Angola is a constitutional republic. The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has been in power since independence in 1975. In August 2012, the government held the first presidential and legislative elections following the promulgation of the 2010 constitution. The MPLA received 71.8 percent of the vote, and in September 2012, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos began a five-year term as president under the new constitution.
Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.
The three most important human rights abuses were cruel, excessive, and degrading punishment, including reported cases of torture and beatings; limits on freedoms of assembly, association, speech, and press; and official corruption and impunity.
Other human rights abuses included arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life; harsh and potentially life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; impunity for human rights abusers; lack of due process and judicial inefficiency; forced evictions without compensation; restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); harassment of and violence against women and children; child labor; trafficking in persons; limits on workers’ rights; and forced labor.
The government took some steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses; however, accountability was weak due to a lack of checks and balances, lack of institutional capacity, a culture of impunity, and widespread government corruption.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
In carrying out law enforcement activities, the government or its agents used excessive and sometimes deadly force.
For example, on August 6, security force members reportedly shot and killed a 14-year-old boy, Rufino Antonio, after they demolished his family’s and other allegedly illegally built homes in a suburban Luanda zone, according to media sources and several NGOs (see section 1.e.). The government and the national ombudsman launched separate investigations into the shooting death, both of which remained ongoing at year’s end.
On April 5, the Huambo provincial court sentenced Jose Kalupeteka, the leader of the Light of the World religious sect, to 28 years in prison for the 2015 clashes between members of his group and police that left 13 civilians and nine police officers dead, according to official figures, although opposition parties continued to allege a higher casualty rate. On August 9, new clashes between police and Light of the World followers in Kwanza Sul Province reportedly resulted in the deaths of five church members and three police officers, and a similar confrontation on August 13 resulted in an unknown number of casualties. The government stated the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) was investigating.
On August 21, media reported that an officer of Alfa 5 Security Services, a private security company affiliated with the government’s diamond enterprise, Endiama, allegedly killed 17-year-old Gabriel Mufugueno, in Lucapa, Lunda Norte Province. According to a relative of the victim, police detained the Alfa 5 officer allegedly responsible for the shooting. The incident elicited protests from artisanal miners in the area.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but the government did not always enforce these prohibitions. Periodic reports of beatings and other abuses of persons on the way to and in police stations during interrogations continued. The government acknowledged that at times members of the security forces used excessive force when apprehending individuals. Police authorities openly condemned some acts of violence or excessive force against individuals and asked that victims report abuses to the national police or the Office of the Public Defender (Ombudsman).
On September 1, Jose Padrao Loureiro, suspected of belonging to a gang, was beaten and killed by police inside Rangel Police Station, following his arrest on August 31, according to press reports. During the one-day detention, Loureiro was allegedly tortured and killed. National Police Spokesperson Mateus Rodrigues said an autopsy revealed the victim was severely beaten. Authorities opened an investigation on September 5 and detained five police officers.
Security forces reacted harshly and sometimes violently to public demonstrations against the government. Several media and NGO accounts reported police around the country, in particular in the provinces of Luanda, Malanje, Benguela, and the city of Lobito, beat protesters. The visible presence of security forces was enough to deter significantly what were deemed by the government to be unlawful demonstrations. Authorities claimed known agitators who sought only to create social instability organized many of the public demonstrations.
The media reported that, on August 20, during a protest in Luanda calling for the resignation of President dos Santos and for the release of activist Dago Nivel, police allegedly beat several protesters and used the police canine brigade to disrupt the protest; dogs wounded three protesters. The media provided photographs of the incident, including of men with visible bite wounds. Police reportedly later drove a group of protesters, including the men wounded by the canine brigade, to the outskirts of the city and left them there. The General Command of the National Police denied any knowledge of the case.
There were reports of abuses by private security companies in diamond producing regions.
For example, on April 21, in the Cafunfo diamond area, in Lunda-Norte province, private security guards working for a private company allegedly severely beat 10 artisanal miners with machetes, according to a media report that included a video of the incident.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening. Domestic NGOs, activists, and the media continued to highlight corruption, violence, overcrowding, a lack of medical care, and generally poor conditions.
Physical Conditions: In April Antonio Fortunato, director general of penitentiary services, acknowledged overcrowding in prisons was a serious problem.
Authorities frequently held pretrial detainees with sentenced inmates, and short-term detainees with those serving long-term sentences for violent crimes, especially in provincial prisons.
Prison conditions varied widely between urban and rural areas. Prisons in rural areas were less crowded and reportedly had better rehabilitation, training, and reintegration services. Prisons did not always provide adequate medical care, sanitation, potable water, or food, and it was customary for families to bring food to prisoners. Local NGOs stated prison services were insufficient. In 2015 Fortunato acknowledged that approximately five prisoners died each month in the country’s prisons from diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.
