a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings and sometimes used excessive force in maintaining stability. The national police and Angolan Armed Forces have internal mechanisms to investigate whether security force killings were justifiable and pursue prosecutions.
On May 26, several unidentified members of a security force composed of members of the National Police, Cambambe Municipal Command, Angolan Armed Forces, and China Gezhouba Group Company security fired on unarmed striking workers at the Caculo Cabaça Dam project in Cuanza Norte Province, killing three workers and injuring eight additional workers. Video circulating on social media showed a line of unidentified security personnel on a road approximately 150 yards away from a group of workers, standing in the road, unarmed, with their hands raised. Shots could be heard in the audio and at least one of the workers appeared to be hit by the gunfire. The Cuanza Norte Provincial Command of the National Police issued a press statement confirming the deaths and injuries, saying “the forces responsible for maintaining local order” responded to workers vandalizing property at the construction site in protest of poor labor conditions at the project run by the Chinese company.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Other Related Abuses
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 continued of beatings and other abuses both on the way to and inside police stations during interrogations. 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.
In March, 10 social activists were arrested while giving a lecture on local sustainable development at Agostinho Neto Primary School in Malanje. The group told reporters that they were taken to a police station and beaten for three hours by agents of the Criminal Investigation Services.
On August 27-28, several activists were reportedly beaten with clubs and rifle butts during their arrest and later at the police station by members of the Rapid Intervention force of the National Police in Lobito, Benguela Province. Among those arrested, a journalist for the nongovernmental organization (NGO) OMUNGA, Avisto Mbota, claimed he was handcuffed and beaten unconscious, and later at the police station was held down and beaten again, and told to hold a grenade with his mouth, a request which he refused.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, a lack of medical care, corruption, and violence.
Abusive Physical Conditions: Prisons had a total capacity for 21,000 inmates but held approximately 25,000 inmates, with approximately 10,000 of those inmates in pretrial detention. Authorities frequently held pretrial detainees with sentenced inmates. Authorities also held short-term detainees with those serving long-term sentences for violent crimes, especially in provincial prisons. Inmates who were unable to pay court-ordered fines remained in prison after completing their sentence or while awaiting release warrants issued by higher courts. Some offenders, including violent offenders, reported paying fines and bribes to secure their freedom, but it was unclear how prevalent this practice was.
Prison conditions varied widely between urban and rural areas. Prisons in rural areas were less crowded and had better rehabilitation, training, and reintegration services. There were no reports of deaths in prisons, but there were reports of inmates becoming sick due to the poor conditions of the prisons, including with COVID-19. Local NGOs stated prisons did not always provide adequate prison services, such as medical care, sanitation, potable water, or food, and it was customary for families to bring food to prisoners.
On June 13, Ombudsperson Florbela Araújo visited Viana jail, in Luanda Province, and said the facility was overcrowded and had excess cases of persons in pretrial detention. The facility had a capacity for 2,384, although there were 3,248 inmates, of whom 2,609 were in pretrial detention. She also expressed concern regarding the poor health condition of some inmates and noticed the laboratory for clinical analysis was not operational.
Administration: The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits to prisons by independent local observers. Nevertheless, civil society organizations faced difficulties in contacting detainees, and prison authorities undermined civil society work by impeding their ability to enter the prisons.
In December 2021, members of the Provincial Human Rights Committee of Bié visited three jails. The committee’s representative, Aldino Salumbo, said prisons were overcrowded and there were several cases of pretrial detention.
In February the ombudsperson visited the jail in Caboxa, Bengo Province.
Improvements: During the year three additional videoconference rooms were added to detention facilities. These were used for virtual meetings between inmates and relatives or lawyers.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government did not always observe these requirements.
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, although the constitution protects the right to protest. While they often released detainees after a few hours, police at times charged them with crimes.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
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 prosecutors must inform detainees of the legal basis for their detention within 48 hours. NGO sources reported authorities often did not respect the law. If prosecutors are unable to determine whether there is a legal basis for the detention within 48 hours, prosecutors have the authority to release the person from detention. Depending on the seriousness of the case, prosecutors may require the detained person to submit to one or more pretrial procedures prescribed by law, such as posting bail, periodic appearance before authorities, or house arrest.
If prosecutors determine a legal basis exists for the detention, a detained person may 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 matter. Cases of special complexity regarding crimes for which conviction is 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. By law the period of pretrial detention counts as time served in fulfillment of a sentence of imprisonment.
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 the right to a lawyer. There was an insufficient number to handle the volume of criminal cases, and the geographic distribution of lawyers was a problem, since most lawyers were concentrated in Luanda. Lawyers and NGOs noted that even in Luanda, most indigent defendants did not have access to lawyers during their first appearance before a judicial authority or during their trial. When a lawyer is unavailable, a judge may appoint a clerk of the court to represent the defendant, but clerks of the court often lacked the necessary training to provide an adequate defense. In June research was published on detained women in six provinces that was conducted in 2020 by the Justice, Peace and Democracy Association. It showed only 34 percent of women had access to a lawyer on the first appearance before a public prosecutor.
