. As one of Gabon's most prominent environmental activists, the international community sees Ona's conviction as a red-flag for the environmental movement and human rights in Gabon. 

In the open letter to President Bongo, the Goldman Prize recipients state, "We are worried that the prosecution of Mr. Ona Essangui sends the message that public discussion and debate about this issue are not welcome in Gabon. Beyond the impacts on Mr. Ona Essangui himself, we are deeply concerned that respect for the environment and for human rights in Gabon is undermined by this case." Please see below for the complete letter from the Prize recipients. 

 

April 8, 2013

H. E. M. Ali Bongo Ondima
Président de la République du Gabon

Dear Mr. President,

We wish to express our concern about Mr. Marc Ona Essangui’s safety and human rights. Mr. Ona Essangui is President of the Gabonese NGO Brainforest. We understand that on 29th March 2013, Mr. Ona Essangui was sentenced to six months’ suspended imprisonment and a fine of five million Central African francs by a Gabonese court, for an alleged case of defamation. We are extremely concerned that this sentence is contrary to the right to freedom of expression and sets a dangerous precedent for Gabon.

We are writing this to you as fellow recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize and hence counterparts of Mr Ona Essangui. He is known to and respected by many of us as a principled campaigner. Each of us has received international recognition of the work we have done in protecting and enhancing the natural environment and, as people with rich experience in this field, we feel very strongly that Mr Ona Essangui’s sentence is detrimental to the protection of the environment and of local forest communities in Gabon.

We understand that the case centred on allegations of corruption in relation to oil palm and rubber production in Gabon. There has been tremendous increase in the clearance of forests lands around the world for palm oil production in recent years, which is of major concern to the environment and rights of local forest communities. We are worried that the prosecution of Mr Ona Essangui sends the message that public discussion and debate about this issue are not welcome in Gabon. Beyond the impacts on Mr Ona Essangui himself, we are deeply concerned that respect for the environment and for human rights in Gabon is undermined by this case.

We would urge you strongly to review Mr Ona Essangui’s case. We would also urge you to take action to ensure that Gabon respects its international commitments on human rights and environmental protection.

Yours sincerely,


Yu Xiaogang, China, Goldman Environmental Prize 2006 from Asia
Christine Jean, France, Goldman Environmental Prize 1992 from Europe
John Sinclair, Australia, Goldman Environmental Prize 1993 from Islands & Island Nations
Vera Mischenko, Russia, Goldman Environmental Prize 2000 from Europe
Alex Peal, Liberia, Goldman Environmental Prize 2000 from Africa
Jane Akre & Steve Wilson, USA, Goldman Environmental Prize 2001 from North America
Maria Gunnoe, U.S.A., Goldman Environmental Prize 2009 from North America
Randall Arauz, Costa Rica, Goldman Environmental Prize 2010, Central & South America
Manana Kochladze, Georgia, Goldman Environmental Prize 2004 from Europe
Lois Marie Gibbs, USA, Goldman Environmental Prize 1990 from North America
Luis Yanza, Ecuador, Goldman Environmental Prize 2008 from South & Central America
Orri Vigfusson, Iceland, Goldman Environmental Prize 2007 from Island & Island Nations
Jadwiga Lopata & Sir Julian Rose, Poland, Goldman Environmental Prize 2002 from Europe
Sviatoslav Zabelin, Russia, Goldman Environmental Prize 1993 from Europe
Bruno Van Peteghem, France, Goldman Environmental Prize 2001 from Europe
Olya Melen, Ukraine, Goldman Environmental Prize 2006 from Europe
Ursula Sladek & Michael Sladek, Germany, Goldman Environmental Prize 2011 from Europe
Ignace Schops, Belgium, Goldman Environmental Prize 2008 from Europe
Thuli Makama, Swaziland, Goldman Environmental Prize 2010 from Africa
Alexander Nikitin, Russia, Goldman Environmental Prize 1997 from Europe
Hilton Kelley, U.S.A, Goldman Environmental Prize 2011 from North America
Heffa Schueckin, Germany, Goldman Environmental Prize 1994 from Europe
Lynn Henning, U.S.A, Goldman Environmental Prize 2010 from North America
Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor, Liberia, Goldman Environmental Prize 2006 from Africa
Olga Speranskaya, Russia, Goldman Environmental Prize 2009 from Europe
Marina Rikhvanova, Russia, Goldman Environmental Prize 2008 from Europe
Yuyun Ismawati, Indonesia, Goldman Environmental Prize 2009 from Islands & Islands Nations
Kaisha Atakhanova, Kazakhstan, Goldman Environmental Prize 2005 from Europe
Rashida Bee & Champa Devi Shukla, India, Goldman Environmental Prize 2004 from Asia
Nat Quansah, Madagascar, Goldman Environmental Prize 2000 from Island & Island Nations
Michal and Maria Kravcik, Slovakia, Goldman Environmental Prize 1999 from Europe 
Bobby Peek, South Africa, Goldman Environmental Prize 1998 from Africa
Myrsini Malakou, Greece, Goldman Environmental Prize 2001 from Europe 
Laila Iskandar, Egypt, Goldman Environmental Prize 1994 from Africa
Rizwana Hasan, Bangladesh, Goldman Environmental Prize 2009 from Asia
Humberto Rios Labrada, Cuba, Goldman Environmental Prize 2010 from Island & Island Nations
Giorgos Catsadorakis & Myrsini Malakou, Greece, Goldman Environmental Prize 2001 from Europe
Gareth Owen-Smith & Margaret Jacobsohn, Namibia, Goldman Environmental Prize 1993 from Africa
Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho, Timor-Leste, Goldman Environmental Prize 2004 from Islands & Islands Nations
Carlos Alberto Ricardo, Brazil, Goldman Environmental Prize 1992 from South & Central America
Jacqui Katona, Australia, Goldman Environmental Prize 1999, Islands and Island Nations
Malgorzata Gorska, Poland, Goldman Environmental Prize 2010 from Europe
Samuel Nguiffo, Cameroon, Goldman Environmental Prize 1999 from Africa
Ikal Angelei, Kenya, Goldman Environmental Prize 2012 from Africa
Stephanie Roth, Romania, Goldman Environmental Prize 2005 from Europe
Anna Giordano, Italy, Goldman Environmental Prize 1998 from Europe
Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Spain, Goldman Environmental Prize 2003 from Europe
Alexis Massol-Gonzalez, Puerto Rico, Goldman Environmental Prize from Island & Island Nations
Evgenia Chirikova, Russia, Goldman Environmental Prize 2012 from Europe
Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, Haiti, Goldman Environmental Prize 2005 from Island & Island Nations
Albena Simeonova, Bulgaria, Goldman Environmental Prize 1996 from Europe
Craig Williams, USA, Goldman Environmental Prize 2006 from North America
Medha Patkar, India, Goldman Environmental Prize 1992 from Asia

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