HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONSIDERS REPORT OF ANGOLA
The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Angola on how that country implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Rui Carneiro Mangueira, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Angola, presenting the report, recalled that after independence, Angola had suffered from a period of armed conflict and had not enjoyed the necessary conditions to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Now that Angola had achieved peace and political stability, and the consolidation of the democratic process, it was possible to present its initial report to the Committee, covering the period from April 1992 to December 2010. Angola had achieved significant political progress, particularly in the preservation of rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens and with the involvement of civil society and non-governmental organizations, but much remained to be done. While the human rights situation had improved after 20 years of armed conflict, obstacles remained and a proper national infrastructure and additional staff were needed.
During the discussion, Committee Experts asked for more details regarding the application of the Covenant by national courts. How had the courts intervened to rehabilitate victims of human rights violations and to provide compensation. Had the national action plan on human rights, to be implemented by 2012, been launched? Had the office of the Ombudsman been set up for cosmetic purposes or did it play its vital role, including communicating human rights in the form of training? Experts inquired about the availability of statistical data on domestic and family violence, gender equality, and persons with disabilities, refugees and migrant workers in this respect? Were shelters for victims and programmes to educate the population on public violence available? One Expert urged Angola to decriminalize abortion.
The delegation of Angola was made up of representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Permanent Representative of Angola to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Ministry of Economy, the Interchange Department at the Ministry of Economy, the United Nations Department at the Ministry of External Relations, the Department for Correctional Matters at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the General Deputy Attorney, the Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women, the Ministry of Urbanism and Housing, the Ministry of Public Administration, Labour and Social Security and the Ministry of Education.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Carneiro Mangueira thanked the Committee for the opportunity to discuss the remaining challenges faced and for the constructive dialogue. Angola was ready and willing to cooperate with the Committee and reiterated its commitment to implementing the provisions of the Covenant.
Nigel Rodley, Chairperson of the Committee, in concluding remarks, said that he was impressed by how far Angola had come after the civil war between 1975 and 2002. The abolition of the death penalty had been an important step even before Angola became a party to the Covenant. Although the delegation had explained its laws, it had not always demonstrated how they were compatible with the Covenant; and some of the Experts’ questions would probably linger, for example, those concerning the practice of pre-trial detentions and those regarding the situation of immigrants.
The concluding observations and recommendations of the Committee on the report of Angola will be released towards the end of the session of the Committee, which concludes on Thursday, 28 March.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be held at 3 p.m. this afternoon when the Committee will consider the situation of Belize in absence of a report.
Presentation of the Report
RUI JORGE CARNEIRO MANGUEIRA, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Angola, presenting the initial report of Angola (CCPR/C/AGO/1), recalled that after independence, Angola had suffered from a period of armed conflict and had not enjoyed the necessary conditions to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Now that Angola had achieved peace and political stability, and the consolidation of the democratic process, it was possible to present its initial report to the Committee, covering the period from April 1992 to December 2010. Angola had achieved significant political progress, particularly in the preservation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens and with the involvement of civil society and non-governmental organizations, but much remained to be done. While the human rights situation had improved after 20 years of armed conflict, obstacles remained and a proper national infrastructure and additional staff were needed.
Angola’s new Constitution, approved in 2010, reaffirmed the fundamental principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In this context, Angola had experienced a dynamic process of reconstruction, economic development and legislative reform, with the participation of civil society and non-governmental organizations. Among the measures taken, a commission for legal and judicial reform had been created and was now in its third stage, assessing the penal code. Significant institutional weaknesses remained, including the lack of qualified staff and the need for appropriate legislation. Angola was also looking into labour reform, notaries and the modernization of courts using computerization.
In relation to its legal and constitutional framework, Angolan courts had implemented international instruments to which Angola was a State party, including the Covenant. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter of Human Rights were enshrined in its legal framework and, regarding the promotion of and protection of civil and political rights, an inter-sectoral commission had been created to strengthen the relationship with civil society. In this context, laws consecrating the principle of equality and the protection of children had been approved.
