Trial of Rafael Marques de Morais to begin on December 15

Rafael Marques de Morais is to go on trial before Judge Adriano Cerveira Baptista in the Luanda Provincial Court on December 15. Marques de Morais is charged with criminal libel for having exposed human rights abuses in the diamond-producing province of Lunda Norte in north-eastern Angola.

The case has been brought by seven generals, led by the Minister of State and head of presidential security General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias Júnior “Kopelipa”, as well as the generals’ fellow board members in two diamond companies, Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (SMC) and ITM-Mining. The other six generals are Carlos Alberto Hendrick Vaal da Silva (inspector general at the Angolan Armed Forces headquarters), Armando da Cruz Neto (MPLA member of parliament), Adriano Makevela Mackenzie, João Baptista de Matos, Luís Pereira Faceira and António Emílio Faceira.

The case concerns the book Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção em Angola (Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola), written by the accused and published in Portugal in September 2011. The book recounts in detail more than 500 cases of torture and 100 killings carried out in a period of 18 months in the districts of Cuango and Xá-Muteba. According to statements by victims and witnesses, these abuses were carried out by guards from the private security firm Teleservice, which provides security service to SMC, and by soldiers of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA).

After the publication of the book the author filed a complaint with the Angolan Attorney General on 14 November 2011. He called on the authorities to investigate the moral responsibility of the generals, as the owners of Teleservice and SMC, for the abuses. As the owners of the company Lumanhe, which owns 21 percent of SMC, the generals made a contractual commitment  to “safeguard the company’s relationship with the local community, contributing to the social stability and harmonious development of the project in the contracted area.” In reality, the relationship has been marked by deepening poverty and violence.

Since then, the legal battle between the generals and Rafael Marques de Morais has gone back and forth between Luanda and Lisbon, as set out below.

Preliminary inquiry

On 5 March 2012, the Angolan Attorney General heard the testimony of four of the people quoted by the author in the book, as part of the preliminary inquiry into the case. Three days later he heard the author’s own testimony, at which point the author also presented the reports that he had published in 2005, 2006 and 2008 on human rights violations in the region.

In November 2012 the Attorney General announced his decision to set aside Marques’s case against the generals and their associates. In fact, the case had already been shelved in June that year, and the delayed announcement served to prevent the author from seeking timely recourse.  In rejecting the case the Attorney General disqualified the victims’ statements on the grounds that all they did was “to repeat what they had already told the journalist, which is also included in his book”.

In response to this decision, a delegation of high-ranking traditional leaders from the Lundas travelled to Luanda where on 9 January 2013 they delivered a petition to the Attorney General, General João Maria de Sousa, in which they condemned the systematic abuse of human rights in their communities. They also called for the reopening of the preliminary inquiry and for an investigation to be conducted at the scene of the alleged crimes.

The Attorney General’s office cunningly reacted to a false report on the case in the weekly paper O Continente. He issued an unwarranted statement against Marques de Morais, and took the opportunity to inform the public that he would not reopen the inquiry. He published his decision to set the case aside over four pages in the state-owned daily newspaper Jornal de Angola.

On 15 February 2013, the author of the book wrote to President José Eduardo dos Santos in his capacity as the highest judicial authority in the land, complaining about the Attorney General for not having investigated the cases of killings and torture in the Lundas. At the time, the Office of the Attorney General was a branch of the presidency and, by law, its office holder had to obey the president’s orders. However, the president never replied to this letter.

Charge in Portugal

In November 2012, nine generals and directors of SMC filed a criminal complaint against Marques de Morais and his publisher, Tinta-da-China, for libel and defamation. Apart from those already mentioned, General Santos França “Ndalu”, an MPLA parliamentarian, joined the list of plaintiffs. A complaint filed by General Paulo Lara was soon rejected as being unprocedural. In February 2013 the Portuguese Public Prosecution Office dismissed the case owing to the lack of evidence.

The state’s decision referred to the rigor with which the book had been researched, thus validating the evidence presented by the author. Six months before the book was published, on March 4, 2011, Marques de Morais had a meeting with the management of Teleservice. As agreed at that meeting, he e-mailed details of all the cases involving killings and torture carried out by Teleservice employees to the director general, Valentim Muachaleca, expecting an official response to the investigation. But he was met with total silence.

