Assault and Battery, Angolan Style

Angolan national police officers have again been accused of carrying out extra-judicial executions at a police station. On a single day, August 31, the bodies of three men taken to a hospital morgue in the capital, Luanda, all displayed the unmistakable signs of being badly beaten. Autopsies revealed all three had been severely beaten with blunt objects, causing cranial fractures and other internal injuries, which directly caused their death.

Opposition Member of Parliament Mihaela Webba, from the UNITA party (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), told Maka Angola “the National Police are, in effect, carrying out the death penalty, with no respect for peoples’ lives.”

One of the victims, 40-year-old José Padrão Loureiro, known as Zeca, was laid to rest on Sunday. His grieving widow, Margarida Maria Armando, says that at approximately 7.30pm on the evening of August 31st, two patrol cars pulled up outside her home. The police were looking for her husband, saying they wanted to question him and two of his associates about the theft of a Hyundai Elantra.

The officers insisted his wife accompany them to the station to help with their inquiries. When ‘Zeca’ went to the station to look for his wife, he was detained on suspicion of breaking up the stolen vehicle for parts. Within hours he had been so severely beaten that his skull was fractured in three places.

Zeca’s sister, Eurídice Padrão Morais de Brito, is a doctor and she insisted on witnessing his autopsy: “We were shocked to see evidence of torture. The coroner was so taken aback she commented that not even an animal would be so cruelly treated. My brother’s skull was fractured in three places, his entire body was battered and bruised – his hips were so discolored by haematoma that they appeared burned and his arms were so broken they were twisted right around.”

Working at the Neves Bendinha Hospital, Dr Eurídice de Brito says she has seen numerous victims of beatings, “but I have never seen anybody as badly beaten as my brother. I would have been less shocked if he’d been executed by gunshot. But to kill him in such a barbaric and odious manner is beyond belief.”

José Padrão Loureiro’s death certificate notes that his death was due to “blunt force trauma to the cranium and abdomen”.

Dr Eurídice de Brito says the Police took her brother’s body to the Josina Machel Hospital Morgue, where they registered him as a “sudden death on the public highway”, implying that the police’s only role had been to collect the body. The body was then placed in Chamber 5, which is reserved for unidentified or unclaimed bodies.

“We asked the police for an explanation and their response was to demand that we explain what had happened.” Indignantly, she added: “They went to my brother’s house, took his wife to the station and when my brother went there, they beat him to death. And they have the gall to ask us to explain what happened?”

Maka Angola put these allegations to Mateus Rodrigues, the spokesman for the National Police’s Provincial Command. This was his response: “You have to submit a request in writing to the Luanda Provincial Commander. He will then issue a dispatch to me, and provided he gives me authorization, I will then respond.” The provincial commander, Commissar José Sita, did not respond to telephone calls.

Zeca’s widow, Margarida Maria Armando, says that on the way to the police station, the officers demanded she point out the house of one of Zeca’s friends, a man known to her as ‘Ti Paulo’. “We went round and round the Zango I neighborhood but I couldn’t remember which was his house – I’d only been there once and it was dark. They threatened me that they would bounce me around like a beach ball if I played games with them.”

Zeca’s sister Eurídice de Brito says her brother was a motorcycle mechanic. “The minute he heard his wife had been taken to the station, he rode his motorbike there and as soon as he walked in they accused him of a being a ‘highly dangerous bandit’ and started hitting him. They demanded he show them where Paulo lived and then they also arrested him, along with a young man known as ‘Africa’.”

When the police returned with all three to the station, they let Margarida Maria Armando go. But she was alarmed by what she saw: “By the time they returned to the Zango I station, he (Zeca) was already bleeding profusely from the beating they had meted out along the way.” Within hours, the three detainees were transferred from Zango I to the 8th Police Station, a unit under the command of the Rangel Division, headed by Chief Superintendent José Amaro Franco.

Zeca’s mother, Maria Padrão, went to the 8th Police Station and spoke to a Detective Batalha, who she was told was in charge of interrogating ‘Africa’. “He [Batalha] told me that my son was a highly dangerous criminal who was one of a gang of robbers who had stolen an Elantra on the Via Expresso.” When she looked disbelieving, the investigator told her “you wait here, we are working on the investigation.”

“I began to hear screams. As I was leaving I saw police throwing water over an unconscious man lying on the floor – I asked my other son Edmundo to go see if it was Zeca. It wasn’t.”

Maria Padrão went home, returning early the next morning (September 1) to the 8th Police Station to find out what was happening regarding her son. She couldn’t get anyone to supply answers at first. Then, shockingly, “I asked a police friend to make inquiries among his colleagues to let me know what was happening. They told him that Zeca didn’t withstand enhanced interrogation [torture], and had died.”

Allegedly, the police suspected that Zeca had helped the gang to dismantle the stolen car to sell its parts. Yet the family say that the vehicle owner failed to turn up at the station to identify the suspects. Zeca’s widow insists the police made up the allegations against him: “My husband was a mechanic trained on motorcycles, not cars. He loved street life and hanging out with his buddies for a beer. He may not have been the best husband to me, but he never spent a night away from home and I never saw him with any car parts.”

There is still no word about the fate of the other two men arrested on August 31. The Padrão Loureiro family say that their relatives turned up to Zeca’s funeral on Sunday and at that stage had not received any word. Maka Angola is making inquiries into their whereabouts and state of health.

Meanwhile, Dr Eurídice de Brito saw the bodies of two other men, beaten to death on the same day at the 8th Police Station, and taken to the Josina Machel Hospital Morgue. In the admission records, the police clearly stated that the two had been their detainees prior to their deaths.

“I managed to speak to the father of one of the deceased, and I tried to persuade him to join with our family in making an official complaint. But he told me that he was just ‘one of the masses’ and only wanted to mourn his son,” says Dr Eurídice de Brito. The autopsy report attributed the young man’s death to cranial trauma, while his body was heavily bruised.

“That poor father told me the police were looking for some young men who had stolen some propane gas canisters and his son was merely passing by when he was stopped and arrested. He wouldn’t give me his name, or his son’s name, because he didn’t want any problems with the Police. He said his son’s death would be avenged by divine justice.”

Zeca’s family would like some answers here on Earth – along with justice.