Journalist Rafael Marques de Morais wrote a book, and for that, he could go to jail. His book, published in Portugal in 2011, alleges serious human rights violations committed by army generals and companies in diamond fields in Angola. Those army generals and companies are taking him to court March 24th in Angola for criminal defamation, punishable under current Angolan law by both a prison term and a monetary penalty.
Mr. Marques has a long history of holding the Angolan government to account for human rights abuses and corruption through his insightful, thoughtful and well regarded journalistic investigations. Mr. Marques is the recipient of numerous prestigious international awards for his work. He is an equal opportunity human rights defender, working to expose violations no matter who is the accused or accuser. For his effort, he has been arrested and detained multiple times in Angola. The United Nations Human Rights Committee determined his prior conviction for defamation violated his rights to liberty and security of the person, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.
The book for which he is on trial, “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola,” asserts damning accusations of egregious human rights violations committed against people residing in the Lundas region in the course of diamond excavations, including death, torture and forced evictions. The military officials and diamond mining companies and private security contractors implicated first attempted to sue Mr. Marques for defamation in Portugal but the case was dismissed. They then shifted venue and pursued legal action against Mr. Marques at home.
There have already been irregularities in the legal process of Mr. Marques’ case including questioning without his legal counsel present, improper notice and summons, and the fundamental contradiction of the apparent intent of the government to call Rafael as a witness, resulting in his serving as both defendant and state witness in his own trial. The below signatory organizations and individuals are concerned about Mr. Marques’ ability to receive a fair trial as well as the repeated efforts by the Angolan government to stifle Rafael’s freedom of expression as well as that of other journalists and citizens in the country. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Media Legal Defence Initiative, The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House and many others have expressed concerns of documented deaths, disappearances, intimidation and violence toward journalists and citizens exercising their freedom of expression.
We urge the Angola legal system to recognize the December 2014 decision by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in a defamation case against a fellow journalist from Burkina Faso that prison sentences as penalties for defamation violate the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The criminal defamation law under which he is being tried should be found in violation of the Angolan constitution and Angola’s obligations under international law.
- Amnesty International-Deprose Muchena, Director Southern Africa Regional Office
- Media Legal Defence Initiative-Peter Noorlander-Chief Executive Officer
- The Southern Africa Litigation Centre-Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Executive Director
- Amnesty International USA-Steven Hawkins, Executive Director
- Reporters Sans Frontieres – Christophe Deloire, Secretary General
- Committee to Protect Journalists – Susan Valentine, Africa Program Coordinator
- Transparency International – Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director
- Global Witness – Simon Tayor, Director
- Freedom House – Mark Lagon, President
- Front Line Defenders – Mary Lawlor, Executive Director
- PEN American Center – Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director
- Newseum – Peter S. Prichard, CEO and Chairman
- World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers – Alison Meston, Director of Global Campaigns
- Amnesty International Portugal-Teresa Pina, Executive Director
- Amnesty International Brazil-Átila Roque, Executive Director
- Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights – Jeffrey Smith, Advocacy Officer
- Associação Justiça Paz e Democracia (AJPD) – Maria Lúcia da Silveira, President
- Open Society Foundation Angola – Elias Isaac, Country Director
- Publish What You Pay – Marinke van Riet, International Director
- International Commission of Jurists – Arnold Tsunga, Director, Africa Programme
- Transparency International Portugal – João Paulo Batalha, Executive Director
- East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project – Hassan Shire, Executive Director
- Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network – Hassan Shire, Chairperson
- ARTICLE 19 – Henry Omusundi Maina, Regional Director, Eastern Africa
- Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights – Irene Petras, Director
- Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa – Gaye Sowe, Director of Programs
- Human Rights Institute of South Africa – Corlett Letlojane, Executive Director
- Action des Chrétiens Pour l’Abolition de la Torture (ACAT) – Jean-Etienne de Linares, Executive Director
- OMUNGA – José Patrocínio, General Coordinator
- Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) – Donald Deya, Chief Executive Officer
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) -Tchérina Jerolon, Africa Desk Deputy Director
- DITSWANELO – Alice Mogwe, Executive Director
- Foundation for Human Rights Initiatives (FHRI) – Sheila Nabachwa, Deputy Director
- Equal Rights Trust – Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director
- WLSA Mozambique -Calista Terezinha da Silva, National Coordinator
- SADC Lawyers Association -Gilberto Caldeirra Correia, President