Blood Diamonds: Pre-Trial Investigation Deadline Expired

The defense lawyer acting for Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais has called for the setting aside of the eleven criminal charges laid against him by seven Angolan generals in January.

The charges of slander and defamation were brought in reaction to the book Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola, 15 months after its publication, in Portugal.

According to lawyer Luís Nascimento, “Angolan law limits the period of preparatory instruction to two months when there are no suspects being held in custody, and this period cannot be extended.”

Mr. Nascimento invoked the constitutional principle that prevents double jeopardy. “A citizen may not be tried more than once on the same facts,” he said.

In 2012 the generals and the managers of the Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, the diamond mining company in which the generals are shareholders, brought charges in Portugal against the author and his publisher, Tinta-da-China, for calumny, defamation and slander.

In February 2013, the Portuguese attorney general set aside that case owing to the lack of incriminating evidence, and recognized that “the publication of the book falls within the legitimate exercise of a fundamental and constitutionally protected right, the freedom of information and expression.”

In March 2013, the complainants appealed this decision and brought a private prosecution against Mr. Marques and Tinta-da-China, in which they are claiming €300,000 (almost US $390,000) in damages. That case is still awaiting trial.

The following month, the generals took their case to Angola, to the Department for Combating Organized Crime of the National Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DNIC), where they named Rafael Marques de Morais a suspect on April 3.

A group of 16 national and international non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) wrote to the Angolan attorney general, General João Maria de Sousa concerning the case. Their petition noted a number of irregularities, including the fact that the Department for Combating Organized Crime is not competent under Angolan law to handle a defamation case.

According to the NGO’s, Mr. Marques de Morais was questioned without being properly notified, having only been informed by telephone two days before the questioning. This meant that the questioning took place without the presence of a lawyer.

As well as calling for the case to be set aside on the grounds of various irregularities, the NGO’s called for a serious investigation into the crimes of murder, torture and corruption that are detailed in the book. The incidents of violence described in the book took place in Cuango and Xá-Muteba districts in Lunda Norte province, northeastern Angola.

On July 31, the National Directorate of Investigation and Penal Action (DNIAP) questioned Mr. Marques de Morais and placed him under investigation for 11 charges related to his book. The Minister of State and head of the Security Bureau in the Presidency, General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa”, leads the complainants. The other complainants are Carlos Alberto Hendrick Vaal da Silva (Inspector-General of the Angolan Armed Forces Chief of Staff), Armando da Cruz Neto (MPLA parliamentarian), Adriano Makevela Mackenzie, António Emílio Faceira, João Baptista de Matos and Luís Pereira Faceira.