The Angolan authorities should immediately drop all criminal defamation charges against award winning investigative journalist and human rights defender, Rafael Marques de Morais.
Marques is to go on trial on 24 March 2015 on charges of defamation relating to his book, “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola.” The book describes how Angolan military officials and private security companies committed human rights abuses against Angolan villagers in the course of diamond mining operations. It includes reports of 500 cases of torture and 100 killings. Days before his trial, Rafael was awarded the 2015 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for journalism.
It is not the first time Marques has been targeted for the lawful exercise of his rights. The Angolan authorities appear to be using their criminal defamation laws to deter Marques from his critical human rights reporting. This is a violation of his right to freedom of expression. Given the serious irregularities that have already taken place in his case, there is no chance that Marques will receive a fair trial in Angola.
In light of the judgment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in December 2014 in Konaté v. Burkina Faso, it is clear that the time has come for Angola to consider repealing its criminal defamation laws. The Court ruled that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression and that criminal defamation laws should only be used in restricted circumstances. The judgment is binding on all African Union member states, including Angola.
In its 2005 decision regarding an earlier defamation case against Marques, the UN Human Rights Committee determined that his prior conviction for defamation violated his rights to liberty and security of the person, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.
Along with a coalition of other NGOs, the undersigned filed a Letter of Allegation and an Urgent Appeal with Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Human Rights Defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations, urging them to intervene.
The Letter of Allegation can be read here.
For more information please contact:
Chief Executive Officer, Media Legal Defence Initiative
Fatou Jagne Senghor
Regional Director, Article 19
Africa Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists
Program Manager, Freedom House
Senior Director, Fellowship Programs, National Endowment for Democracy
Programme Director, Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International
Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders
Africa Regional Director, Transparency International
Senior Director, World Movement for Democracy