Amnesty International Report 2004 - Angola
|Publication Date||26 May 2004|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2004 - Angola , 26 May 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/40b5a1ec7.html [accessed 21 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Covering events from January - December 2003
Efforts to consolidate peace continued. Displaced people and demobilized soldiers were resettled but many lacked basic social services and adequate food. Over 1.7 million people remained vulnerable to food insecurity. Conflict continued in the Cabinda enclave where government soldiers reportedly carried out acts of torture and extrajudicial executions. Despite a program of police reform, there were reports of beatings and extrajudicial executions by police. Political and human rights activists were briefly detained. Forced evictions occurred and thousands of victims of forced evictions in previous years remained without adequate shelter.
The legacy of the war between the government and the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, which ended in April 2002, included over a million displaced people, devastated social and economic infrastructure, and profound social inequalities generated by oil wealth and underdevelopment. Lack of government financial transparency was a significant factor in delaying a proposed post-war donors' conference.
Rehabilitation programs included assistance to an estimated 8,000 former child soldiers and one million children separated from their families during the war. Over 3,000 children lived in the streets of the capital, Luanda. Projects in two provinces drew 500,000 children into education but about a million others aged under 11 remained outside the education system.
The UN Mission in Angola (UNMA) withdrew in February. Subsequently, a small human rights office headed by the UN Resident Coordinator was established to carry out human rights promotion but not protection.
UNITA members elected Isaías Samakuva in July to replace the former leader, Jonas Savimbi, who was killed in a government attack in February 2002. The Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, held its fifth conference in December. Political parties began preparing for elections but no election date was set.
Various professional and workers' groups protested or took strike action against poor pay and conditions. Students demonstrated in April against high public transport costs. In June state university staff went on strike over pay and conditions, resuming work 45 days later after the government agreed a salary increase.
The internally displaced and refugees
About 1.8 million people internally displaced by the war and over 90,000 refugees returned to their areas of choice, either spontaneously or through assistance programs. Despite a considerable increase in food production, up to two million people continued to need assistance. Dilapidated infrastructure and landmines hampered deliveries of food aid. In some areas, basic social services were lacking and aid agencies noted high levels of malnutrition and disease.
The reception areas that had held over 400,000 former UNITA soldiers and their families were closed in June. Many people left of their own accord. Others were transported to their homes. However, tens of thousands spent weeks in transit centres without adequate services, and there were long delays in the distribution of demobilization benefits. Government soldiers demobilized in previous years complained that they had not received retirement benefits.
Factions of the Frente de Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda (FLEC), Front for the Liberation of Cabinda Enclave, suffered heavy losses in a major government offensive in late 2002 and early 2003. The fighting caused severe displacement. Low-level conflict continued in northern Cabinda throughout the year. Government forces said they had released thousands of civilian FLEC captives. In March, state-controlled radio called on soldiers and members of the paramilitary Rapid Intervention Police to "mercilessly annihilate" FLEC fighters, claiming that they had murdered, maimed and tortured civilians, and "press-ganged" and "used them as slaves".
AI received some reports of FLEC abuses, but many more of human rights violations by government forces. Government soldiers reportedly destroyed at least 15 villages in the Buco Zau, Necuto and Belize areas, displacing and killing villagers. Soldiers posted in villages formerly under FLEC control allegedly accompanied villagers to their fields, impeding their work and increasing food shortage.
- A government soldier shot dead two teenage girls in a village in Belize municipality during the temporary absence of their father in February. The soldier had been staying in their home and the girls had cooked his meals. Villagers said that he fired three shots at the younger girl, then shot her sister as she was running away.
- Soldiers arrested Eduardo Brás while he was fishing near Caio Caliado village in October. The following day they entered Caio Caliado and arrested and beat his brother and four other men. Days later, seven soldiers arrested José Capita, also from Caio Caliado, at his home in Cabinda city. At the end of 2003 their families had no news of the seven men.
In a report in November, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) detailed over 100 cases of arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, extrajudicial execution and "disappearance" in 2003. The provincial civilian authorities investigated some of the allegations, but there was no adequate response from military or civilian authorities in central government to the reports of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by military personnel.
Criminal justice system
A commission was set up to study the criminal justice system and propose reforms, and a project to revise the penal code was initiated. Several municipal and provincial courts were rehabilitated and judges appointed. Juvenile courts were established in Luanda and other provinces. However, in many areas, access to justice was severely limited, including by the lack of human and material resources.
The police initiated a five-year Modernization and Development Plan that included restructuring, retraining, and the improvement of infrastructure, equipment and working conditions. The authorities stressed that a key objective was to improve respect for human rights.