Mr. Carneiro Mangueira said that the abolition of the death penalty pre-dated Angola’s accession to the Covenant. Angola’s Constitution prohibited torture, cruel and unusual punishment, and violators were held criminally responsible. A prison director had been immediately removed from his post as an example of the implementation of this law. Alleged instances of impunity were being addressed and codes of conduct existed for the national police and the armed forces, including civil and penal responsibility for proven offenses, and victims of torture had the right to press charges before the competent authorities. Prisons were improving and new ones were being built to address the problem of overcrowding. In order to humanize the national penitentiary system, prison staff members were receiving human rights training. The rights of persons in prison were protected and allegations of human rights violations would be investigated. Relatives, human rights defenders, diplomats and international human rights observers had free access to prisons to ensure that such guarantees were respected.
Concerning allegations of systematic acts of sexual violence against immigrant women in Angola during the process of repatriation, Mr. Carneiro Mangueira reiterated that this was not a State policy and that the process of repatriation was conducted with respect for human rights and international law. The Government had been working with the International Organization for Migration, the Red Cross and the Office of Commissioner for Refugees to combat and prevent these practices.
The right to freedom of religion was enshrined in the Constitution. Religious groups and denominations had proliferated and did not face restrictions to the exercise of religious activities. A Commission had been created in 2009 to analyse the origins and objectives of these organisations and their impact on society. Many of these groups were carrying out reprehensible acts such as promising miraculous cures, accusing children and elderly persons of witchcraft, and disturbing the public order.
The protection of children was one of the priorities of the Government. Accusations of witchcraft against children had appeared among a number of religious groups, which profited from the vulnerability of some families. Most instances of child labour were found in the informal sector and the issue was being addressed. The Government had implemented measures to reduce poverty, especially among rural families, and fostered legislation banning forced labour and setting a minimum working age to protect children. A national programme to reinforce the protection of children had been put into place in all provinces and had identified numerous cases of exploitation and referred children to protection centres. Juvenile courts separated youths from adults and protected their rights and, while many went back to their previous criminal activities, the Government was addressing the problem by setting up re-education centres.
Free and fair elections were enshrined in the Constitution and had been carried out in 1992, 2008 and 2012, as observers in the last elections had confirmed. Anti-corruption measures included legislation to improve transparency, and public property laws and laws against money laundering had also been put in place. The Government had changed the law on public procurement and auditors had been appointed to oversee Government contracts. The Government reiterated its commitment to bolster the consolidation of the rule of law in Angola.
Questions by Experts
ZONKE ZANELE MAJODINA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the report of Angola, welcomed the initial report and took note of the new Constitution. Ms. Majodina requested additional details concerning cases in which courts had applied the rules of the Covenant and asked whether national laws were giving effect to the rights in the Covenant. How had the courts intervened to rehabilitate victims of human rights violations and in order to provide compensation? Was the Covenant sufficiently known among judges and magistrates? Concerning two cases currently under the Committee’s follow-up procedures, the Committee had not yet received a response from Angola since 2008, was Angola cooperating in these cases?
Ms. Majodina asked whether the national action plan on human rights, to be implemented by 2012, had been launched. With regards to the Office of the Ombudsman, had the Office been set up for cosmetic purposes or did play its vital role, including communicating human rights in the form of training? Were citizens’ complaints being received and investigated? Another vexing issue concerned the independence and impartiality of this Office, how was the Office funded, did it have any links to the branches of the Government? Was the Office constitutionally entrenched and was the public aware of its independence and role? Were the reports issued by the Ombudsman widely circulated?
Another Expert inquired about domestic and family violence and gender equality. Was statistical data available on how many women were subject to domestic violence? Was data on domestic violence available concerning persons with disabilities, refugees and migrant workers? Were there any shelters for victims or programmes to educate the population? Were police officers trained to deal with cases of domestic violence?
There was no practice of female genital mutilation but what about other worrying practices, such as early marriages? It was noted that girls subjected to early marriages had their childhoods broken and Expert requested information about Angola’s steps to prevent this practice. Children belonged in school and not in a household caring for a husband, were there laws to prevent these instances? The report indicated that 1.3 per cent of the population was affected by early marriages, how accurate was this data?
Were homosexuals subject to harassment? Polygamy was prohibited in Angola but it was still a widely spread practice, were current laws applied?
With regards to abortion, the report indicated that clinical and therapeutic means were available in circumstances which endangered the child’s normal development, what did this mean? What about cases of pregnancy resulting from incest or rape? Additional information about the decision-making process in this context was requested, who sat on the medical board deciding on these cases? A Committee Expert urged Angola to decriminalize abortion.