The author sponsored a visit to Luanda by Linda Moisés da Rosa, a farmer whose son was killed with a machete by a Teleservice guard on February 5, 2010 in Cafunfo in Cuango district. Linda Moisés da Rosa met Teleservice management on March 4 and 5, 2011. She refused the offer of US $10,000 in compensation for the killing of her son. According to her statement made to the Lisbon Court in February 2014: “I said I did not know the value of a person in a market where they sell people, so I could not accept any money for my son, who was priceless.”

The prosecution office also argued that “the publication of the book fits within the legitimate exercise of a fundamental right, the freedom of information and expression, protected by the constitution”.

In March 2013, a few weeks after the decision by the prosecution office, the generals brought a new civil case in the Lisbon Court, demanding compensation of €300,000 (US $400,000) from the author and publisher.

Defeat in Portugal, victory in Angola?

Having lost faith in Portuguese justice, the generals and their partners turned to the Angolan justice system, initially bringing a total of 11 charges against Rafael Marques de Morais, for defamation and libel. As a result of these charges, on April 3, 2013 the Department for the Combating of Organised Crime of the National Criminal Investigation Directorate (DNIC) named Marques as an official suspect under investigation.

In June the same year, a group of 16 Angolan and international non-governmental organizations wrote to the Attorney General, General João Maria de Sousa, condemning a series of irregularities in the legal process and asking for the charges to be dismissed.

The petition pointed out that according to Angolan judicial procedure, the Department for the Combating of Organized Crime has no competence to instruct a defamation case. It also pointed out that Marques de Morais was interrogated without being duly notified in advance, and only received a telephone call two days before he was to be questioned, which prevented him from having legal counsel present during his interrogation.

The NGOs called on General de Sousa to investigate seriously the crimes of homicide, torture and corruption revealed in the book. Meanwhile, on July 31 the National Directorate for Investigation and Penal Action (DNIAP) interrogated Marques de Morais, and named him an official suspect on 11 charges, starting with libel and defamation, on account of his book.

On December 20, 2013, Marques’s lawyer, Luís Nascimento, requested the dismissal of the 11 charges brought against his client by the general and their companies. Nascimento pointed out to DNIAP that “Angolan law limits the term of preparatory instruction to two months, when there are no suspects in prison, and the terms cannot be extended”. Preparatory instruction in Marques de Morais’ case lasted eight months.

Nascimento also referred to the constitutional prohibition of double indemnity. “A citizen cannot be tried more than once on the same facts,” he recalled, referring to the attempt by the generals to charge the author in Portugal on the same case.

On December 23, 2013, DNIAP passed the criminal process related to ITM-Mining’s complaint back to the Luanda Provincial Court. Four days later on December 27, the Attorney General’s office sent an additional  eight criminal charges  to the court, those in which the generals and SMC are the plaintiffs.

On December 27, DNIAP responded to the request for the case to be dismissed, saying that “the request was the object of a deep and considered discussion and it was felt that the request that the instruction be brought to an end was reasonable, and this has now been done, so the phase of assembling evidence has been declared finished in the court records”.

Only at this point was Marques de Morais informed that the current charges were not in fact based on his book, but rather on the basis that he had slandered the generals when he attempted to bring a case against them. The current charges are based only on the content of the final report of the Attorney General’s preliminary inquiry that led to the dismissal of the case brought by Marques de Morais against the generals. In this way, DNIAP sought to avoid the problem of double indemnity by claiming that the case in Angola is not about the book, Os Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção em Angola, which was the object of the generals’ unsuccessful suit in Portugal.

On March 25, 2014, the attorney general’s office charged the author with eight counts of criminal libel. With regard to the ninth case, on May 5 the same office closed the preparatory instruction in the case presented by ITM-Mining, which had been begun in January 2013, and put the case forward for trial.

The court records reveal the assiduous efforts made by DNIAP in writing to all the Angolan commercial banks so as to keep a check on all of Marques de Morais’ banking transactions. DNIAP discovered deposits of just over US $3,000 in one of the banks. The generals, however, demanded that the defendant pay a fine of US $1.2 million. DNIAP has also closely monitored the defendant’s travels in and out of Angola.