Earlier this week, an Angolan court dropped all criminal charges against Angolan rights activist Arão Bula Tempo due to lack of evidence to support the charges. Mr Tempo and another human rights defender, co-accused José Marcos Mavungo, were detained on 14 March 2015 for alleged involvement in the organisation of a peaceful protest against human rights violations and bad governance in the Angolan province of Cabinda. Tempo was charged with “collaboration with foreigners to constrain the Angolan state” and Mavungo with “rebellion against the state”. These are serious offences considered as crimes against the security of the State. More than a year after their initial arrest, the Angolan court refused to accept the charges levelled against Arão Tempo due to lack of evidence to support them and because some of the alleged facts did not match the offences with which the activist was charged.
Arão Bula Tempo is a human rights lawyer and President of the Provincial Council of the Angolan Bar Association in Cabinda. He has been active in denouncing human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, torture and summary executions committed by Angolan authorities. His co-accused, José Marcos Mavungo, was released on 20 May 2016 following an order of the Angolan Supreme Court stating that there was lack of evidence to support the charges brought against him.
These two cases are illustrative of the many instances where human rights activists have been wrongfully arrested and detained in Angola. Despite these challenges we are encouraged by the oversight role exercised by the Angolan judiciary which led to the release of the activists. We further applaud the courts for standing firm in the plight to uphold the principles of criminal procedure, constitutional guarantees and the fundamental right to liberty accorded to everyone.