Experts also inquired about the rights of persons with disabilities. Angola had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and measures in this regard were relatively new, to what extent did Angola have the means to implement the Convention? Article 154 of the Angolan Constitution referred to those without the capacity to participate in elections and persons who suffered from mental-illnesses were interned in institutions and were not allowed to vote. Would the Government amend these articles? Regarding the situation of women and children with disabilities, were exact figures available? How could they be placed on an equal footing?
Concerning the right to life, Experts recalled reported killings by the police or armed forces and noted that these instances had not been investigated. How many cases had the Government known about, who was leading the investigation, and had there been any prosecutions? In September 2009, armed forces allegedly buried-alive 45 people suspected of illegally running a mine. Had there been an independent investigation into these allegations?
With respect to de-mining activities progress had been made. What was the magnitude of the remaining challenge? The proliferation of small arms was a problem in many countries, including Angola, was information available concerning this problem? There was a difference in using the Declaration of Human Rights as an aid to interpret the Angolan Constitution and actually applying it. Were the courts applying the Declaration and, if so, in which cases?
Regarding the preparation of the report, how had the Government consulted with non-governmental organizations in the process? Experts also inquired about the status of the Covenant in relation to national legislation. Angolan laws established that the Covenant would be applied when it conformed to the Constitution, what did that mean, and how was Angolan society being made aware of the Covenant? Concerning the principle of equality, had it been substantiated into a law prohibiting discrimination? Was there a general legislative framework and, if not, would one be enacted? Was there a reference to the Declaration of Human Rights in the text of Angola’s Constitution? Did international treaties regarding human rights take precedence over Angola’s Constitution? Did the Constitution recognize the right of political opposition? Experts also raised questions concerning licensing for non-governmental organizations in Angola?
Response by the Delegation
The Angolan delegation addressed questions about the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration and the African Charter on human and people’s rights. The Constitution reflected the international instruments Angola was a party to and a law on international treaties had been established. International instruments were analysed in detail and, if they were in line with the Constitution, the Government acceded to them. Legislation was being drafted to allow courts to apply the Covenant directly. Judges and magistrates received training from a National Institute of Judicial Studies, including on human rights. The judiciary’s higher authority counted with a separate council responsible for nominating judges as well as for taking disciplinary actions. The executive did not intervene in the functioning of the judiciary.
Concerning questions about consultations with civil society during the preparation of the report, Angola indicated that civil society had contributed to the preparation of the report and had been represented through a collective of non-governmental organizations. In relation to the Office of the Ombudsman, the delegation said that the Office was independent in nature and that the Ombudsman was elected by Parliament. The Office provided updates concerning its role and reported back to Parliament. The Ombudsman also counted with an adequately sized budget and enjoyed a fairly high profile. The current Ombudsman served as the Chair of the African Committee of Ombudspersons and the Office operated in Luanda and was also represented in some of the other provinces. A secretary for human rights had been appointed and was specifically responsible for the implementation of the human rights plan. The Ministry of Education was involved in providing education on human rights, in particular for children. Members of the armed forces also received human rights education.
A court in Luanda had been set up to deal with instances of domestic violence and judges were nominated for a tribunal to address this problem. A number of criminal offenses were related to domestic violence and it was vital to dissuade people from committing such crimes. The law prohibited early marriages and a minimum marriage age was had been set, however, it was necessary to counter deeply ingrained social customs and traditional practices in this regard. The Government had been working with provincial authorities to prevent instances of early marriages and progress had been made.
On the subject of homosexuality, from a societal angle, it was difficult to establish whether discrimination existed. Homosexuals were protected by the Constitution and work was being done to ensure respect. An Angolan soap opera had depicted two same-sex couples and no negative feedback had been received.
Regarding abortion, the Government was carrying a second stage of public consultations to reform the penal code and strong opinions were being voiced, including from the churches, which generally speaking, were interested in preserving the status quo. Legal reform required a societal consensus and the Parliament would consider decriminalizing abortion in the next two years. However, in cases of malformation of the foetus and cases of rape and incest, depending on the health of the mother and child, abortions were allowed.
Only a judge, through the courts, could divest persons with disabilities of their right to vote in accordance to the Constitution.
