Rights violations intensify ahead of August elections


As the general elections scheduled for 23rd August 2017 draw closer, restrictions on and violations of freedom of expression and assembly have increased in the form of legal harassment of journalists and violent disruption of protests. 

Journalist and human rights defender Rafael Marques de Morais was indicted on 20th June 2017 for the crimes of "outrage to a body of sovereignty" and "injury against public authority" under the Angolan Law on Crimes against State Security and the Penal Code. The charges came after Attorney General João Maria Moreira de Sousa filed a complaint based on an article Marques published in October 2016 on his website Maka Angola that described the dubious circumstances under which the Attorney General purchased land in 2011. Mariano Lourenço, head of the newspaper O Crime, was also indicted on the same charges for republishing Marques's article. 

Marques has faced criminal charges several times in the past due to his investigative reporting. In 2015, he was given a six-month suspended sentence on defamation charges for referring to an army general in his book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, which exposes human rights abuses in the diamond fields of the Lundas region. 

Two Portuguese-language TV channels, SIC Notícias and SIC Internacional África, were suspended by the ZAP distribution platform on 14th March 2017. ZAP is owned by Isabel dos Santos, daughter of Angola's President José Eduardo dos Santos. According to AFP news agency, the channels were suspended due to broadcasting programmes deemed critical of the regime. On 4th June 2017, satellite distributor DStv also suspended the two above-mentioned TV channels from broadcasting in Angola. 

Luaty Beirão, one of the 15+2 activists and a member of the new Angolan civic movement Handeka, speaks on the situation for freedom of expression in the video below. Beirão specifically stated the following on free speech in the country:

"Formally, everything looks good on paper, fundamental rights are enshrined in the [Angolan] constitution, but when we try to exercise those rights, we are repressed. People are afraid to talk, to say freely what they think, to express themselves in general. We have no freedoms". (Translated from French)

Peaceful Assembly

Movimento do Protectorado da Lunda Tchokwé (Movement of the Protectorate of Lunda Tchokwé) organised a series of demonstrations on 24th June in the provinces of Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul and Moxico. Riot police violently dispersed the demonstrations, detaining more than 70 people, injuring 13 and killing one person. The demonstrations planned for 24th June and 29th July were organised to demand an end to the arbitrary detentions and prosecution of members of the Tchokwé Movement, as well as to request more autonomy for the region. According to the Tchokwé Movement, the authorities had been previously informed of the planned demonstrations, as required by Angolan law.

On 28th June 2017, the Provincial Court of Lunda Norte sentenced 42 of the detained protesters with a high fine for creating "public disorder", and about 50 protesters were released on 30th June 2017, according to news reports.  

In a separate incident on 19th April 2017, seven Angolan activists were detained in Cacuaco, a suburb of Luanda, for participating in a protest calling for transparency in the upcoming general elections scheduled for 23rd August 2017. They were convicted on charges of resisting the authorities and rebellion. Each received a prison sentence of 45 days and a fine of 65,000 kwanzas (approximately 390 USD).