In April, Fortunato acknowledged that Viana Jail (on the outskirts of Luanda) lacked adequate potable water and food for inmates. On September 14, activist Nuno Dala published photos allegedly taken inside Viana Jail depicting severely overcrowded conditions and several inmates suffering from malnutrition and tuberculosis due to a lack of food and potable water. On September 16, the newspaper Novo Jornal published a report on the allegedly deplorable conditions; the report included photographs of prisoners who appeared to be malnourished. Novo Jornal also reported that the Rapid Intervention Police (PIR) and the Special Prison Services Detachment (DESP) tortured one of the prisoners allegedly for his role in sharing photos with persons outside the jail. Observers generally regard the newspaper as credible; however, its reporting on conditions inside Viana Jail could not be independently verified.
According to a press report, female inmates accused two officials from the Human Resources and Penal Control Units of the Kwanza Sul Jail of coercing them to have sex in order to be released from prison under the new Amnesty Law. Authorities launched an investigation, and on September 26, the PGR announced the investigation concluded the claims of sexual abuse were false and there were no irregularities in the prison’s inmate release procedures.
Administration: The Ministry of Interior claimed that adequate statistics were available in each facility and that authorities were able to locate every prisoner.
The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions. There was no prison ombudsperson.
Some offenders, including violent offenders, reported paying fines and bribes to secure their freedom but it was unclear how prevalent this practice was.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits to prisons by independent local and international human rights observers and foreign diplomats. For example, the government permitted foreign diplomats to visit the “15 + 2” activists during their imprisonment (section 1.d.). Nevertheless, civil society organizations faced difficulties in contacting detainees, and prison authorities undermined civil society work in the prisons.
Members of opposition parties visited prisons around the country on a regular basis and reported uneven improvements in living conditions and rehabilitation programs. A local NGO that provides pro bono legal services to inmates said prison officials were trying to improve conditions but overcrowding limited results. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the ministry made monthly visits to detention centers with representatives of the Office of the Public Defender, the PGR, and members of the National Assembly to assess prisoners’ living conditions.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, security forces did not always respect these prohibitions.
According to several NGO and civil society sources, police arbitrarily arrested individuals without due process and routinely detained persons who participated, or were about to participate, in antigovernment protests, despite this right being protected by the constitution. They often released the detainees after a few hours. For example, on August 21, in Lobito, police beat and arrested activists Paulo Vinte-Cinco and Francisco Catraio of the Revolutionary Movement while they participated in a weekly meeting with other youth to discuss politics. More than 20 police officers broke up the meeting and dispersed the participants. Police released the two activists the next day.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The national police, controlled by the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for internal security and law enforcement. The Expatriate and Migration Services (SME), also in the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for migration law enforcement. The state intelligence and security service reports to the presidency and investigates sensitive state security matters. The Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) are responsible for external security but also had domestic security responsibilities, including border security, expulsion of irregular migrants, and small-scale actions against Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda separatists in Cabinda.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the FAA and the national police, and the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The security forces generally were effective, although sometimes brutal, at maintaining stability. The national police and FAA have internal mechanisms to investigate security force abuses, and the government provided some training to reform the security forces. Impunity for security force abuses remained a problem, however.
Local population generally welcomed police presence in neighborhoods and on streets as enhancing general safety and security. Police officers, however, were believed routinely to extort civilians to supplement their income. Corruption and impunity remained serious problems. The national police handled most complaints internally through opaque disciplinary procedures, which sometimes led to formal punishment including dismissal. The national police participated in a television series designed to show a gamut of interactions between police and civilians. The goal of the show was to encourage the population to collaborate with police while discouraging security force members’ procurement of bribes or their payment. The PGR has an anticorruption unit, charged with oversight of police wrongdoing. The government disclosed publicly the results of some investigations that led to disciplinary action. On September 17, authorities terminated two police officers for extorting money from drivers during traffic stops, according to a press report. On September 13, the government announced the deployment of 400 newly trained police officers as part of an effort to eliminate corruption from the police force.
Police participated in professional training with law enforcement officials from several countries in the region.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
In December 2015 a new law on pretrial procedures (Law 25/15) entered into force.
The law requires a magistrate or judge to issue a warrant before an arrest may be made, although a person caught committing an offense may be arrested immediately without a warrant. Authorities, however, did not always procure warrants before making an arrest.
By law the public prosecutor must inform the detainee of the legal basis for his or her detention within 48 hours; however, NGO sources reported authorities often did not respect this requirement. If the public prosecutor is unable to determine whether there is a legal basis for the detention within 48 hours, the prosecutor has the authority to release the person or, depending on the seriousness of the case, require the person to submit to one or more pretrial procedures prescribed by law such as posting bail, periodic appearance before authorities, or house arrest.
