The ICJ expresses its grave concern at the 28 March 2016 conviction and sentencing of 17 Angolan activists to terms of imprisonment ranging from two years to more than eight years, for the peaceful exercise of their human rights of freedom of association and freedom of expression.
Following an unfair trial, they were found guilty of “preparatory actions of rebellion and association of evildoers” [malfeitores], based on having read and discussed reading material on nonviolent means for resisting dictatorship or being associated with others who did so.
The ICJ joins numerous civil society organizations in condemning the failure by the authorities in Angola to conduct the trial in a manner consistent with its obligations under international human rights law.
“Judicial persecution of opponents of the government in Angola must be stopped forthwith” said Arnold Tsunga, ICJ’s Africa Director.
“A worrisome trend and pattern is emerging where the authorities in Angola are increasingly using the law and legal system as an instrument of repression targeting critics of the government as well as human rights defenders,” he added.
The ICJ calls on the Angolan authorities to invalidate the conviction and sentences, and to take concrete measures to strengthen the rule of law by ensuring the independence of the judiciary and legal profession as well as fully implementing international human rights standards in the national legal system.
Arnold Tsunga, ICJ’s Africa Director, t: +27731318411 or +263777283249 ; e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fifteen of the Accused were arrested in June 2015 and later joined by another two accused.
They were initially charged with rebellion and a conspiracy to mount a coup against the President for studying and discussing reading material on nonviolent means for resisting dictatorship.
The prosecution later dropped the second charge but added a charge of “criminal association” or “association with evildoers”.
The defense maintains that the state did not manage to prove anything beyond the fact that the accused discussed politics, which is allowed under the Angolan constitution.
No independent observers were allowed to attend the trial, raising serious concerns about the right to fair trial.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, treaties to which Angola is a party, recognize freedom of expression and freedom of association as human rights, and prohibit governments from arbitrarily or otherwise illegitimately interfering with them.
Domingos da Cruz was sentenced to 8 years and six months; Luaty Beirão to 5 years and 6 months; Nuno Dala, Sedrick de Carvalho, Nito Alves, Inocêncio de Brito, Laurinda Gouveia, Fernando António Tomás “Nicola”, Afonso Matias “Mbanza Hamza”, Osvaldo Caholo, Arante Kivuvu, Albano Evaristo Bingo -Bingo, Nelson Dibango, Hitler Jessy Chivonde e José Gomes Hata were all sentenced to 4 years and 6 months); while Rosa Conde e Jeremias Benedito got 2 years and 3 months in jail.