AGO 001 / 0615 / OBS 053.3
Sentencing / Judicial harassment /
March 31, 2016
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Angola.
According to the information received, 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.
Mr. Domingos da Cruz was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for the crimes of “preparatory acts of rebellion” and “association of criminals”. Nuno Álvaro Dala, Sedrick de Carvalho, Manuel Nito Alves, Inocêncio de Brito, Laurinda Manuel Gouveia, Fernando António Tomás, Mbamza Hamza, Italiano Arante Kivuvu, Albano Evaristo Bingobingo, Nelson Dibango Mendes Dos Santos, Hitler Chiconda and José Gomes Hata were all sentenced to four years and six months in prison for the same crimes. Rosa Kusso Conde and Benedito Jeremias, who are considered as primary offenders, were sentenced to two years and six months in prison. Mr. Henrique Luaty Beirão, who was convicted of “falsifying documents” (Article 216), alongside the above-mentioned crimes, was sentenced to five years and six months in prison. Mr. Osvaldo Correia Caholo was also sentenced to four years and six months in prison. Besides, Mr. Caholo is also expected to be tried by a military court on charges of “theft of documents” (Article 424). Furthermore, all of them must pay a fine of 50,000 Kwanzas (approximately 277 EUR) to the court.
The 16 were sent to different prison facilities. Both the prosecution and defence lawyers stated that they would appeal the verdict and sentences before the Supreme Court. They have eight days to file the appeal. Mr. Osvaldo Correia Caholo was also sent back to prison.
The Observatory notes that the trial was marred with irregularities. During the closing arguments, on March 21, 2016, the Prosecutor altered the charge sheet, dropping the charge of “plotting against the President and other sovereign institutions”, and including the new indictment of “association of criminals”, punishable with a more severe sentence. This new charge was therefore not subjected to analysis by the defendants’ lawyers. Therefore, the defendants could not exercise their right of defence regarding this new charge, in violation of the right to a fair trial.
The Observatory also highlights that the appeal process may take years before a verdict is reached.
Finally, the Observatory notes that the 16 should not have been detained, as the appeal should suspend sentences in accordance with Article 658 of Criminal Procedure Code.
The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing and arbitrary detention of the 16 human rights defenders together with Osvaldo Correia Caholo, which appear to be solely motivated by their peaceful and legitimate action in the defence of human rights.
Moreover, the Observatory calls upon the Angola authorities to review the verdict and sentences and immediately and unconditionally release the 16 human rights defenders together with Osvaldo Correia Caholo.
On June 20, 2015, 13 pro-democracy activists were arrested by the police while participating in a book club meeting to discuss human rights violations and governance concerns in Angola. The police carried out searches without warrants and seized IT hardware from homes of some of the people they suspected of taking part in the meeting.
On the same day, following their arrest, the Director General of the Criminal Investigative Service issued a statement saying that they are being accused of “preparing acts aimed at disrupting public order and security in the country”. It was later reported that they are being charged with “rebellion”, “attempted coup d’Etat” and “crimes against national security”.
Furthermore, on June 21, 2015, Mr. Domingos da Cruz was also arrested. Mr. da Cruz was initially supposed to take part in the meeting as a speaker, but he finally did not attend the meeting.
On June 24, Mr. Osvaldo Caholo, a reserve military personnel and university professor, was arrested after the police found photos of him during a search conducted in the residence of one of the thirteen youth activists.
On June 30, 2015, CaptainMuhondo Zenóbio Lázarowas subsequently arrested on the grounds of his alleged links with Mr. Osvaldo Caholo (they were classmates). To date, no further information is available on the situation of Captain Zenóbio Lázaro.
Most of the young people arrested and detained are pro-democracy activists (except lieutenant Osvaldo Caholo and Zenóbio Lázaro) who have been organizing peaceful protests against the 36-year-regime of Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos since 2011. These protests were often shut down after only five minutes and protesters were sometimes arrested and tortured.
It was also reported that the authorities threatened the mothers of the young prisoners who were getting mobilised. The ruling MPLA party has indeed prevented any kind of mobilisation organised by supporters asking for their release; and a peaceful demonstration by relatives of the prisoners that was organised in Luanda on August 8, 2015 was met with attacks and was violently repressed by the security forces on the ground.
On September 16, 2015, the Prosecutor’s Office confirmed the charges of “crime of preparatory acts to practice rebellion” and “plotting against the President and other sovereign institutions” against the 14 pro-democracy activists arrested in June 2015. Both provisions are in reference of Article 28 of the Law 23/10 of December 3, 2010 on Crimes against Security of the State. In addition to the charges indicated above, Mr. Osvaldo Correia Caholo was also charged with “misappropriation of documents”, Mr. Manuel Nito Alves with “illegal alteration of his name/identity” and Mr. Henrique Luaty Beirão with three crimes of falsification of documents. Moreover, Ms. Rosa Kusso Conde and Ms. Laurinda Manuel Gouveia, two regular attendees of the book club meetings, were also charged on similar accusations but were not detained.