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.
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 allows detainees to 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. There were instances in which lawyers were not allowed to communicate with detainees during the 48-hour period.
Arbitrary Arrest: During the year there were instances in which security forces reacted violently to public demonstrations against the government and detained protesters. The visible presence of security forces was often enough to deter significantly what the government deemed unlawful demonstrations. In certain cases, members of groups organizing protests were arrested at their homes prior to the protest.
On March 19, following a clash between two opposing political parties in Sanza Pombo, Uige Province, 26 persons, all members of the main opposition party, were arrested and held for four months without trial before being released for lack of evidence of their participation.
On September 13-14, two political activists were arrested without a warrant by unidentified armed police at their homes in Luanda Province and held until September 19 without communication with their lawyer for alleged charges of defamation of the president on social media, which were later dismissed.
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. Many prisoners were held in pretrial detention longer than permitted under law, which ranges from four to 14 months depending on the severity and complexity of the alleged crime. In some cases, authorities held inmates in prison for up to five years in pretrial detention. The length of pretrial detention at times equaled or exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime. 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.
In her visits to prisons, Ombudsperson Araújo noted cases of delays of release warrants in Caboxa jail, Bengo Province, and cases of excessive pretrial detention in Viana jail, Luanda Province.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent and impartial judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. The judicial system was affected by institutional weaknesses, including political influence in the decision-making process.
There were long trial delays at the Supreme Court, in part because it remained the only appellate court in the country at the beginning of the year. A 2015 law established another level of appellate courts to reduce delays. During the year, three of these courts were inaugurated in Luanda, Benguela, and Lubango, recruited judges, and personnel began operating. Criminal courts also had a large backlog of cases that resulted in major delays in hearings. In March court cases were also delayed by striking Supreme Court clerks, which effectively shut down the courts for several weeks.
The national police and the Angolan Armed Forces have internal court systems that generally remained closed to outside scrutiny. Although members of these organizations may be tried under their internal regulations, cases that include violations of criminal or civil laws may also fall under the jurisdiction of provincial courts. Both the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights have civilian oversight responsibilities over military courts.
The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right.
At times, authorities did not inform defendants of the charges levied against them in detail within 48 hours of their detention as required by law. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, all public defenders are licensed lawyers, but at times, especially in rural locations, defendants were represented by clerks of the court due to lack of availability of lawyers. Defense lawyers did not always have access to prosecution files and evidence in a timely manner to prepare a defense. Defense lawyers were not always given adequate facilities to prepare case work.
A separate juvenile court hears cases of children between the ages of 12 and 16 accused of committing a criminal offense. Children older than 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 may be tried as adults.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were reports of political prisoners.
On January 12, activist Luther Campos “King” was detained at his home in Luanda without a warrant following a protest that had turned violent two days before. King was charged with inciting vandalism, rebellion, insult against the president, association with wrongdoers, and of criminal participation in the destruction of a Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) local office. His trial began on December 9. Several witnesses were heard by the court, but as of year’s end no verdict had been reached.
On February 25, more than a year after his arrest, Jose Mateus Zecamutchima, leader of the Lunda Tchokwe Protectorate Movement, was sentenced to four years and six months in prison on charges of instigating collective disobedience that led to a deadly January 2021 clash between protesters and police in Cafunfo, Lunda Norte Province. He was held for seven months before being formally indicted. Media sources viewed his detention and conviction as politically motivated, stating that he was in a different province at the time of the clash, while the government claimed his separatist speeches had led to the gathering and resulting violent clash.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Damages for human rights abuses may be sought in provincial courts, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court. The law allows victims of human rights abuses to seek compensation from the state. The rules provide that the state must compensate victims who are illegally detained or arrested, are under excessively long pretrial detention, are not released in due time against a legal provision or a court decision or are victims of a gross judicial error. Public agents responsible for actions that abuse human rights should in turn compensate the state. During the year, there were no known cases where the state compensated victims.
Property Seizure and Restitution
The government evicted persons from their places of residence or seized their property without due process or adequate restitution. On April 9, hundreds of families residing on land adjacent to the newly constructed airport on the outskirts of the capital city Luanda were evicted and their homes demolished with no warning. Victims claimed government workers supported by the National Police arrived at 4 a.m. and began demolishing homes, claiming they were on government-reserved land. Documenting land ownership often takes years to complete, resulting in many residents not having a clear title to the land or home they have lived in for many years.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit the arbitrary or unlawful interference of privacy, family, home, or correspondence, 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 that the government monitored their activities and membership on social media and allegedly used spyware to monitor their whereabouts and telephone conversations. These groups also frequently complained of threats and harassment based on their affiliations with groups that were purportedly or explicitly antigovernment.