The Government was mindful of the right to life and the allegation that 45 people had been buried alive was unfounded and unequivocally false. The Government had seen a huge influx of immigrants into the diamond areas. Deep holes were dug as part of the illegal extraction of diamonds and, given that these people were not engineers or qualified workers, it was plausible that they had been buried alive as the result. Also, about 100 illegal immigrants were crossing the border every day, heading to the diamond areas and creating new communities of workers who lacked licensing or official papers. All acts of torture were prohibited and the public prosecutors and the Ministry of the Interior carried out investigations in the province where the deaths had occurred. In one case, the investigation had showed that four people had died after a mine collapsed and these deaths had not been caused by the armed forces.
A large number of people had become handicapped because of land mines. During the conflict, which started in 1985, mines had been indiscriminately spread around the country by guerrillas. While mine clearing work had been ongoing, the State did not know how many mines were still exploding and had lost control of the situation. Food security was compromised by mines: from 30 million hectares of fertile land in Angola, only half were cultivated because of the danger posed by land mines.
A programme to tackle the problem of small arms and light weapons was moving into its third stage. The programme had begun with the collection of about 15,000 weapons and, in the second phase, the Government had bought weapons back from civilians. During a third stage, a compulsory collection of weapons was being carried out and more stringent laws would be created to punish those illegally carrying arms. The sale of arms was prohibited except for licensed hunting weapons and, at present, only about 800 had been granted.
There was no legislation on gender equality but the Beijing Principles had been adopted and, in fact, women made up over 30 per cent of Parliament.
While Angolan laws did not condone polygamy, it was hard to enforce in the face of prevalent customs. In some provinces people could not even get married. In Luanda South, for example, a province with 2 million inhabitants, births were registered but marriages were not celebrated or registered. This posed difficulties in cases of succession and appointing heirs of de facto marriages; nevertheless, educational efforts were underway to change this situation.
The rights of political opposition groups were guaranteed in the Constitution. In 2009, Angola’s first general elections were held with the participation of 114 political parties. Not all opposition groups had met the legal requirements to register as a party and therefore some had not stood in the election. The courts would analyse some 40 parties in this situation and make a decision on their legal status. The State took pains to follow these situations closely because Angola was undergoing a transition to democracy and political parties were subsidised by the State.
The Office of the Ombudsman was independent and counted with constitutional guarantees. The Ombudsman was elected by the Parliament by absolute majority. Citizens could send complaints directly to the Office in Luanda if their province did not count with a presence. Complaints could be presented to the Parliament and resolutions were made public; and the Ombudsman could also carry out investigations independently.
A programme to prevent domestic violence through education was underway. The Ministry of the Family and Promotion of the Family had been training family counsellors and was working with provincial courts so that cases were dealt with swiftly. Plans were underway to build six additional shelters to complement the two existing shelters available. There were plans to establish victim assistance centres within police departments.
Questions by Experts
An Expert said only three marriages had been officially celebrated in an area with two million inhabitants so the rest must have been celebrated under customary law. Was there a real intolerance against people with other sexual orientations, such as lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender persons? Was the mandate and purpose of the office of the Ombudsman publically well known?
ZONKE ZANELE MAJODINA, Rapporteur on the report of Angola, said that in 1996 and 2002, petitions had been brought to the Committee but Angola had not followed up on the Committee’s views regarding these cases. Could the delegation respond? Concerning cases of alleged human rights violations, could statistics be provided with regards to the investigations? Were there female prosecutors in Angola? What steps were being taken to protect the right to life in Angola?
Response by the Delegation
Regarding homosexuality, the delegation said there was neither real social awareness nor stigmatization of this group and, politically, since no one had come out publically, there was no social perception of it.
Up until November 2012, about 900 cases had been submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman but final statistics were not yet available. People did use the Office and it was well known. The Office allowed citizens to access the justice system and statistics about cases passed on to the legal systems were available and would be provided in the next two days.
In the Office of the Attorney General there were 99 female magistrates working in the Public Prosecutors Office. The delegation reiterated that the Constitution was the supreme law in Angola and had prevalence over any other international treaties or legislation. Concerning court cases, the delegation indicated that doubts weighted in favour of the accused.
With regards to the right to life, life expectancy had increased from 40 to 54 years of age over the past four years; and mortality rates had also dropped.
