E.Guinea urges UN court to halt graft trial of leader's son

14th June 2016, Comments 0 comments

Equatorial Guinea has appealed to the United Nations' highest court to order France to stop legal proceedings against the president's son, claiming they violate international treaties, the tribunal said Tuesday.

In a filing on Monday to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the leaders of the oil-rich African nation also called for Paris to pay as yet unspecified damages for the "prejudice" it has suffered.

Teodorin Obiang, one of the country's vice presidents, is accused by French prosecutors of looting state coffers to fund his lavish tastes, including the purchase of pop star Michael Jackson's famous white glove, private jets and sprawling properties in some of the world's most expensive areas.

In 2012 prosecutors had already ordered the seizure of the Obiang family's six-storey mansion on Avenue Foch -- one of the poshest addresses in Paris -- as well as several luxury cars, famous works and vintage wines.

Now in a twist of the long-running legal saga, Equatorial Guinea has taken its case to the ICJ insisting that despite previous rulings by French courts, Obiang enjoys diplomatic immunity.

In its filing to the 70-year-old tribunal in The Hague, Equatorial Guinea said the dispute arose out of cases filed before French courts since 2007 "by associations and private individuals".

But the proceedings before the French courts "constitute a violation of the immunity to which (Obiang) is entitled under international law".

It also argued that Obiang had sold the Foch Avenue mansion to the state in September 2011 and since then the house "has been used by the diplomatic mission of Equatorial Guinea" and should therefore enjoy "the immunities accorded to official premises by international law."

Obiang's father, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1979, is Africa's longest-serving leader, and extended his 36-year rule in April when he was re-elected with 93.7 percent of the vote.

Equatorial Guinea urged the court to "declare that the French Republic has breached its obligation to respect the principles of the sovereign equality of states."

And it called on the ICJ to order France "to take all necessary measures to put an end to any ongoing proceedings" and to recognise the Foch Avenue house as a diplomatic mission and "ensure its protection as required by international law."

© 2016 AFP

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