Angola’s Death Squads
Nearly two years ago, rumors began circulating in the Angolan capital, Luanda, that police officers working for the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) were routinely rounding up suspected petty criminals and killing them.
Human rights journalist Rafael Marques de Morais began an investigation, taking oral and written testimony from dozens of witnesses, family members, friends, and even from the occasional survivor. He says “Compelling testimony points to a systematic SIC death squad operation targeting young men merely suspected of undesirable or criminal behavior.”
Over a period of months, a clear pattern emerged with eye-witnesses naming individual police officers who had been seen to kill victims in broad daylight and in view of members of the public. It was alleged that specific SIC units were acting as death squads with impunity.
“The SIC death squads are blamed for the summary executions of hundreds of young Angolans, without even a cursory investigation of the suspects, let alone due process.”
In April 2017 Rafael Marques de Morais shared the evidence he had amassed with the Angolan authorities at the highest level (the Interior Minister, Chief Commissioner Ângelo de Barros da Veiga Tavares; the General Commander of the National Police, Ambrósio de Lemos; the Attorney-General, General João Maria de Sousa; the Chairman of the National Assembly, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos; and the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Rui Mangueira) requesting an investigation into the allegations of police involvement in a series of murders. He says: “Despite all the evidence, including detailed information, given to the Interior Minister and the other above-mentioned entities, to date we have not been informed of any investigation…”
Since then Angola has undergone a significant political transition – after 38 years in power, in which his administration became a byword for kleptocracy, José Eduardo dos Santos stepped down as President and João Lourenço was elected to succeed him. There have been encouraging signs that the new administration aims to restore the rule of law.
Alarmingly, however, to this day none of the witnesses or family members of the victims has been contacted as part of any investigation. Also, the men identified as the perpetrators of the extrajudicial killings have neither been suspended nor removed from their jobs. Instead, in the Fall of 2017, the killing of young men suspected of gang membership or petty crime, started up again.
Now Rafael Marques de Morais has made available an updated report into these extrajudicial killings in English. He cites 50 cases in which he was able to corroborate the facts from more than one source, involving 92 victims, only a few of whom survived. He says: “Angola’s leaders, who themselves are accused of grand crimes but have yet to face no consequences, are the same men who have either ordered extrajudicial killings of criminals or – at the very least – turned a blind eye to the murderous interpretation of their exhortations to eliminate crime.”