Another Day in Court

Today I returned to court. The judge was in no mood for jokes, berating me for my public criticism of what was decided in the previous session. Judge Josina Ferreira Falcão ruled today against the request made last week by the plaintiff, former attorney general João Maria de Sousa. At the 11th hour, General Maria de Sousa’s counsel requested another postponement because his client had to travel to Portugal. On April 16, attorney João Pedro cited special privileges and immunity to justify General Maria de Sousa’s no-show in court. He further requested that the proceedings be moved to the Office of the Attorney General. The judged ruled in favor of the requests. However, last Friday afternoon, the court called to inform me that General Maria de Sousa had requested another postponement. Then, on Monday afternoon, the court notified me that the trial would proceed the following morning at Luanda’s Provincial […]

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The Runaway Plaintiff Making a Mockery of Justice in Angola

In my professional career, I stood trial three times due to my exposés on the powerful elite in Angola. The first time, the plaintiffs were the President and the Attorney General (AG). The second time, I took on eight generals in a bundle as the plaintiffs. Now, in a repetition of the circumstances of that first trial, the plaintiffs are once again that former president and his AG. Each of these trials takes place in an alternative reality in which fiction trumps fact: as though drawing attention to their behavior is more offensive than the offenses themselves. Now, for the third time as of April 16, 2018, Luanda Provincial Court has a runaway plaintiff making a mockery of justice. Judge Josina Ferreira Falcão decided that the date of the trial must be moved to April 24, and the location to the Office of the Attorney General (AG) of the Republic, […]

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My Trial

My trial has begun. I am standing on the dock accused of two crimes for nearly four hours straight. It is my punishment for not exercising. Now I feel the pain in my back. Under the Law on Crimes against State Security, I am accused of an outrage against a sovereign body, the former President José Eduardo dos Santos. The second crime is of insult against a public office holder, the former Attorney General João Maria Moreira de Sousa. Both carry a maximum sentence of four years. The courtroom is packed. Judge Josina Mussua Ferreira Falcão notes how disrespectful the former attorney general and his counsel have been. For the second time, they submitted a last minute request to postpone the trial sine die (without a set date), and this time with an unreasonable justification. The judge decides to go ahead with the trial without the plaintiff or his counsel. […]

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Angolan Muslims Denounce Human Rights Violations

Aisha Lopes, the fashion designer, and her husband Angelica Bernardo da Costa (also known as Mujahid Kenyata) are Angolan nationals who converted to Islam in 1996.   Aisha, a diabetic, was nursing her 26-day-old infant delivered via high-risk Caesarean surgery when security forces raided the family’s apartment at 5 am on December 2 nd , 2016.  More than 20 armed officers from the Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) and the security branch burst in and detained her and her baby, along with her 39-year-old husband. Aisha says they ransacked the apartment, seizing computers, phones, more than 200 books, the couple’s bank cards and all the personal documents belonging to the couple.   “They even took my medical reports. They did not leave a single sheet of paper. “ “We are poor and the agents mocked us, saying that the head of the terrorists in Angola had almost nothing of worth in […]

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When You Can’t Shoot, Sue!

Recently, the Angolan ruling party MPLA proposed, in Parliament, that the outgoing President and Vice-President be given absolute immunity from prosecution for any crimes they committed while in office. Consequently, within days the regime has launched new indictments against whistle-blower and human rights defender, Rafael Marques de Morais. Rafael Marques de Morais is the fearless, award-winning editor of the online news site Maka Angola. It focuses on  investigating and publishing citizens’ complaints about the all-too-common cases of corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations in oil-rich Angola. He has been a thorn in the side of Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos, who has amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune for himself, his family and his loyal supporters in the ruling MPLA party. Meanwhile, only permitting a trickle of the country’s oil wealth to be used for the benefit of the people he was supposed to serve. Outside Angola, the […]

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A London Law Firm Won’t Stop Us Exposing Those Who Swindle Angola

My job is to investigate and expose human rights abuses and large-scale corruption in Angola. It’s not just my job – I have dedicated my life to this fight for justice in my native land. Inevitably this makes me a target for harassment by the current regime and the judicial system it controls, such as the Criminal Investigation Service (Serviço de Investigação Criminal – SIC) and the Office of Attorney-General of the Republic (Procuradoria-Geral da República – PGR). These minor irritations are part and parcel of the kind of work done by social justice activists the world over. Abroad, in Western democracies such as Portugal, people are often surprised that the Angolan government, which has been repeatedly branded as a dictatorship, doesn’t use violence to the same extent as other dictatorial regimes to silence critics. Perhaps they are unaware that extrajudicial execution is a commonplace event in Angola. I am […]

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How Much Longer, Attorney General?

How much longer, João Maria, how much longer do we have to put up with you? The Attorney General of the Republic of Angola parades through the streets of Luanda with not an ounce of shame at the conflict of interest arising from holding public office while profiting from business dealings that have come his way only because of his position. What legal and moral conflicts? He is not just a shareholder in different companies, he has also served as a manager and legal consultant (e.g. in Prestcom) in spite of the constitutional prohibition on second jobs for office-holders. Additionally, General João Maria de Sousa has neglected the fundamental and basic premise of his job: to prosecute breaches of the law. He fails to investigate legal transgressions by members of the government, turns a blind eye to incontrovertible evidence of corruption, and sits on his hands when presented with egregious […]

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Angola’s Christmas Message to Pesky Journalists: Shut Up or Else!

On the eve of the Christmas celebrations in Angola, one of its most prominent human rights defenders, the investigative journalist and anti-corruption activist Rafael Marques de Morais, received an unexpected greeting: a summons to present himself at the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigation Services for interrogation about an alleged “insult” against the country’s Attorney General. The “insult”, an alleged slander, related to the publication of evidence showing that business dealings by General João Maria Moreira de Sousa, Angola’s Attorney General, were contravening both the constitution and the law. The official response was not to take action to verify whether or not the Attorney General’s activities might be in breach of the law, but instead to mount a renewed campaign of persecution against Mr Marques de Morais. When information reached Rafael Marques de Morais that the Attorney General was erecting a condominium on land designated for rural purposes, he quite properly sought […]

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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 […]

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Police Torture in Angola – Part II: The Persecution of Matata

People living in Cacuaco municipality, on the outskirts of the Angolan capital Luanda, have good reason to fear the police who operate there.  Residents complain that officers in both the National Police and the Criminal Investigation Service arrest people at random and then try to force them to confess to crimes. Bernardo Correia Gaspar – known to family and friends as ‘Matata’, is 22 years of age.  He is currently languishing in Viana Prison, waiting to be charged for crimes of which he says he is innocent.  And it’s not the first time that he says the police have tried to frame him. He was arrested in 2013 at his Aunt Emilia’s house in Viana municipality on suspicion of involvement in the murder of a police officer, known as ‘Frank’.  According to Bernardo Gaspar, Frank had been a gang leader with criminal associates before joining the National Police. “He was […]

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