Amnesty International has warned the Angolan authorities against a crackdown on human rights activists after several were detained in the Cabinda region in the wake of the 8 January attack on the Togolese national football team.
Francisco Luemba, a prominent lawyer and former member of banned human rights organization Mpalabanda, was arrested on 17 January and charged with crimes against the state in connection with the 2008 publication of a book which the authorities now allege incites violence and rebellion.
Padre Raul Tati, a catholic priest, was arrested on 16 January and charged with the same offence, while Belchoir Lanso Tati, another former member of Mpalabanda, was arrested on 13 January, also on suspicion of crimes against the state. Both Padre Tati and Belchoir have been outspoken about the political tensions in Cabinda, where the Front for the Liberation of the Cabindan Enclave (FLEC) has been leading an armed campaign for the secession of the territory, since Angola’s independence in 1975.
Two Togolese football officials and an Angolan driver were killed on 8 January when gunmen opened fire on the Togolese football team as they travelled by bus through the province of Cabinda. FLEC has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the footballers, who were on their way to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations which is taking place in Angola.
“Amnesty International calls on the government to ensure that this deplorable incident is not used as an excuse to violate the rights of citizens in Cabinda through arbitrary arrests and detentions or any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” said Erwin Van Der Borght, Africa Director.
The organization calls on the Angolan authorities to ensure that a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the attacks is carried out in accordance with international human rights standards.
Those found to be responsible for the attacks should be brought to justice in a trial meeting international human rights standards for a fair trial.
Mpalabanda, the only human rights organization previously operating in Cabinda, was banned in 2006 following charges that the organization incited violence and hatred.
The organization had been involved in the documentation of human rights violations committed by both the government and members of the Front for the Liberation of the Cabindan Enclave (FLEC).
Cabinda is a sliver of land between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. The region is internationally recognized as part of Angola and produces a substantial part of the country’s oil exports.