Angola: Prisoner of conscience in 'critical condition' must be released immediately
The continued detention of prisoner of conscience, Luaty Beirão ("Luaty"), is a shocking example of the lengths to which Angolan authorities will go to suppress dissent, Amnesty International said today as he marked one month on hunger strike protesting against his detention.
The imprisoned activist and musician is believed to be in critical condition in Clinica Girassol private hospital in Luanda, where he was transferred to on 15 October 2015. Amnesty International is calling today for his immediate and unconditional release.
“As Luaty enters his second month on hunger strike, we believe his health is now in critical condition and his life may be at risk. His original detention was an affront to freedom of expression and now the authorities seem intent on compounding this shocking injustice by keeping him in detention,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.
“All charges against Luaty, and his co-accused, must be dropped and he must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
Luaty Beirão was arrested along with 14 other local activists in connection with a meeting to discuss governance issues in the country’s capital Luanda on 20 June 2015. The group should never have been imprisoned in the first place, as they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
For a month, Luaty has only been drinking water mixed with salt and sugar provided by his family. He has had difficulties ingesting liquids and walking. He was transferred to the hospital prison of São Paulo on 9 October 2015 where, according to his family, he agreed to take intra-venous saline for the first time on 11 October.
Luaty, along with 14 other activists, was formally charged on 16 September 2015 with preparing a “rebellion and a coup attempt” against the president. They were only officially informed of the charges, which are deemed as crimes against the security of the state, after the 90 days of pre-trial detention allowed by law expired.
On 19 October, their lawyers were notified that the activists’ trial would take place between 16 and 20 November 2015 at the Luanda Provincial Tribunal.
“The 15 activists have committed no crime and have been imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. They have simply fallen foul of a government intent on crushing dissent. They are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.” said Deprose Muchena.
The 15 activists have committed no crime and have been imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. They have simply fallen foul of a government intent on crushing dissent. They are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released
Amnesty International is campaigning on behalf of the group and a petition calling for their immediate and unconditional release has already collected more than 31 thousand signatures.
Amnesty International has documented how freedom of expression and peaceful assembly have been unlawfully restricted in Angola. See Punishing Dissent: Suppression of Freedom of Association and Assembly in Angola (https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/AFR12/004/2014/en/).
Some of those who have challenged the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos have been subjected to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture.
Despite freedom of expression and peaceful assembly being clearly enshrined in the country’s constitution and in several international treaties that Angola has signed and ratified, violations of these rights continue to occur.
On 18 October, the activists were all transferred to the same location: Hospital-Prison São Paulo, except for Luaty who remained in Clinica Girassol.
Angolan activists Laurinda Gouveia and Rosa Conde were also charged alongside the 15 youth activists on 16 September, but are not in detention.
Albano Bingobingo, who was also detained on 20 June, is on his 12th day of hunger strike.
On 11 October, supporters of Luaty and the other activists held a vigil at Sagrada Família Church in Luanda, Angola.
According to the participants of the vigil, police were mobilized to monitor the vigil, including with guns, water cannons and canine units. On 12 October, another vigil was held, and several people were briefly detained by the police.