Press Statement on the Continued Detention of Angolan Human Rights Defenders Luther Augusto da Silva Campo, Gilson da Silva Moreira and Twenty-Six others
Johannesburg and Luanda
The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders) notes with great concern, the continued detention of human rights defenders Luther Augusto da Silva Campo, also known as “Luther King”, and Gilson da Silva Moreira, also known as “Tanaice Neutro”, who have been arbitrarily detained since January 2022.
da Silva Campo is a member of “Sociedade Civil Contestária”, a social movement that advocates for the improvement of human rights and social conditions in Angola. He was arrested on January 12, 2022 at his residence, without an arrest warrant and was not immediately informed of the reasons for his arrest and which detention facility he was being transferred to. A subsequent indictment dated February 25, 2022 charged da Silva Campo with several criminal acts including public instigation, criminal association, rebellion, outrage against the State, its symbols and organs and incitement to discrimination. According to the indictment, the charges against him arose following the monitoring of digital platforms, carried out by the National Directorate for Combating Organized Crime of the General Criminal Investigation Service (SIC).
Gilson da Silva Moreira, is also a member of Sociedade Civil Contestária. According to his colleagues, he was arrested and detained on January 14, 2022, after posting live videos on his social media platforms, where he was demanding the release of his colleague “Luther”. The arresting authorities claim that he was “caught in the act of committing a crime” and he was charged with rebellion and resistance against a public official.
Since their arrest in January 2022, the duo has not been presented before a court of law and have not been given an opportunity to apply for bail pending trial in violation of their due process rights as guaranteed under regional and international law. In addition, their lawyer has been reportedly harassed and intimidated for taking on their case. Civil society organizations such as Friends of Angola have publicly raised concern that the arrest of da Silva Campo and da Silva Moreira is in violation of Angola’s obligation to respect, protect and promote freedom of expression and access to information that is explicitly provided under article 40 of the Constitution. Furthermore, the State is misusing article 333 of the Penal Code to monitor social media networks and arbitrarily arrest citizens, particularly youth activists for criticizing the government.
The arrests and detention of da Silva Moreira and da Silva Campo are not in isolation, particularly as the country approaches the 2022 national elections. Southern Defenders is concerned with reports of an increase in the arbitrary arrest of citizens legitimately exercising their fundamental rights. On April 9, 2022, Angolan authorities arrested and detained for several days 26 peaceful protesters, for marching against the detention of political prisoners and calling for free elections. They were charged with rioting and failing to obey an order to disburse. Following summary proceedings which began on April 11, 2022, in the Comarca Court of Luanda, 20 of the 26 protesters were acquitted for lack of evidence. Two of them were sentenced to pay fines, and the remaining 4 others continue to face prosecution. The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed under Article 47 of Angola’s Constitution and protesters are only required to give notice to the authorities of their intention to gather. Human Rights Watch has condemned the arrest of the 26 as a violation of the right to peaceful assembly.
“While Angola’s human rights record has improved in recent years, we remain concerned that the cases of da Silva Moreira, da Silva Campo and the 26 protesters are an indication of a return to a restrictive environment. The rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights in a democratic society, they particularly enable citizens to engage on matters of public interest, especially as part of the election process. The stifling of citizens’ exercise of these fundamental rights undermines Angola’s democracy, particularly the legitimacy of the upcoming 2022 elections. “said Professor Adriano Nuvunga, Deputy Chairperson of Southern Defenders.
In light of these concerns, Southern Defenders urges the Government of Angola to:
- Urgently afford Luther Campos and Gilson Moreira their full due process rights including ensuring their prompt appearance before a court of law which will review the legality of their arrest and detention, and afford them the right to apply for bail and to be tried within a reasonable time;
- Immediately drop the ongoing criminal prosecution of the remaining 4 peaceful protestors, namely Nguinamau Sebastião Pedro, Manuel Kuenda Luís, Salomão Panzo and Angelo Calande, arrested on April 9, 2022;
- Respect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and information, association, and peaceful assembly, to ensure free engagement, public debate, and the right to peacefully and collectively petition the government, especially as the country approaches the 2022 elections.
- Respect the rights of human rights defenders in the country and the role that this group plays in ensuring the adherence of the State to rule of law, human rights, and good governance; and
- Review domestic criminal laws and policy to ensure alignment with the Angolan Constitution, and the regional and international conventions ratified by Angola, in order to eradicate arbitrary arrests and detention by the authorities.
Mr Washington Katema, Southern Defenders Executive Director: email@example.com / +27 73 620 2608