If the public prosecutor determines a legal basis exists for the detention, a person can be held in pretrial detention for up to four months without charge and up to 12 months before a judge is required to rule on the case. Cases of special complexity regarding crimes punishable by eight or more years allow for pretrial detention without charge for up to six months and up to 14 months before a judge is required to rule on the case. Under the law, the period of pretrial detention counts toward the total amount of time served.
The law states that all detainees have the right to a lawyer, either chosen by them or appointed by the government on a pro-bono basis. The lack of lawyers in certain provinces at times impeded this right. On September 24, the head of the Angolan Bar Association (ABA) stated there were 1,700 lawyers in the country, an insufficient number to handle the volume of criminal cases, and the geographical distribution of lawyers throughout the country was a problem, as most lawyers were concentrated in Luanda. In 2015 the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights reported that all municipal courts were staffed with licensed lawyers, but at the same time recognized access to a lawyer, especially in the provinces and in rural areas, remained a problem. Several lawyers and NGOs noted that even in Luanda most poor defendants do not have access to lawyers during their first appearance before a judicial authority or during their trial.
The law allows family members prompt access to detainees, but prison officials occasionally ignored this right or made it conditional upon payment of a bribe. The law requires detainees be held incommunicado for up to 48 hours until being presented to a public prosecutor, except they may communicate with their lawyer or a family member.
A functioning but ineffective bail system, widely used for minor crimes, existed. Prisoners and their families reported that prison officials demanded bribes to release prisoners.
Arbitrary Arrest: Unlawful arrest and detention remained serious problems. According to the PGR, allegations of government wrongdoing on arrest practices made by local and international NGOs were due to a lack of understanding of national laws.
Pretrial Detention: Excessively long pretrial detention continued to be a serious problem. An inadequate number of judges and poor communication among authorities contributed to the problem. In some cases, authorities held inmates in prison for up to two years before their trials began. The Ministry of Interior reported during the year that 11,000 inmates were pretrial detainees, approximately 45 percent of the total inmate population. The government often did not release detainees confined beyond the legal time limit, claiming previous releases of pretrial detainees had resulted in an increase in crime.
Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution provides the right of habeas corpus to citizens to challenge their detention before a court. On June 29, the Supreme Court granted the group of activists known as the “15+2” a writ of habeas corpus, ruling that following their March conviction and sentencing to between two and eight years in prison by the Luanda Provincial Court the appeal lodged by their lawyers had a suspensive effect and required their release pending the outcome of their appeal. Judge Domingos Januario, the judge of first instance for the Luanda Provincial Court, was later accused of concealing the activists’ petition for habeas corpus from the Supreme Court. The attorney general launched an investigation of the judge’s handling of the case, which remained ongoing as of September.
The case against the “15+2” began in June 2015 in Luanda, when 15 activists were arrested by security forces during a book discussion. In September 2015, after 102 days of pretrial detention, they and two other individuals were charged with engaging in “preparatory acts to incite rebellion and for planning the overthrow of the president and other institutions of the state.” The activists are collectively referred to as the “15+2.” The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR claimed the legal process to detain and charge the activists had been conducted within the law.
Amnesty: On July 20, the National Assembly passed the Amnesty Law (11/16), providing a general amnesty to criminals convicted prior to November 11, 2015, of nonviolent crimes whose sentences were 12 or fewer years in prison. Government representatives stated that the law, proposed by the president in honor of the country’s fortieth anniversary of independence in 2015, was also intended to ease overcrowding in prisons. As of September 23, more than 2,500 prisoners were released under the new law.
The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary. Institutional weaknesses in the judicial system, however, such as political influence in the decision-making process, were problems. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR worked to improve the independence of prosecutors and judges. The National Institute for Judicial Studies conducted capacity-building programs on the importance of an independent judicial system.
There were long trial delays at the Supreme Court. Criminal courts also had a large backlog of cases, which resulted in major delays in hearings. There were only 22 municipal courts for 163 municipalities. To increase access to justice, the PGR in 2014 established offices of legal counsel in most municipalities.
Informal courts remained the principal institutions through which citizens resolved civil conflicts in rural areas, such as disputes over a bartering deal. Each community in which informal courts were located established local rules, creating disparities in how similar cases were resolved from one community to the next. Traditional leaders (known as “sobas”) also heard and decided local civil cases. Sobas do not have the authority to resolve criminal cases; only courts can hear criminal cases.
Both the national police and the FAA have internal court systems that generally remained closed to outside scrutiny. Although members of these organizations can be tried under their internal regulations, cases that include violations of criminal or civil laws can also fall under the jurisdiction of provincial courts. Both the PGR and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights have civilian oversight responsibilities over military courts.
