"The police are not on the ground to distribute sweets"
*Names have been hidden for security reasons
“COVID-19 does not affect us all in the same way”
Since the state of emergency declaration in March 2020 to deal with the spread of COVID-19, Angolan security forces in various provinces have resorted to unnecessary, excessive, abusive, and even lethal force to deal with infringements of public health measures. On 25 August, Amnesty International and OMUNGA, an Angolan human rights organization, reported seven killings committed by the Angolan security forces, including officers of the Angolan National Police (Polícia Nacional de Angola – PNA) and of the Angolan Armed Forces (Forças Armadas Angolanas – FAA).
One month after our first publication, Amnesty International and OMUNGA continue to receive reports of other killings committed by agents of the security forces in Angola. In the last month, we have documented three killings by the Angolan security forces, including officers of the Angolan National Police (Polícia Nacional de Angola – PNA) and of the Angolan Armed Forces (Forças Armadas Angolanas – FAA). The victims were Helena Sebastião Mussunda, 15 years old, Vanildo Sebastião Futa, 21 years old, and Sílvio Dala, 35 years old.
The Commander-General of the PNA issued a commitment to investigate and hold accountable all agents responsible for killing individuals during the implementation of COVID-19 regulations in 2020. Further to this, we urge the government of Angola to implement systematic reforms to ensure the observance of laws, regulations, and codes of conduct that regulate the functioning of the police in accordance with international human rights law and standards.
DEMAND JUSTICE FOR SEVEN YOUNG MEN KILLED BY SECURITY FORCES IN ANGOLA
The stories of how police brutally killed seven young men have a lot of similarities. They all show how reckless and unchecked the use of lethal force quickly led to the loss of the lives that security forces are meant to protect.
Their deaths are a painful reminder that a fair society is one where respect for life is the core principle regardless of the social, economic status, and political beliefs of people. The right to life simply must be respected. It’s a reminder for Angolan authorities that the ultimate aim of fighting the spread of COVID-19 is to save lives and protect livelihoods
It’s time to end the use of excessive, disproportionate, and lethal force by police. It’s time to end police brutality in Angola.
Join our supporters and members in calling for a prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial investigation in all deaths and human rights violations due to police brutality in Angola.
Take action now to demand President João Lourenço to take all necessary steps to ensure justice and reparation for families affected by security forces’ excessive and lethal use of force.
On 11 September, in a press conference, the Commander-General of the PNA, Commissioner-General Paulo Gaspar de Almeida apologized to the population and families for the errors, failures and excessive acts of violence committed by some agents of the police. He also said that agents responsible for these acts would face disciplinary and criminal proceedings. The Commissioner said that criminal acts committed by some agents who violate the law and the rules of social conduct wouldn't be tolerated within the PNA.
The Angolan legal association Mãos Livres is offering legal assistance to the families of Vanildo Sebastião Futa, Sílvio Dala and Helena Sebastião Mussunda in order to bring the agents responsible for their deaths to justice.
Angolan lives matter
On 12 September, peaceful demonstrations took place in several Angolan provinces, including Benguela, Bié, Cabinda, Cunene, Kwanza-Sul, Huíla, Luanda, Moxico and Namibe. The protests brought together thousands of people across the country who demanded the end of police abuses in Angola, reform within the PNA, and the resignation of the Interior Minister, Eugênio Laborinho.
The demonstrations took place peacefully, and no incident of violence was registered.
Security forces caught on video after they shot 15-year-old Kilson
"The police are not on the ground to distribute sweets, nor to give chocolates."
In times of emergency, it is crucial that Angolan authorities give consideration to the situation of people who are particularly at risk of being seriously affected by or are unable to comply with lockdown regulations, such as people living in poverty. The government must ensure that people are empowered and supported to comply with the required social distancing measures being enforced to contain the spread of the COVID-19 in Angola.
Amnesty and OMUNGA are concerned that the government has contributed to an increased environment of intimidation and violence in the streets of Angola. In this context, it is alarming that the justification given by the Minister of Interior, Eugênio César Laborinho, at a national press conference on 3 April of the police behavior was: “The police are not on the streets to distribute sweets, nor to give chocolates, they will act according to the behavior of each citizen or each gathering.”1 The Ministry’s social media publications also reinforced repressive messages.
While Amnesty and OMUNGA recognize the government efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Angola, it is also important to highlight that even in times of emergency, security forces may only use force that is necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate objective. Not to cause more harm than they are trying to prevent, the spread of COVID-19.
Amnesty International and OMUGA have interviewed relatives, friends and witnesses of seven cases of murders by the Angolan security forces, including officers of the Angolan National Police (Polícia Nacional de Angola – PNA) and of the Angolan Armed Forces (Forças Armadas Angolanas – FAA) Marito was 14 years old, Altino was 15 years old, Clinton was 16 years old, Kilson was 15 years old, João was 20 years old, António was 21 years old and Cleide was 25 years old. Their families want justice, truth, and reparation. Our work is dedicated to families who lost their beloved ones in the hands of the Angolan security forces.
The issue of police use of excessive, disproportional, and unnecessary force is widespread in the country. The summary killing of young men by security forces in Angola has been raised by civil society for many years.1 The cases Amnesty International and OMUNGA present here are only symptomatic of systematic abuse of force by security forces in Angola. Amnesty International and OMUNGA received several reports from activists in different provinces and are still gathering information as the situation evolves in Angola.
It was a work incident ... the colleague accidentally fired, killing one of them.
I told the police that my son’s assassination should not be in vain. When a person dies, there must be justice.
The Angolan government needs to do more and better
A fair society begins with citizens who are aware of their rights and duties. It is a society where respect for life is the core principle for every citizen, regardless of their social or economic status or their political beliefs. The right to life simply must be respected. The ultimate aim of combating the spread of COVID-19 is to save lives and protect livelihoods.
The COVID-19 crisis affects everyone, but it does not affect us all in the same way. The crisis brings to the spotlight how different forms of inequality, exclusion, and human rights violation are interconnected. The enforcement of lockdown regulations must be carried out in a non-discriminatory manner and authorities must give particular consideration to the situation of people who are at great risk of being seriously affected by or are unable to comply with lockdown regulations, including people living in poverty.
We are calling for an end of security forces’ use of excessive, disproportionate and lethal force, and for human rights violations to be promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated with a view to urgent systemic reform. Nobody should have to fear for their life, and the Angolan authorities must hold to account anyone who arbitrarily deprives an individual of their rights, particularly the right to life