Rafael Marques Placed Under Investigation in Angola

Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais was interrogated and charged of defamation by on Wednesday by the Department for Combating Organised Crime of the National Criminal Investigation Directorate  (DNIC).

It was only during questioning that Mr. Marques de Morais was formally notified that he was under investigation, and was offered the services of a public defender, which he refused. The journalist had not made arrangements to be accompanied by a lawyer as he did not know the content of the DNIC notification, which was only conveyed to him over the phone.

In January, three shareholders and managers of the company ITM-Mining accused Mr. Marques de Morais of having defamed them in his book “Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola” (“Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção em Angola”), published in September 2011 in Portugal. The three men – Mozambican Hermínio Teixeira, Briton Andrew Paul Machin, and Angolan Jorge Gonçalves – thus only made their complaint one year and three months after the book’s publication.

ITM-Mining is the shareholder responsible for the mining operations of the Angolan company Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (SMC), which holds the mining concession for the Cuango River basin in Lunda Norte province. The other shareholders are the state-owned company Endiama, and Lumanhe, which is wholly owned by Angolan generals. Its shareholders include general Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa”, minister of State and head of the Military and Intelligence Bureau at the presidency, and Carlos Alberto Hendrick Vaal da Silva, inspector-general of the General Staff of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA).

The other tycoon-generals involved are Armando Neto, governor of Benguela province and former Chief of Staff of the FAA; Adriano Makevela, head of the Directorate for Military Training and Education of the FAA; João de Matos, former chief of the General Staff of the FAA;  Luís Faceira, former chief of staff of the Army; António Emílio Faceira, former head of the Special Forces; António dos Santos França “Ndalu”, former chief of the General Staff of the FAA; and Paulo Lara, former head of the Directorate for Planning and Organization of the FAA General Headquarters.

In the book, which is the result on years of research in the diamond-producing Lunda provinces of north-eastern Angola, the author denounced hundreds of cases of torture, murder, and systematic human rights violations carried out against the local communities by members of the Angolan Armed Forces and of Teleservice, a private security company contracted by SMC.

When he was questioned on Wednesday by the Angolan authorities, Mr. Marques de Morais said that “DNIC should first investigate the facts recounted in the book on cases of murder and torture, many of which happened in the SMC concession area. Victims, witnesses and family members must be listened to if DNIC’s investigation is to be credible,” he said.

As for the charge against him, Mr. Marques de Morais said it was a military-inspired manoeuvre. “They are carrying out a pincer movement. The foreign shareholders attack the author on the Angolan front, while the generals attack him on the Portuguese front, with another case on the same subject,” he explained after having been questioned at DNIC. He was referring to a charge brought against him by the generals in Portugal, which has since been thrown out by the Portuguese Prosecution Services.

Mr. Marques de Morais says the goal of this strategy is to cover up the fact that, according to Angolan law, it is a crime for Angolan officials to conduct business with the state for their own personal gain. The nine generals involved in the case admitted in Portugal to being shareholders in SMC and Teleservice.

The complainants from ITM-Mining are also involved in acts of influence peddling and active corruption of public officials.

Mr. Marques de Morais said he was shocked that the generals had not brought their case against him in Angola. “It shows lack of respect to Angolans and bare-faced anti-patriotism that the generals feel their honour was offended in Portugal, but that this was not a concern to them in Angola,” he said.

Following the publication of the book, the author lodged a criminal complaint with the Angolan Office of the Attorney General (PGR) in November 2011 against the shareholders of SMC and Teleservice. In the complaint Mr. Marques de Morais accused the shareholders and directors of these companies as being morally responsible for crimes against humanity.

The attorney general refused to investigate either the crimes that the journalist had identified or the acts of corruption committed by the shareholders (clearly acknowledged by them in the complaint that they laid in Portugal). The public prosecution set the case aside after a summary inquiry in which only four witnesses were heard.

The attorney general’s treatment of Mr. Marques de Morais’ complaint represents a new low for Angolan justice. The attorney general dismissed the witness statements about cases of murder and torture as irrelevant, three of them from people who had themselves been tortured, because they confirm the accounts presented in the book.

According to the attorney general, the four witnesses, who had come from the Lundas provinces, merely “repeated what they had already said to the journalist and what is also written in his book.” One can only conclude that for the attorney general, the only credible witness statements would be those that contradict previous statements.

On 15 February, Mr. Marques appealed to the President of the Republic against the attorney general’s decision to close the case, requesting that those morally and materially responsible for the crimes be brought to justice, and underlined that international mechanisms of justice are available when national remedies are exhausted.

In October, the generals, SMC and Teleservice brought charges in Portugal against the author and his publisher, Tinta-da-China, for defamation and slander.

In February, the Portuguese Prosecution Services decided not to press charges and not further pursue the criminal complaint on the grounds that the publication of the work was protect by the rights to freedom of expression and of information. The complainants appealed from this decision. They brought a private prosecution against the author and Tinta-da-China, in which they are claiming €300,000  (almost US $390,000) in damages.

Mr. Marques has vowed to continue his work despite the pressure. He will travel to Brussels on April 24 at the invitation of the European Parliament’s Human Rights Sub-Commission, where he will deliver a presentation on the human rights situation and the behaviour of the mining industry in the diamond-bearing areas of the Lunda provinces.

On April 25, he will address an OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) gathering in Paris to address the scourge of corruption in Angola.