ANGOLA: José Marcos Mavungo’s sentence is arbitrary and must be nullified

Press release

(Geneva, Paris) The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) and the Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia (AJPD) strongly condemn the sentencing of human rights defender José Marcos Mavungo to six years in prison. Mr. Mavungo is a former member of “Mpalabanda”, a civic group that was banned after it produced reports highlighting rights abuses by security forces in oil-rich but poverty-racked Cabinda province.

On September 14, 2015, the Cabinda Provincial Court convicted Mr. José Marcos Mavungo to six years’ imprisonment on charges of “rebellion”. The latter was accused of being involved in the organisation of a demonstration and being associated with a group of men allegedly found with leaflets and explosives on the eve of the demonstration.

“José Marcos Mavungo is another victim of Angola’s methods of manufacturing vulnerability. Judicial harassment and unfair trials are often used methods by the authorities that do not tolerate dissent. This situation must come to an end and Angola must commit to its obligation to respect and promote the rights to freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly”

Mr. Mavungo was arrested on March 14, 2015 for helping out on organising a peaceful demonstration promoting human rights and denouncing bad governance in Cabinda province. He was initially charged with “sedition” but the court found no evidence to indict him and ordered further investigations. On May 27, 2015, he was formally charged with “rebellion”, but was only informed of his indictment on June 22. His trial started on August 25, and was marred with several irregularities. For example, no evidence of his relationship with the above-mentioned individuals or of his involvement in the production of the leaflets were presented during the trial.

This conviction came only days after the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Angola’s authorities to release all human rights defenders, including Mr. Mavungo, and to drop all charges against them. In June, sixteen individuals were arrested under similar charges in the country [1].

Human rights defenders and journalists generally remain exposed to judicial harassment, acts of intimidation, threats and other restrictions to their freedom of association and expression in Angola, as documented in a recent Observatory fact-finding mission report [2].

The Observatory and AJPD urge Angola’s authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. José Marcos Mavungo as well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Angola.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) 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.

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