Trial of Rafael Marques de Morais to Begin Tomorrow

Rafael Marques de Morais is to go on trial for criminal libel on Tuesday 24 March, facing up to nine years in prison and damages of $1.2 million. The charge relates to his exposure of human rights abuses in the diamond-producing province of Lunda Norte in north-eastern Angola. The hearing was postponed in December owing to the unavailability of witnesses. The Attorney General’s office has ordered Marques de Morais to appear in court at 8 am on Tuesday.

Last week Marques de Morais was honoured with the Journalism Award from the London-based organisation Index on Censorship.

The case has been brought by seven generals, all of them shareholders in companies accused of human rights abuses by the journalist in his book Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção em Angola (Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola), published in Portugal in September 2011. However, the charge sheet in the current case against Marques de Morais refers not to the book directly, but to accusations made in a legal case that he tried to bring against the generals in 2011.

The generals bringing the case against Marques de Morais are led by the Minister of State and head of Intelligence Bureau of the President General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias Júnior “Kopelipa”, as well as the generals’ fellow shareholders in  Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (SMC) and ITM-Mining, through their company Lumanhe. The other six generals are Carlos Alberto Hendrick Vaal da Silva (inspector general at the General Staff of the Angolan Armed Forces ), Armando da Cruz Neto (MPLA member of parliament), Adriano Makevela Mackenzie, João Baptista de Matos, Luís Pereira Faceira and António Emílio Faceira.

Marques’s book recounts in detail more than 500 cases of torture and 100 killings carried out over 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 charge with the Angolan Attorney General on November 14, 2011. He called on the authorities to investigate the moral responsibility of the generals, as the owners of Teleservice and significant shareholders of SMC, for the abuses. After hearing victims’ testimony in 2012, the Attorney General set the case aside.

In November 2012, nine generals and directors of SMC attempted to sue Marques de Morais and his publisher, Tinta-da-China, in a Lisbon court for libel and defamation. The Portuguese Attorney General dismissed the case for lack of evidence, and noted that Marques’s accusations had been rigorously researched.

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 3 April 2013 the Department for the Combating of Organised Crime of the National Criminal Investigation Directorate (DNIC) named Marques de Morais as an official suspect under investigation.

The journalist’s lawyer, Luís de Nascimento, sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds of Angola’s double jeopardy law.  It would have prevented Marques de Morais from facing new charges based on the same facts that were presented in the earlier case in the Portuguese court.  The Angolan Attorney General responded by drafting the latest charges on the basis that Marques had defamed the generals when he attempted to sue them in 2011.