Questions by the Experts
ZONKE ZANELE MAJODINA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Report of Angola, inquired about the penal code and progress made so far. Had a definition of torture in line with international norms been included? According to a report from a non-governmental organization, disciplinary regulations for the police required complete obedience to orders. Would that open the way to torture? Allegations of torture carried out by police officers in certain cases had been made and there was a videotape showing the beating an inmate in jail. The Government was supposed to investigate, had this been done?
What were the mandate and functions of the Committee on human trafficking? Were shelters or long term assistance made available for victims of trafficking? Was there a budget to support the work of non-governmental organizations concerned with human trafficking? A Chinese work site had been raided in April 2011 and arrests had been carried out, had there been a follow-up investigation? What was the situation concerning labour inspections in general? Ms. Majodina also asked about the situation of children thrown out of the education system prematurely, who often fell into child labour or crime?
Another Expert, noted that arrests without a warrant and arbitrary detentions were prohibited in Angola and victims were allowed to present complaints, was there data available regarding complaints, procedures, investigations or compensations in the context of these violations? A United Nations mechanism had visited Angola five years ago and a report indicated that prisoners remained in jail for long periods without access to lawyers. Civilians were being held in army detention centres without being brought before judges. A Human Rights Watch report from September 2012 claimed that the two people, accused of distributing leaflets stating Cabinda would not be part of Angola, had been arrested by the police, their confessions had been extracted under torture and they had been held for six weeks before being released. Could the delegation confirm these reports?
Another Expert asked about the legal grounds for prolonging detentions. What guarantees were given to detainees?
Concerning allegations made by Human Rights Watch that since 2003 migrants, young girls and women had been victims of sexual violence by police forces, there appeared that no investigation had taken place given that such migrants had been sent back to their countries. Was this true? One of the Experts stated that a mechanism should be implemented to allow for the independent investigation of complaints of ill treatment against migrants and that allegations should be examined.
In the diamond-mining areas, law 17 of 1994 restricted freedom of movement and there were concerns about the repercussions of such a law.
Regarding the detention of refugees and asylum seekers, the Committee had heard that they did not have access to courts, in contravention of Article 4 of the Covenant. Were these reports true and what about those asylum seekers sent back to their home countries? How could the Government guarantee they would not be subjected to torture after their departure?
One Expert inquired about reports of abusive practices carried out by private security forces working for diamond companies in mining areas. What measures had been implemented to regulate and monitor private security firms and to protect the rights of people?
In relation to the penitentiary system, plans were in place to address the problem of overcrowding, how far had the implementation gone and what were the remaining challenges? Experts inquired how many people were imprisoned and what was the current excess capacity of the prison system? How often was parole applied as a means to address prison overcrowding? Were there any alternatives to imprisonment for those in pre-trial detention? Concerning the incarceration of juveniles in adult jails, did laws offer protection for juvenile criminals and were they separated from adult criminals?
How often were complaint mechanisms used in cases of ill treatment and did the system work in practical terms? Concerning the ratification of the Convention against Torture, were there Constitutional issues that might hinder adherence and was there a procedure in place to ratify the Convention?
Response by the Delegation
The delegation said that legislation would incorporate all issues related to torture and work had already started in this regard. Concerning the case of two detainees who had been beaten by prison guards, the prison’s director and personnel found responsible for the incident had been suspended and the investigation was still ongoing.
An extradition agreement that would allow for prisoner swaps between China and Angola was in place. A case of forced labour had been confirmed and was now before the courts. The labour inspectorate was allowed to inspect companies when it felt violations had taken place. There was no funding mechanism from the Executive for non-governmental organizations.
The Government counted with considerable statistical data on domestic violence and additional information would be provided. There were two shelters for victims of domestic violence and plans were underway to establish one in each province.
Legislation on pre-trial detention established that when suspects were caught red-handed they could be held for up to 269 days. In cases of murder or serious crimes, there was no bail system and suspects had to await trial in detention, but judges had to give these cases priority. Laws regarding pre-trial detention were under examination.
The expulsion of immigrants was a complex issue. About 100 illegal immigrants arrived in Angola every day, as well as a smaller number of refugees, and the Government was working with Sierra Leone and other countries through bilateral channels. Refugees desiring to stay in the three provinces containing areas of diamond production only posed problems. There was an inter-ministerial committee working on this issue and, last year, about 30,000 refugees had been repatriated. Angola aimed to ensure that refugees were properly resettled.
