Prosecuting the Messenger, Absolving the Corrupt

Angola’s public prosecutor, Pedro Pederneira, calls for my conviction for the crimes of insulting a public authority and speaking against the state security (June 15). He wants me in jail for writing that former President José Eduardo dos Santos protected the corrupt. This is the crime against the state security. The public prosecution office recently charged Dos Santos’ son, José Filomeno dos Santos, and his accomplices for the looting of US $500 million from Angola’s central bank. The looting had been authorized by the father weeks before he stepped down in September last year. Last January, I was the very first to expose the whole scam at home. So, where is the crime against the state security? I supplied the court with plenty of evidence on past cases in which Mr. Dos Santos engaged and protected the corrupt, and the then-attorney general never replied to many of my formal complaints […]

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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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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 […]

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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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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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