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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Portuguese Corruption Trial Snares Angola’s Vice President

The net is closing around Angola’s Vice-President, Manuel Vicente, the former CEO of the country’s oil giant Sonangol and a man long accused of being a conduit for the diversion of oil revenues into international business deals linked to the Angolan President, his family and close associates. He faces charges in connection with the alleged suborning of a Portuguese prosecutor. Orlando Figueira, in 2013 to set aside an investigation into money-laundering involving the purchase of a US $4 million luxury apartment in Lisbon. Both the prosecutor and Vicente’s lawyer, Paulo Blanco, have also been indicted on charges of violating court confidentiality regarding the investigation into the Angolan subsidiary (BESA) of the Banco de Espirito Santo (BES), which collapsed in 2014. If proven, then by suborning the prosecutor, the Angolans succeeded in interfering with the course of justice in Portugal to prevent any prosecution in the BESA investigation which, by unravelling […]

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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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Youth Protesters Charged with Rebellion on Trial Today

Seventeen young Angolan activists were charged in court with rebellion against the state on Monday, a case rights groups said showed increasing intolerance of dissent. The young campaigners were detained in June after organising a reading of U.S. academic Gene Sharp’s 1993 book: “From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation”. The book’s blurb describes it as: “a blueprint for nonviolent resistance to repressive regimes”. Charges against them read out in court included acts of rebellion, planning mass action of civil disobedience in the capital Luanda and producing fake passports. Their defence lawyer told the hearing his clients were not guilty of any crime because debate and freedom of speech were protected under the constitution. Human rights groups have accused Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his government of using the legal system to crack down on critics after several activists were jailed or detained this year on […]

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A Day in Court

The trial of Rafael Marques de Morais began on 24 March in Luanda, amid heavy security measures. In the opening session the defence learnt for the first time of new charges against the accused, for which no formal notification had been received. The trial was adjourned until 23 April to allow Marques de Morais and his lawyers to be formally notified of the charges and to examine their substance. The case initially involved eight charges of criminal libel,  stemming from the charge that Marques de Morais filed in 2011 against nine generals who are the owners of the private security company Teleservice and the diamond mining company Lumanhe, which is part of the mining consortium Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (SMC). Marques de Morais brought the charge against the generals on the basis of testimonies about torture and killings that were presented in his book Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Journalists File Complaint Against the Police

Journalists Rafael Marques de Morais and Alexandre Solombe on Monday filed a formal complaint against the Angolan Rapid Intervention Police (PIR), after they were detained, physically mistreated and received death threats on September 20. In the complaint, addressed to Attorney General João Maria Moreira de Sousa, the journalists also denounced the damage done to their equipment, including cameras and mobile phones, as an attack on the freedom of the press. Marques and Solombe, together with Voice of America correspondent Coque Mukuta, were seized by the police while interviewing a group of youth activists who had just been released from custody on court orders. The eight youths had been arrested the previous day during an attempted demonstration in Luanda. The journalists began interviewing the youths in the street, about 300 meters from the courthouse where a judge had ordered their release. While they were speaking, 45 PIR members surrounded them, and […]

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Young “Revolutionaries” Freed on Bail

On Monday, Judge Josefina Pedro of the Luanda Police Court ordered the release of eight youths who had been detained during a demonstration in the city on September 19. The detainees, all known to be members of the self-nominated Revolutionary Movement, were suspected of trying to organise an anti-government demonstration. They are Adolfo António, Adolfo Campos, Amândio Canhanga, António Ferreira, Joel Francisco, Pedro Teka, Quintuango Mabiala and Roberto Gamba. The eight first appeared in court for summary trial on September 20 and were released because there was not sufficient evidence against them. However, 20 minutes after their release, the Rapid Reaction Police rearrested seven members of the group while they were talking to journalist Rafael Marques de Morais about their earlier experiences of arrest and torture under police custody. Marques and two other journalists were arrested at the time same. Police beat all of the detainees, before releasing the three […]

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The Magnificent Seven

Last Friday, September 20, I went to attend the trial of the eight protesters, and a passer-by politician who had been arrested around Largo da Independência (Independence Square), in Luanda, the previous day. I arrived at the Ingombotas Court, known as the Police Court, with the lawyers from the human rights law firm Associação Mãos Livres: Salvador Freire, Zola Bambi and Afonso Mbinda. I had my camera with me on a strap around my neck. The hearing was public and there was space for one more person, but the police sergeant prevented me from entering, claiming that only lawyers were allowed in. The court is located in a residential building. In the corridor, next to the courtroom entrance, were six or seven policemen. The air was stuffy, the odour of human bodies filled the air. A policeman forbade me from entering the courtroom. I did not resist. I just went […]

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