Angola says must restore trust in courts, in rare response to critics

2015-09-25 16:39

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Luanda - Angola needs to restore trust in its justice system by giving the public more information, a government official said, in a rare direct response to heavy criticism by human rights groups over the recent arrests of activists.

Campaigners have accused President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' government of using the judiciary to crush dissent and the European Parliament this month expressed its "concern over the deteriorating situation of human rights".

"The only mistake that we as the government and the courts have made frequently is not to ease people of doubt," António Bento Bembe, the state secretary for human rights at the ministry of justice, told Reuters on Thursday.

"If people are sceptical about our judiciary system it is because, so far, we have not been capable of presenting publicly the proof of what these citizens have done or are accused of," Bembe said, adding that the judiciary was independent.

Angola, Africa's second biggest oil exporter, has worked to rebuild its reputation since a 27-year civil war ended in 2002. It is now China's biggest trading partner in Africa and the second largest for the United States.

Crime of rebellion

Dos Santos, who has led Angola for 36 years, has maintained peace since the end of the war and overseen rapid economic growth, but his opponents say he uses a well-funded military and patronage from oil sales to keep a tight grip on power.

In June, Angolan authorities arrested 15 youth activists who were charged with the "crime of rebellion" after organising a group reading of US academic Gene Sharp's book: "From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation".

The book's blurb describes it as: "a blueprint for nonviolent resistance to repressive regimes".

Prominent human rights activist Jose Marcos Mavungo was sentenced this month to six years in prison for an "attack on the sovereignty on the Angolan state" after he organised anti-government protests in the northern oil region of Cabinda.

Mavungo was also accused of trafficking weapons. Bembe said the authorities should show the public the weapons on television to "develop a culture of informing people".

Cabinda has suffered sporadic unrest during a four-decades-long battle for independence from Angola by rebels from The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda.

Read more on:    jose eduardo dos santos  |  angola  |  southern africa

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