Are there any behaviours which, within the context of a public health epidemiological crisis, could be punishable under criminal law?

Yes. In the context of a public health epidemiological crisis (during which behaviours are very important, cooperation is vital and some assets are considered to be very important to prevent and fight the disease), many infringements (namely of public health and anti-economic nature) assume particular relevance and are punishable under criminal law.

Although the Criminal Code in force in Equatorial Guinea (which is a 1963 statute) does not appear to straightforwardly and specifically deal with some issues/crimes/behaviours related with the Pandemic, at least the following behaviours may be deemed punishable in this particular context:

  • To broadcast news or disseminate rumours that are false, misrepresented or biased, or that by any other way act with the goal of undermining the State authority or of compromising the dignity or interests of the Country (national citizens in the Country or abroad and/or at least foreign citizens that are in the Country may be punished for this behaviour);
  • To unrightfully distort information to wrongfully shape public opinion;
  • To publicly and tumultuously attempt to prevent the enforcement of legal provisions;
  • To disobey an order of an authority (including Ministers) or threaten, insult or disrespect them;
  • To disobey express Government orders relating to the choice of materials, quality, quantities or timing to manufacture, transform, provide, acquire, transport, import or export materials, belongings, products, livestock or other goods (if a company disobeys, at least its management may be deemed liable for the punishable behaviour);
  • To lightly or severely disturb public order to harm another person or cause mayhem;
  • To  (inter alia) destroy factories, military facilities, public or private buildings, or communication or power transmission in the use of public service with the goal of undermining State security;
  • To falsify the signature and/or stamp of any authority, including of the Head of State or of Ministers, or any private or public documents, or to impersonate an authority;
  • To drive a motor vehicle with or without manifest recklessness in a way that poses risk to people and/or to their assets;
  • To, without authorization, manufacture to be sold substances that are harmful to the health or chemical products that may cause damages;
  • To, although being authorized, manufacture to be sold substances that are harmful to the health or chemical products that may cause damages, but sell them without complying with the appropriate formalities;
  • To sell medicine without complying with the appropriate formalities;
  • To falsify the quantity, dosage or actual composition of medicines in a way that it no longer serves the purpose of treating;
  • To sell manufactured goods that are harmful to the health;
  • To fail to assist someone that is helpless and in clear and serious danger when there is no risk in doing so for himself/herself or to a third-party; and
  • To tamper with the market price of goods, namely of food and/or other essential goods.

Also, as mentioned above, the LPCP, that governs civil protection in situations such as a declared State of Alarm, sets forth (inter alia) that:

  • In the case of emergency or calamity situations, all citizens, entities and State Bodies have the right (inter alia) to (i) receive information on the risk that may affect them as a group; (ii) be briefed on the measures taken to prevent/mitigate said risk; and (iii) be provided with information and instructions on the safety measures that they must adopt and those that must be followed. Same LPCP further provides that the failure to comply with this obligation qualifies as a minor infraction punished with a fine;
  • The failure (inter alia) to (i) comply with the orders of Civil Protection authorities; (ii) abide by the prevention measures put in place to prevent collective risks during a State of Alarm; and (iii) cooperate with temporary requisitions, interventions or use of assets necessary to prevent the emergency in question, when so ordered by Civil Protection authorities, are deemed serious infractions punished with fines and closure of the facilities for a period of up to six (6) months; and
  • The failure to comply with the obligation to inform the NCSTC of any material sign of COVID-19 (which applies to Parents, Heads of Local Councils, of Neighbourhood Communities, of State Services, of State Powers and of State Bodies, Public Officials, as well as to the Population in general) qualifies as a very serious infraction. Also, in this context, (inter alia) (i) some of the behaviours described above as serious infractions may also, depending on how they are perpetrated/the context, qualify as very serious infractions, rather than as mere serious infractions (e.g., the failure to cooperate with temporary requisitions, interventions or use of assets necessary to prevent the emergency in question, when so ordered by Civil Protection Authorities); (ii) the failure by companies that carry out activities that may pose grave collective risk without adopting self-protection measures as ordered by the Government; (iii) the failure to mobilize resources at the request of Civil Protection Authorities, are or may also qualify as very serious infractions. Very serious infractions are punished with fines and closure of the facilities for a period of up to one (1) year.

 

Can an infected person be punished if they infect someone?

Yes, if contagion is malicious or if, at least, the infected person anticipates that he/she could infect other(s) through his/her behaviour. The Criminal Code sets forth in particular that the following behaviours may be deemed punishable in this respect:

  • To causes injury to the Head of State;
  • To severely disturb public order to cause harm;
  • To intentionally disseminate a transmissible disease to others;
  • To cause serious injuries to others by breaching the law with recklessness; and
  • To cause injuries to others, preventing them from working up to fifteen (15) days or that need assistance for that same amount of time.

 

Can a company or any officer be held liable for failing to adopt preventive measures arising from the authorities' guidelines, namely as regards public health?

Yes, as mentioned above in this chapter and in the State of Alarm, Corporate and Labour chapters.

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This information is being updated on a regular basis.

All information contained herein and all opinions expressed are of a general nature and are not intended to substitute recourse to expert legal advice for the resolution of real cases.