As mentioned earlier, Angola worked with the United Nations on the issue of refugee women victims of rape. While it had been reported that around 3,000 women had been raped, it would be virtually impossible for Angola to conceal such a thing. An investigation had taken place and there had been the case in which a police officer was in a relationship with a Congolese woman and was currently awaiting trial.
Refugees and asylum holders were protected by the law, they were granted refugee status, and they could not be arrested. However, when crimes were committed, the refugees received the same treatment as Angolan civilians.
Regarding private security firms, licences were granted by the Ministry of the Interior, which counted with its own monitoring body. Since the 1990s, the State had revoked the licenses of these companies and, since then, only light weapons could be carried by employees of private security firms.
With regards to the diamond producing areas, there were 24 diamond concessions and huge investments had to be made by the firms, up to $ 500 million in the first year or two. Illegal immigrants sometimes came into these areas armed with heavy weapons and clashes between private security firms and illegal immigrants, often from the Democratic Republic of Congo, had taken place.
In relation to prisons’ overcrowding, there were 21,523 people in jail. Among them, nearly 11,000 detainees and about 9,000 were convicted criminals. The Government was building new prisons in different provinces, as well as developing reintegration programmes. Training and proper prison management, including human rights education, was part of the process. Juveniles and women populations were separated from adult males and a psychiatric hospital would be built in Luanda province.
In order to address the problem of overcrowding, prisoners who had served 50 per cent of their prison term could be released on parole. Access to jails was open to observers and family members and, if there were complaints of inhuman treatment, Angola had mechanisms for investigating these claims in place. Clearly defined time frames for pre-trial detention had been established, from 45 days, and this time period can be renewed twice. Angola was doing all it could to address the 38 percent overcrowding of prisons.
Under a tripartite agreement between Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, people arrested as illegal immigrants would be put in centres and a date for their handing back to their home countries was established. Often, upon arrival, immigrants were found in a weak condition and care was delivered before they were sent back. However, many of then immediately tried to return to Angola. Asylum seekers would not be sent back under the principle of non-refoulement.
Questions by the Experts
Regarding migrants coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, recent United Nations and reports by non-governmental organizations had claimed instances of violence against women in Angola. Some 2 million people from the Democratic Republic of Congo did not yet have the status of refugees and there were reports of large-scale violations. How could the Government tolerate the situation of violence against women? Would a joint commission between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola investigate these claims? What further efforts would be made to investigate and punish perpetrators of human rights violations?
The Rapporteur asked for clarification regarding regulations for the national police when using preventive measures. The law required complete obedience to orders even in cases where the orders could result in torture and this contravened the Covenant.
The Chairperson also asked about the role of the Ombudsman and stated that he could not find reports on the Government’s website, other than a local report from 2010. One Expert asked whether the one-year time limit for detention included the time during which the court decision was being considered.
Response by the Delegation
Angola had been working together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration on matters related to refugees. The Government had no problems with its 17,000 refugees and they were free to decide to stay in Angola. However, regarding the situation of illegal immigrants, control mechanisms on the borders were fairly weak. Illegal immigrants were put in shelters and not in detention centres, which had been an expensive logistical problem, and their repatriation constituted an administrative rather than a judicial process.
In relation to sexual violence, a representative of the United Nations Secretary-General had not been able to confirm the allegation that 3,000 women had been victims of rape. Only one case, an incident involving a police officer and a Congolese woman, had been confirmed.
Concerning the requirements of obedience for police officers, in cases of excess or abuse, the State counted with the necessary mechanisms to punish those responsible.
A court trial had to happen within a year for pre-trial detainees. However, these procedures were being re-examined. In most cases, the one-year time limit period was carried out in the court and not with the police and the period of police detention would normally take between 45 and 135 days. The case was passed to a judge, who would determine whether the person remained in detention.
Questions by the Experts
With regards to the judiciary, there were 163 municipalities and only 16 courts. Legal aid seemed not to be very well organized and there were gaps. Regarding bribery and corruption, Experts inquired whether specific data and information could be provided. An Expert noted that the adoption of legislation was slow and in some cases consideration had taken over ten years. Experts also inquired whether traditional leaders held judicial powers?