In November 2015 the judge presiding over the case of the “15+2” activists charged with “preparatory acts to incite rebellion and for planning the overthrow of the president and other institutions of the state” ordered closure of the public trial to independent observers such as members of the diplomatic corps and local NGOs due to the high level of interest in the proceedings and space constraints. Attendance by the public was limited to two family members per defendant. He made special accommodations for reporters to follow the trial in a separate room via closed circuit television. Independent observers were present in other high-profile and sensitive trials such as the 2015 libel and defamation case of Rafael Marques and the 2015 rebellion case against Marcos Mavungo.
Although the law provides all citizens the right to a fair trial, authorities did not always respect this right. Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Authorities must inform defendants of the charges levied against them in detail within 48 hours of their detention. Defendants have the right to free language interpretation during all legal proceedings from the moment charged through all appeals. By law trials are usually public, although each court has the right to close proceedings. Defendants have the right to be present and consult with an attorney, either chosen by them or appointed by the state, in a timely manner. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, all public defenders are licensed lawyers. Defendants do not have the right to confront their accusers. They may question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right to sufficient time and facilities to prepare a defense. The law protects defendants from providing self-incriminating testimony. Individuals have the right to appeal their convictions. Authorities did not always respect these trial procedure rights.
Defendants and their attorneys have the right to access government-held evidence relevant to their cases, but authorities did not always uphold this right. For example, in March 2015 political activist Marcos Mavungo was arrested on suspicion of plotting an act of violence against the provincial government of Cabinda. In September 2015, more than 200 days after his arrest, Mavungo was convicted of charges of rebellion against the state and sentenced to six years in prison. His lawyers complained publicly they did not have access to the evidence the government claimed it had to prove guilt; however, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the PGR stated that Mavungo’s case was conducted within appropriate parameters for a case involving national security and that the sentence reflected the seriousness of the crime. Mavungo appealed his sentence. On May 20, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, acquitting the activist of the charge of rebellion against the state. The Supreme Court cited in its ruling a lack of sufficient evidence to uphold the charge.
A separate juvenile court is designated for children’s affairs. The juvenile court hears cases of minors between the ages of 12 and 16 accused of committing a criminal offense. Minors over age 16 accused of committing a criminal offense are tried in regular courts. In many rural municipalities, there is no provision for juvenile courts, so offenders as young as 12 can be tried as adults. In many cases traditional leaders have state authority to resolve disputes and determine punishments for civil offenses, including offenses committed by juveniles. Traditional authorities are defined in the constitution as ad hoc units of the state.
The president appoints Supreme Court justices for life terms without confirmation by the National Assembly. The Supreme Court generally hears cases concerning alleged political and security crimes.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights denied there were political prisoners in the country. Opposition political parties, however, often claimed their members were detained because of their political affiliations. Media reports of opposition parties’ members being harassed and detained for up to 48 hours were common but difficult to confirm.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Damages for human rights violations may be sought in municipal or provincial courts and appealed to the Supreme Court.
The constitution recognizes the right to housing and quality of life, and the law states that persons relocated should receive fair compensation. Under the constitution all untitled land belongs to the state. Throughout the year the government used eminent domain laws to raze housing settlements and other buildings to carry out urban redevelopment projects. According to NGO sources and multiple press reports, security forces demolished hundreds of allegedly illegal, privately built homes in Zango, a suburban Luanda zone that falls within the restrictive perimeter of the Luanda-Bengo Economic zone. These demolitions reportedly displaced thousands of persons and resulted in several deaths during the year. In addition to the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy in August (section 1.a.), the demolitions resulted in the accidental decapitation of an infant in April and the deaths of two individuals with medical conditions in August. Some persons forced to move did not receive fair compensation, at times due to lack of clear title or permits for the destroyed property. Relocated persons who received new housing units often complained their units were located far from their jobs or places of business, or were of substandard quality. There was no new information on the status of a 2015 investigation into reports security forces harassed activists working for SOS Habitat, an NGO dealing with land rights.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. Civil organizations and politically active individuals, including government critics, members of opposition parties, and journalists, complained the government maintained surveillance of their activities and membership. These groups also frequently complained of threats and harassment based on their affiliations with groups that were purportedly or explicitly antigovernment. On July 29, Monica Almeida, the wife of “15+2” activist Luaty Beirao, was stopped by two police vehicles while driving in Luanda. Almeida alleged that police blocked her cell phone to prevent her from calling for help and ordered her to drive with the police vehicles for three hours as they proceeded aimlessly around the city, according to press reports. The police responsible later claimed they had mistaken Almeida for a suspected criminal and announced an investigation into the incident.