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(Johannesburg) –The Angolan government is responsible for numerous incidents of political violence, intimidation of protesters, and crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations that might have a negative impact on the August 31, 2012 parliamentary elections, Human Rights said in a report released today. The government should end its crackdown on peaceful protests and the media with the start of the election campaign on August 1.

The 13-page report, “Angola’s Upcoming Elections: Attacks on the Media, Expression, and Assembly,” describes increasing incidents of political violence and intimidation. Human Rights Watch called on the government of Angola to promptly address these concerns, and urged the Southern African Development Community and the capital’s foreign diplomats to raise these issues with the government.

“The human rights environment in Angola is not conducive for free, fair, and peaceful elections,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Angolan government needs to stop trying to stifle peaceful protests, gag the independent press, or use the state media for partisan purposes if these elections are to be meaningful.”

Since 2011, there have been increasing incidents of political violence in the capital, Luanda, and elsewhere. Journalists, civil society activists, and others seeking to express their opinions or criticize the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979, have been harassed, threatened, and physically attacked.

Police and plainclothes security agents have forcibly dispersed anti-government protests, beating and arresting peaceful demonstrators, organizers, and opposition politicians, and obstructing and intimidating journalists. In several cases, the state-owned media sought to compel activists in custody to make incriminating remarks about opposition parties.

Human Rights Watch urged the Angolan government to fully respect freedom of peaceful assembly and to ensure that its security forces act impartially. The government should promptly investigate all allegations of unlawful use of force and prosecute those responsible for abuses. It should protect demonstrators from attack and ensure that due process rights of everyone detained are respected.

The Angolan government should also ensure full respect for media freedom, investigate and prevent intimidation and harassment of journalists, and support impartial reporting by state-owned media, Human Rights Watch said.

“The upcoming Angolan elections are an important opportunity for the government to demonstrate that it will fully respect the rights of the political opposition, the media, and the voters,” Lefkow said.

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