During and after the civil war many citizens had built camps on government land which had been allocated for roads and people had been violently evacuated. Excessive forced had been used and some people, including babies, had been killed. Could the delegation confirm these reports? One of the Experts asked whether alternative housing had been offered to those evicted.
Concerning the right to freedom of association and State censorship of non-governmental organizations, what was the law, which seemed cumbersome, regarding their registration? Journalists, like non-governmental organizations, had faced prison sentences when acting as witnesses, what was the State doing to protect them?
Regarding children accused of witchcraft, Experts noted that they were sometimes turned over to religious establishments for exorcism which could negatively affect their health. What could be done to do away with this marginalization of children?
An Expert wanted to know about the interpretation in the law of the crime of abuse of freedom of the press. What about a law on outrage against the president which was adopted in 2010? What sort of problems had led to the adoption of that law? Regarding political parties, could the delegation clarify how and why these parties would be dissolved?
What steps would be taken to solve the problem of the lack of birth registrations?
Regarding State-owned media, how were these media outlets managed and financed? Concerning elections, Experts inquired about the composition of the electoral commission and noted that there had been reports it was dominated by ruling parties. Experts indicated that the scope of freedom of expression, association and assembly seemed lower than the scope of these as provided for in the Covenant. Were Supreme Court justices appointed for life and what was the selection process to determine their independence?
Response by the Delegation
The delegation said that the Office of the Ombudsman had received 35 complaints in 2010. Among them, 15 had been dismissed due to the lack of grounds and 15 had been passed on to the courts and dealt with. In 2013, about 20 complaints per day were being presented and, most of them, related to land rights, pre-trial detention and immigrants’ complaints.
In terms of human trafficking, Angola had acceded to conventions related to transnational organized crime and trafficking was covered in the criminal law. In 2010, an important campaign to combat trafficking and the implement monitoring mechanisms had taken place. Other measures included the provision of education and training for agents and officials, in particular in border provinces. Angola had also concluded cooperation agreements with Brazil and China on this subject. There had been 10 cases of trafficking and two cases of sexual exploitation but no complaints concerning children had been reported.
Responding to questions about the penitentiary system, the delegation stated that during 2012, 210 cases had been registered for further investigation and had led to 31 convictions. Between 2011 and 2012, 1,001 prisoners had been granted parole; and between 2012 to March 2013, 410 prisoners had received it.
An inter-ministerial committee had been created in 2008 to deal with the issue of children accused of sorcery. A report showed that 90 per cent of the cases had taken place in the north. Over the past three years, 30 complaints had been recorded; but since January this year, no complaints had been received. The problem was dealt with in a multifaceted way, involving the Ministry of Culture and the National Children’s Institute. An independent over-arching committee had also been created and it involved civil society, churches and the United Nations Children's Fund. Complaints came through provincial channels and the Office of Attorney General. Law 25/11 had been created for the integrated protection of these children and there number of cases seems to be dropping because of educational and anti-poverty programmes.
The right to life was enshrined in the Constitution and the population’s growth rate meant that were 10.5 million people in 2000 and a little more than 20 million in 2012. The global mortality rate was 12 per million and the infant mortality rate had declined from 196 to 84, per thousand, between 2000 and 2012. Life expectancy in Angola increased from 38 years old in 2000 to 54 years old in 2012. The poverty rate had been about 70 percent in 2003 and decreased to 36 percent in 2012. Regarding maternal mortality, there had been 140 deaths in every 10,000 in 2000 and 45 in every 10,000 in 2012.
Angola had been taken off the list of Least Developed Countries and was now on the list of middle income countries.
Efforts were being made to address the issue of access to justice. The judiciary was composed of 25 municipal courts, 18 provincial courts, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Between 2013 and 2017 the State would extend the number of courts to 73 to increase the national network and a key pillar in the reform of justice would involve arbitration centres as well as mediation. The dissemination of information for citizens would be improved. An independent higher council of the judiciary, elected by Parliament, dealt with cases of corruption in courts. Three cases had been brought to the council but proof had been insufficient and the charges had been dropped. Angola’s criminal code had not been reformed since 1888 and the deadline for a complete review was December 2014.
Customary law was sometimes taken into account by judges regarding certain traditions, for example issues related to inheritance. In cases of contradictions, law rather than costumed applied.
