/ 13 August 2023

Human Rights Watch accuses Angolan police of killings

Angola Police
Human Rights Watch says more than a dozen people have been killed since January 2023. (Getty Images)

Angola’s police have allegedly killed more than a dozen activists since January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said this week, urging the government to swiftly investigate reports of abuse and rights violations.

The country’s law enforcement authorities have also been accused of the arbitrary arrests and detention of hundreds, HRW said in a statement. 

Angolan law enforcement authorities including police, state security and intelligence services “have been implicated in unlawful killings of at least 15 people”. 

Political activists, artists and protest organisers were the main targets of the “alleged rights violations”, which the rights group has condemned. 

“Angolan authorities should urgently act to end abusive police policies and practices and ensure that there is justice for victims and their family members,” said Zenaida Machado, a senior Africa researcher at HRW.

Although the government has attempted to improve law enforcement, criminal prosecutions against police officers who commit these violations remain rare, it said. 

The arrests are more frequent in the oil rich northern province of Cabinda, close to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the past six months, the rights group has interviewed 32 people across the country including victims and their relatives, witnesses and security sources. 

In one instance men who identified as criminal investigation service members held a group of young men in custody “whose bodies were found three days later at a hospital morgue”.

A friend of the victims, who were known for participating in anti-government protests, said that the police had been monitoring the group.

Angola’s ruling party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, has denied HRW’s claims. 

“Investigations are already underway,” said party spokesperson Rui Falcao. “However, we find it strange that those calling for the necessary investigations already have conclusions and are passing judgement.”

According to the HRW, the country’s leading opposition, Unita, said it had documented more than 130 cases of people being killed by security forces during protests since 2017. 

Last Saturday, thousands of people called for Angola’s President Joao Lourenco to step down during a rally in the capital organised by Unita. 

The oil-rich nation has experienced a wave of protests since the government cut subsidies for petrol in June. The move was aimed at curbing government spending, as the economy suffers from a slide in oil prices that has weakened the local currency, the kwanza. But it resulted in unpopular sharp fuel price hikes. — AFP