Angola: 17 pro-democracy activists should be cleared of all charges following UN decision

Press release

Paris-Geneva-Luanda, July 4, 2016 -

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a partnership of FIDH and OMCT), and the Working Group of Monitoring Human Rights in Angola (GTMDH) welcome the decision of the Supreme Court to order the provisional release of the 17 rights activists jailed for participating in a book club meeting in June 2015, where one of the works under discussion was a book about non-violent resistance to repressive regimes. The organisations also welcome the recent decision of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) recognising the arbitrary nature of their detention. FIDH, OMCT, AJPD and OSISA-ANGOLA had filed a communication to the WGAD on their behalf on September 23, 2015.

On June 29, 2016, the Supreme Court of Angola eventually ordered the conditional release of 17 young activists, three months after they were jailed for rebellion and a year after their arbitrary arrest [1].

Some of the youths have spent 12 months in detention. Sixteen were released but remain subjected to Term of Residential Identity. The seventeenth, Mr. Manuel Chivonde Baptista Nito Alves, is serving a six-month prison term for “contempt of court”.

Their release is provisional, pending the outcome of the appellate judicial proceedings. On March 28, 2016, the Luanda Provincial Tribunal sentenced the 16 pro-democracy activists to jail terms ranging from two years and three months to eight years and six months for the alleged crimes of “preparatory acts of rebellion” (Article 21 of the Criminal Code) and “association of criminals” (Article 263), among other charges [2].

“While we welcome the long-awaited release of sixteen of the young rights activists, we strongly deplore the judicial harassment which led to this arbitrary detention for more than a year”, our organisations said today.

On the same day that the Angola Supreme Court issued its order, the WGAD released its Opinion concerning the detention of 14 of the young rights activists [3].

The WGAD considered that “these individuals were arrested and detained because of the exercise of their freedom of assembly, opinion and expression” in violation of Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It also stated that their right to a fair trial had not been respected to the extent that their deprivation of liberty was arbitrary. The Working group finally concluded that as an adequate remedy for their arbitrary detention, the Angola authorities should immediately release the activists still in detention, compensate them and put an end to all unlawful criminal proceedings against them.

"We welcome the Opinion of the WGAD, to which our organisations submitted a communication on this case. Now the Angola authorities must implement the WGAD decision and drop all charges against the 17 activists and more generally stop the harassment of all human right defenders in the country”, concluded our organisations.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders.

The Working Group on Human Rights Monitoring in Angola (GTMDH) is a network that brings together 18 civil society organizations with nationwide coverage. The members include: ACC, AJPD, AJUDECA, ANGOLA 2000, FORDU, MBAKITA, MOSAIKO, NCC, OMUNGA, OSISA-ANGOLA, PMA, RNP+Angola, SCARJOV, SOS HABITAT.

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