CONTACT: Amanda Simon, [email protected], 212.633.4162
(NEW YORK, NY) – Over 35 human rights and free press groups from across the globe, including Amnesty International USA, have written an open letter on behalf of Journalist Rafael Marques de Morais. Marques is on trial for writing a book published in Portugal in 2011 which alleges serious human rights violations and abuses committed by army generals and companies in diamond fields in Angola generals and companies in diamond fields in Angola. The generals and companies accuse Mr. Marques of criminal defamation, punishable under current Angolan law by both a prison term and a monetary penalty. His trial begins March 24.
The organizations, which include, The Media Legal Defence Initiative, The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House and several other sections of Amnesty International, are deeply concerned about the intimidation and violence toward journalists and citizens in Angola exercising their right to freedom of expression and worry Mr. Marques will not receive a fair trial.
“Mr. Marques has a long history of holding the Angolan government to account for human rights abuses and corruption through his insightful, thoughtful and well-regarded journalistic investigations,” the organizations writes. “Mr. Marques is the recipient of numerous prestigious international awards for his work. He is an equal opportunity human rights defender, working to expose violations no matter who is the accused or accuser. For his efforts, he has been arrested and detained multiple times in Angola.”
So far, during Mr. Marques’ case, there have been irregularities including questioning without his legal counsel present, improper notice and summons, and the fundamental contradiction of the apparent intent of the government to call Rafael as a witness, resulting in his serving as both defendant and state witness in his own trial. Previously, the United Nations Human Rights Committee determined a prior conviction of defamation by Mr. Marquez violated his rights to liberty and security of the person, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.
The letter concludes, “We urge the Angola legal system to recognize the December 2014 decision by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in a defamation case against a fellow journalist from Burkina Faso that prison sentences as penalties for defamation violate the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The criminal defamation law under which he is being tried should be found in violation of the Angolan constitution and Angola’s obligations under international law.”
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning global movement of more than 7 million people in over 190 countries who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.