The war in Angola had led to the movement of people and the Government was not expropriating lands for commercial purposes. Over the past six years, 6,000 kilometres of road and 3,000 kilometres of railways had been repaired; and this had led to an increase in the population of Luanda. In 2002, while the infrastructure could accommodate 750,000 people, there were already 2 million people living in Luanda. Today, there were about 8 million people living and more would soon arrive. Concerning the resettlement of people, projects had been started but people had moved into some of these areas before the projects were ready and slums had developed. Sometimes, zinc-roofed shacks were dismantled and the people resettled. The Government planned to build 80,000 housing units throughout the country to be sold to citizens.
There were no restrictions on freedom of association and gatherings but there were conditions to be met. In particular, the setting up of non-governmental organizations with the purposes of monitoring the Government was not allowed.
In response to questions about the freedom of the press, the delegation indicated that there were independent newspapers and editorials criticizing the Government. Likewise, radio and TV stations were free to broadcast without censorship. In 2011, a newspaper had published a retouched photo, making an individual appear as being arrested for armed robbery. People affected by such situations could sue for damages and journalists would be liable. The independent Press Association was free to give opinions and intervene.
Regarding the 2010 alleged attack on members of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the Parliament had set up a commission of inquiry which had concluded that the accusation was groundless. Membership of a political party did not grant persons a waiver from complying with the law.
Political parties which did not achieve at least 0.5 per cent of the vote during elections were dissolved. Only the constitutional court could decide if a party was to be dissolved. A party could not count with paramilitary bodies according to the law. Dozens of parties had disappeared and there 78 parties were recognised.
Concerning birth registries, efforts were underway to urge parents to name and register their children before they attended kindergarten. There were refugees and adults who did not have documents. The Government intended to develop a registration centre for every 40,000 inhabitants by 2015, to ensure that 80 per cent of the population were registered by 2017.
The Supreme Court was normally composed of career judges who retired at the age of 70. New justices were elected by the Supreme Court. The Electoral Council was composed of representatives of political parties, except the president, who was required to be a judge.
Questions by the Experts
One Expert asked for clarification concerning the challenges posed by the high cost of judicial procedures. Were there enough lawyers to accommodate people? The high costs incurred in court could obstruct access to justice and, in this regard, was free legal assistance provided?
Experts also raised questions concerning regulations covering the registration and dissolution of political parties. Why did a party have to be dissolved simply because it obtained 0.5 percent or less of the vote in an election? Questions were also raised about the registration requirements for non-governmental organizations. Why could registration be denied to NGOs who sought to monitor Governmental activities?
Response of the Delegation
Angola faced real problems regarding the limited number of lawyers, for example, there were only about 800 lawyers in Luanda and sometimes there was only one lawyer in an entire province. There was no legislation concerning the provision of free legal defence counsel. However, judges would appoint a lawyer if the accused could not afford one. Fees were established by the lawyers themselves, except in cases where they were appointed by the court.
Twenty-two parties had been dissolved and there were 10 party coalitions. Legislation established the conditions under which non-governmental organizations could be set up and, if their aims of an organisation went beyond the scope provided by the law, then it might have to be set up as a trade union or political party. There were about 800 non-governmental organizations in Angola.
Regarding the law about outrage against the president, the delegation indicated that the President’s Office was an institution elected by citizens and therefore needed to be respected.
RUI CARNEIRO MANGUEIRA, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Angola, in concluding remarks, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to discuss the challenges faced by Angola and for the constructive dialogue. Mr. Carneiro Mangueira said that the delegation was ready and willing to cooperate with the Committee and reiterated Angola’s commitment to instituting the provisions of the Covenant.
NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Committee, was impressed by how far Angola had come after the civil war between 1975 and 2002. The abolition of the death penalty was an important step even before Angola became a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He pointed out that, although the delegation had explained its laws, it had not always demonstrated how they were compatible with the Covenant. Some of the Experts’ questions would probably linger, for example those concerning the practice of detention and the idea that someone could be held five days in police detention before being brought before a prosecutor or court. Questions would also remain regarding rules for non-governmental organizations and concerning the right to gatherings. Mr. Rodley hoped that the dialogue had contributed to an understanding of the Committee’s procedures and that the failure of States parties to respond to individual cases examined by the Committee was not been a desirable practice. Mr. Rodley also said that Angola faced difficult problems related to child sorcery and the situation of immigrants, and looked forward to the presentation of Angola’s next periodic report.