Steven Powles KC to lead international team of lawyers to help Bongo family

A team of distinguished international lawyers from Doughty Street Chambers has been engaged to secure the release of members of President Ali Bongo’s family and staff from their arbitrary and unlawful detention in Gabon, and to ensure accountability for the grave violation of their rights. 

The Doughty Street team are instructed by renowned international defence solicitor Karen Todner and is led by Steven Powles KC, who has a wealth of experience dealing with high profile international cases. The team includes Tatyana Eatwell, specialist international law and human rights practitioner who has helped secure the release of numerous individuals unlawfully detained in cases around the world, and Graeme Hall whose practice focusses on extradition, crime and international human rights law. 

The legal team has been instructed to bring to justice in any and all national, regional and international fora those responsible for the arbitrary and unlawful detention of members of the Bongo family and their staff, including through the application of universal jurisdiction to prosecute those responsible for international crimes committed against them. 

General Brice Oligui Nguema took control of Gabon in a coup on 30 August 2023. He was sworn in as transitional president on Monday 4 September 2023. An announcement was made on 6 September 2023 that President Ali Bongo was to be released on health grounds. However, his wife, Sylvia Bongo, and their children and grandchildren remain detained. It is inexplicable that they have not been released and are not being allowed to accompany him. It is also alarming that French consular officials have not been permitted access to family members and staff who are French nationals. 

Jacob Brech, a close friend of Jalil Bongo, President Bongo’s son, has been working to secure the family’s release. He said: “I have very real concerns about how members of the Bongo family are being treated by members of the Republican Guard in Gabon. We hope that they will be released soon and that anyone responsible for harming them will ultimately feel the full force of international law”. 

Steven Powles KC stated: “There are serious concerns for the safety and welfare of Sylvia Bongo, her children, grandchildren, and their staff who remain unlawfully detained in Gabon. Political instability can never justify arbitrary detention or treatment contrary to international human rights standards. Without lawful justification, the Bongo family and staff members must be immediately released.” 

The Doughty Street team and Karen Todner are working together with Doughty Street Associate François Zimeray and his colleagues at the Parisian human rights law firm Zimeray & Finelle Avocats. 

For further information contact: Callum Stebbing, Doughty Street International, on telephone +44 207 404 1313 or email