Victory for Rafael Marques and Freedom of Expression in Angola!May 21, 2015
Diamonds. Murder. Torture. Broken promises. Important officials. International players. All the elements of a gripping narrative told in a Hollywood blockbuster. Except this isn’t fiction, and the person on trial was the journalist who made sure the world knew the story.
Rafael Marques de Morais, Angolan journalist and human rights defender, spent the last nearly three years defending his right to tell what happened to the miners and villagers in the Lunda Norte diamond fields region.
He alleged in a book that seven Angolan generals and two mining companies were complicit in the human rights violations he documented. Those generals and the companies then sued him for criminal defamation, first in Portugal where the book was published and then in Angola.
Today he walked out of court a free man. He was facing over 10 years in prison and a fine of $1.2 million US dollars but all charges were dropped.
He is allowed to continue to monitor the situation in Lunda Norte, and the generals agreed to ensure the human rights condition in the diamond fields improved. Which in the end, is all he really wanted; that the people he had come to know would have the ending to their story changed.
Amnesty has documented freedom of expression and assembly concerns in Angola for quite some time. Another human rights activist is currently detained for attempting to organize a peaceful protest, and his attorney also faces charges for advocating on his behalf. Amnesty, together with a coalition of other organizations, stood beside Rafael.
You raised your voice along with his to demand Angola respect his right to tell the stories that must be heard.
Today was a win for human rights and we did it together. Never doubt the power we share together and what we can achieve when we stand side by side with courageous activists determined to bend the global arc toward justice.