Although the Public Ministry formally signed the accusations on September 16, 2015, it was only on September 30 that the defence lawyers and families of the detainees were informed of the charges, following a press conference organised by the latter.
It is only on October 8, 2015, that the 16 were formally informed of their indictment, when the maximum period for pre-trial prison, 90 days according to Angolan law, had already expired.
On November 16, 2015, the trial of the seventeen finally opened before the Luanda Provincial Tribunal .
Several of the accused were subjected to acts of ill-treatment and violence during their arrest and detention. Some of them out of despair or to alert the general public on their ordeal, attempted suicide or participated to hunger strikes. The last incident concerned Mr. Sedrick de Carvalho who on December 15, 2015, attempted suicide. He was fortunately rescued by the prison guards. A few days earlier, in an open letter, he had threatened to commit suicide in protest against his 176 days of unlawful detention. He added that, during his six months in detention, he had spent more than 2,000 hours straight in solitary confinement without being able to see daylight. On December 14, 2015, eight out of the 15 were on hunger strike, which they ended upon their release on December 18.
On December 15, 2015, the Luanda Provincial Tribunal approved the request of the Public Prosecutor to place the pro-democracy activists under house arrest as of December 18.
On January 25, 2016, the Luanda Provincial Tribunal postponed to February 8, 2016 the hearing in the trial against the 17 above-mentioned persons. The Court was still due to hear more than 50 declarants.
On February 8, 2016, the trial resumed until February 10, when it was again postponed until February 23, 2016. At that time, approximately 46 were scheduled to be heard by the court.
Moreover, on February 8, 2016, the Luanda Provincial Tribunal sentenced Mr. Manuel Nito Alves to six months of imprisonment and to pay a fine of AKZ 50,000 (approx. 284 Euros) for contempt of Court (disturbing the order of the Court) during the trial of the 16 pro-democracy activists. Mr. Manuel Nito Alves was allegedly heard to have called the trial “a farce” when his father, Mr. Fernando Baptista, was being interrogated by the Counsel for the public prosecutor’s. Mr. Alves was silenced then accused by the presiding judge Januário Domingos of “interjecting disrespectfully” and “offending and disrespecting the court”, before being taken away by the authorities. He was tried summarily and he was incarcerated at the Viana prison outside of Luanda.
On February 19, 2016 the Luanda Provincial Tribunal renewed the house arrest measure against the fifteen until April 19, 2016, dismissing the request of the activists’ lawyer to release them.
On February 23, 2016, the hearing of the merits resumed.
Please write to the authorities in Angola, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Henrique Luaty Beirão, Manuel Nito Alves, Nuno Alvaro Dala, Nelson Mendes Dos Santos, Alfonso Jojo Matias, Sedrick de Carvalho, Fernando António Tómas, Hitler Chiconda, ItalianoArante Kivuvu, Benedito Dali, Albano Bingobingo, José GomesHata, Inocénio De Brito, Domingos da Cruz as well as Ms. Rosa Kusso Conde and Ms. Laurinda Manuel Gouveia as well as all those unduly associated with the above-mentioned case and all human rights defenders in Angola;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release the 16 pro-democracy activists by dropping all trumped-up charges against them and, more generally, release all human rights defenders detained in Angola, as these restrictive measures seem to merely sanction their human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the 16 activists and all those associated with the above-mentioned case and all human rights defenders in Angola;
iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with:
Its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
Its Article 6(c), which foresees that “everyone has the right, to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”;
Its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Angola.
· Mr. Ângelo de Barros Veiga Tavares, Minister of Interior, Avenida 4 de Fevereiro n.º 106, Luanda República de Angola ; Tel: +244 222 390 423
· Mr. Rui Jorge Carneiro Mangueira, Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Rua 17 de Setembro, Cidade Alta, Luanda República de Angola, Fax: +244 222 370 150 / 222 370 366
· H.E. Mr. Apolinário Jorge Correia, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Angola to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Rue de Lausanne 45-47 CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 732 30 72, E-mail: email@example.com
· H.E. Elizabeth Simbrão, Ambassador, Embassy of Angola in Brussels, Rue Franz Merjay 182 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: +32 23461872; Fax: +32 23440894, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Angola in your respective country.
Paris-Geneva, March 31, 2016
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
 For more information on the trial see Observatory dossier describing and analysing the proceedings: “ Why the “Angola 15” trial is a parody of justice? ”
 See Observatory Press Release of December 16, 2015.
 The Court is hearing 50 people listed on a Facebook list on a “national salvation government”.