Complaints offices where police abuses could be reported were opened in Luanda in February and subsequently in other provinces. The offices reportedly produced three-monthly summary reports, but these were not widely publicized.
Despite increased resources, police were unable to respond adequately to high levels of violent crime. Police authorities, which estimated that one third of Angolans possessed firearms, announced that they were developing a plan to collect illegally held weapons. NGOs reported cooperation from the police in their work with local communities to prepare for the surrender of weapons.
Freedom of expression and association
Human rights defenders, journalists and political activists exercised their right to monitor and criticize the government. However, some were threatened with violence. Some were arrested in connection with their work but were usually released without charge or acquitted after trial.
UNITA claimed that MPLA members attacked its offices in Huambo province in August and complained of acts of aggression and intimidation in other areas.
- Riot police arrested six members of the Partido de Apoio Democrático e Progresso de Angola (PADEPA), Democratic Support and Progress Party, during a peaceful demonstration in Luanda in June. Three days later the six were tried on charges of holding an illegal demonstration and acquitted. The judges ruled that their detention was unlawful as they had not been brought promptly before a magistrate, and that the provincial authorities' decision to ban the demonstration was illegal.
Torture and extrajudicial executions
Reports of torture and extrajudicial executions came mainly from Luanda, where most news outlets and human rights organizations were based. The limited information available suggested that few suspected perpetrators were brought to trial.
Early in 2003 there were many allegations that fiscal agents of the Luanda provincial government, sometimes assisted by police, beat and harassed street vendors and money changers, seizing their goods.
- In March police officers beat and briefly detained a television cameraman who tried to film them illtreating spectators at a football stadium in Luanda. A few days later fiscal agents beat two journalists who saw them steal street vendors' goods.
There were reports of extrajudicial executions by the security forces.
- Manuel Mateus, a 32-year-old telecommunications worker, was extrajudicially executed in March. Two paramilitary police officers demanded bribes after his car broke down at night. His girlfriend said she saw an officer beat him with a spanner and shoot him in the foot before she fled. Relatives subsequently found his unidentified body in the morgue. The police told his relatives that an officer had shot him in self-defence, but an autopsy reportedly showed that the bullet that killed him had been fired when he was lying down. A police officer was subsequently arrested but at the end of 2003 was still awaiting trial.
- Members of the Presidential Guard Unit killed Arsénio Sebastião on a Luanda beach in November because he had been singing a rap song severely critical of the government. Witnesses tried vainly to intervene as the soldiers beat, bound, stabbed and then drowned him in the sea. The perpetrators were arrested.
Commercial pressure on land and the absence of security of tenure resulted in forced evictions in Luanda and other abuses in rural areas. Draft land and urban development laws failed to provide occupation rights for informal urban dwellers. This group had no effective means of obtaining or occupying land legally. Mass forced evictions – carried out without due process, including consultation and redress – occurred in several areas of Luanda. Police forcibly evicted several families from Soba Kapassa in February, firing into the air and beating some residents. These families, and hundreds of others forcibly evicted from Soba Kapassa in previous years, received no compensation.
In Benfica, 57 families were forcibly evicted in March, another 15 in April. They were rehoused on the outskirts of Luanda but many suffered loss of possessions, employment or access to schooling.
- Emilia André Zunza, a 38-year-old woman with four children aged between one and 12 years, was left without shelter in Benfica after police removed the zinc sheets that formed her shelter and offered to sell them back to her. After two weeks she found accommodation with relatives.
In late 2003, over 1,400 families forcibly evicted from Boavista in central Luanda in 2001 were still living in tents. In July half of the more than 4,000 families in tents in Zango, Viana municipality, were allocated new houses. Others were subsequently rehoused.
- In June, angered by the authorities' failure to provide alternative housing, former Boavista residents reportedly burned down 121 tents and occupied about 300 unfinished houses in Viana. Police and provincial government officials evicted them, beating some.
- José Rasgadinho, coordinator of the Boavista residents' commission and previously detained without charge on several occasions, was arrested in September in Viana on suspicion of planning the tent-burning in June. Although the prosecutor found no grounds to charge him and ordered his release, he remained in custody for over three days because the police said they had misplaced the release warrant. Police also reportedly refused to allow him medication for hypertension.
The managers of large estates abused the rights of people whose families had built villages or homesteads on the land before the estates were privatized. On one estate in Huila province, two people arrested on suspicion of stealing cattle were reportedly tortured with cattle prods. Two of the suspected torturers were subsequently arrested but remained untried at the end of 2003. The manager of another estate in Huila province fenced off a homestead, depriving the family of direct access to water and grazing land.
AI country visits
AI delegates visited Luanda and Cabinda in April and May to undertake research.