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Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Angola

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 18 June 2009
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Angola, 18 June 2009, available at: [accessed 5 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis 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.

Political context

Angola held in September 2008 its first legislative elections since 1992. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which rules the country since 1975, won most of the seats, holding now 191 out of 220. The elections were recognised as valid by the European Union observer mission, which noted the absence of significant incidents but some important gaps and the lack of clarity in the regulations governing two fundamental aspects in the exercise of suffrage.1 Next presidential elections being scheduled in 2009, president José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for 29 years, has been mentioning throughout the year the possibility to be elected through indirect elections rather than universal direct elections as provided for in the constitution.

Human rights reporting in the region of Cabinda has long been inexistent since "Mpalabanda", the only human rights organisation operating in the Angolan Province, was banned in 2006. Furthermore, on September 19, 2008, Mr. Fernando Lelo, a correspondent for Voice of America, who wrote articles critical of the Memorandum of Understanding for Peace and Reconciliation in Cabinda and the peace process was sentenced by a military Court to 12 years' imprisonment on charges of crimes against the State security and instigating a rebellion in Cabinda. He had been arrested in Cabinda on November 15, 2007.2

Restrictions faces by defenders of economic, social and cultural rights

In its concluding observations, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern in November 2008 that NGOs involved in the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights were allegedly still under strict oversight, coordination, evaluation and inspections carried out by the Technical Unit of the Coordination of the Humanitarian Assistance (UTCAH), and that human rights defenders were still subjected to many legal as well as de facto restrictions, which constitutes a serious obstacle to the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights.3

Restriction of freedom of association in the context of the elections

Though NGOs are regulated by a declaratory regime, meaning they only have to inform about their creation, NGOs continued in 2008 to experience difficulties to get a proper registration certificate from the Ministry of Justice. This implies that they can be considered as illegal at any moment. In the electoral context, the authorities have radicalised their position against human rights monitoring. Indeed, on April 18, 2008, a few months before the elections, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, present in Angola since 2003, announced that the Government had asked it to close its offices by May 31.4 Furthermore, the Association for Justice, Peace and Democracy (Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia – AJPD), one of the most active human rights organisation in Angola, which in June 2008 had called on the Angolan authorities not to unilaterally change the electoral law and extend the elections over two days, rather than one, was reminded that its was considered as an illegal organisation. Prior to the elections, AJPD had also put out statements condemning alleged electoral irregularities and vote-buying. On September 4, 2008 – on the eve of the polling – the Constitutional Court informed AJPD that it had 15 days to challenge proceedings aiming at the closure of the organisation.5 On September 19, AJPD presented its defence. In a new submission the General Prosecutor changed the content of its legal action that aims no longer at the extinction of the association but at suppressing or rewriting those articles that are considered to be contrary to the Law of associations. Articles challenged include in particular Article 6 paragraphs b and c on the objectives of the association since the Prosecutor considers that denouncing human rights violations committed by State agents is a State prerogative. AJPD had also argued that the matter was not constitutional but rather civil and administrative and in consequence the case should be heard by a lower court. As of the end of 2008 no further notice had been delivered on the situation of the legal action. Meanwhile, AJPD was able to continue operating since there is a presumption of legality until the Court has taken its decision. If the decision is in favour of the association, the Ministry of Justice will have to issue a registration certificate. If not, and depending on the arguments of the Court, the association shall be requested to re-write this article or appeal the decision.

Urgent Interventions issued by The Observatory in 20086

Names of human rights defenders / NGOsViolationsIntervention ReferenceDate of Issuance
Association for Justice, peace and democracy (AJPD)Obstacles to freedom of associationUrgent Appeal AGO 001/0908/ OBS 149September 8, 2008
Joint Press ReleaseOctober 2, 2008

1 These regulations concern the effective and compulsory use of voters' lists in each and every polling station, as well as the procedures for the exercise, transmission and counting of special ballots. See in European Union Observation Mission, Final report, Angola, Parliamentary Elections, September 5, 2008, September 22, 2008.

2 See Amnesty International Press Release, September 22, 2008. Cabinda is an exclave located on the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

3 See UN Document E/C.12/AGO/CO/3, December 1, 2008.

4 See UN News Centre Press Release, April 18, 2008.

5 A legal complaint against AJPD had been lodged by the Attorney General in 2003 on the grounds that the organisation's statutes did not conform to the law.

6 See the Compilation of cases in the CD-Rom attached to this report.

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