(Johannesburg) – Angolan authorities should prosecute all state security officials responsible for the killing of two protest organizers who have been missing since May 2012, Human Rights Watch said today. A confidential Interior Ministry report leaked to the Angolan media on November 9, 2013, which Human Rights Watch believes is authentic, described the role of police and the domestic intelligence service, SINSE, in the abduction, torture, and killing of António Alves Kamulingue and Isaías Cassule.
The Angolan attorney-general’s office announced an investigation and said that four unidentified officials have been arrested. On November 14, President José Eduardo Dos Santos dismissed the intelligence service director, Sebastião Martins.
“The awful truth about what happened to two people who organized a protest in Angola over unpaid salaries and pensions is finally coming to light,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The investigation into the brutal killing of Kamulingue and Cassule will only be meaningful if the government makes a strong commitment to prosecute everyone responsible regardless of rank or position.”
Kamulingue and Cassule, members of the ad hoc United Patriotic Movement (MPU), were separately abductedby unidentified assailants after they organized a protest on May 27, 2012, in Luanda by former presidential guards and war veterans over complaints of unpaid salaries and pensions.
The Angolan online news site Club-K.net, drawing from the leaked document, reported that members of the presidential guard arrested Kamulingue on May 27 and took him to a police station in central Luanda, where he was tortured and eventually killed by a gunshot to the head. His body was left in woods outside the city.
Human Rights Watch research in 2012 found that Cassule was abducted on May 29 while seeking information about Kamulingue’s disappearance. Alberto Santos, who was with Cassule, told Human Rights Watch he saw six men drag Cassule into a car. Santos managed to escape and went into hiding but was arrested in March 2013 and detained for six months without charge. Club-K.net reported that Cassule was severely beaten for two days, killed, and his body thrown in a river.
The revelations about the killings have sparked unusual political turmoil in Angola. The country’s main opposition party, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), has called for a public demonstration on November 23 to demand that President Dos Santos step down because of his alleged responsibility for the killings. The ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) condemned the killings in a statement but warned that UNITA is trying to “create chaos” and is “preparing a new civil war.”
Since 2011, a small, peaceful movement of Angolan activist groups inspired by popular uprisings in the Middle East has sought to protest corruption, restrictions on free speech and other rights, and rising inequality in the oil-rich country.
Over the past two years the Angolan police and security agents have repeatedly used intimidation, harassment, and excessive force to suppress peaceful protests, generating concerns that the upcoming demonstration could also face a violent crackdown, Human Rights Watch said.
The state media have repeatedly called campaigns calling for any antigovernment protest an attempt to “wage war,” an unfortunate allegation in a country whose long civil war ended just a decade ago, Human Rights Watch said. Journalists and other observerswho seek to document the protests and the government’s response have been regularly harassed, detained, and sometimes mistreated.
“The Angolan government should recognize that many people are rightly angered and frustrated by these murders and the long record of crimes by the security forces that have gone unpunished,” Lefkow said. “These concerns need to be addressed openly and lawfully, and not by suppressing protests yet again with intimidation and violence.”