ANGOLA HUMAN Rights
|2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
March 11, 2010
Angola is a constitutional republic with an estimated population of 16 million. The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos since 1979, has been in power since independence in 1975 and exercised tight, centralized control over government planning, policy making, and media outlets. In September 2008 the government held the first legislative elections since 1992. Domestic and international observers reported that polling throughout the country was peaceful and generally credible, despite a ruling party advantage due to state control of major media and other resources, and serious logistical failures that marred polling in the capital of Luanda. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The government's human rights record remained poor, and there were numerous, serious problems. Human rights abuses included the abridgement of citizens' right to elect officials at all levels; unlawful killings by police, military, and private security forces; torture, beatings, and rape by security forces; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; official corruption and impunity; judicial inefficiency and lack of independence; lengthy pretrial detention; lack of due process; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association; forced evictions without compensation; and discrimination, violence, and abuse perpetrated against women and children.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed politically motivated killings; however, human rights activists and domestic media sources reported that security forces arbitrarily killed two persons during the year. In 2008 security forces arbitrarily killed 23 persons.
Impunity remained a problem, although the government prosecuted some human rights violators. Results of investigations into security force abuses were seldom released.
Domestic media and local human rights activists reported that police use of excessive force resulted in killings.
On September 12, police in Luanda tortured a male citizen charged with selling drugs. While he was under arrest, police denied him medical assistance. He later died in prison due to serious contusions and abuse. The provincial commander of police requested an investigation; however, there were no updates by year's end.
On September 22, police arrested a male citizen in Porto Amboim for a public argument and tortured him. He later died due to serious contusions and cuts. There was no investigation by year's end.
In 2008 there were multiple media reports in Luanda that police deliberately targeted and killed persons suspected of gang and other criminal activity.
In July 2008 five police officers shot and killed eight teenagers. While the officers claimed to be part of a special gang task force tasked with ridding neighborhoods of gang members, the national police denied the existence of the task force and relieved the police officers of duty. Prosecutors charged seven officers with murder, and they were undergoing trial at year's end.
Police continued to decline to prosecute several officers in connection with a 2007 police killing of two actors during filming of a movie in a high-crime area of Luanda. The national police stated they were unable to positively identify the officers allegedly involved in the killings.
In 2007 police shot and killed two vendors in an open-air market during a raid on vendors of pirated DVDs. The minister of interior and national police commander immediately suspended the officers in question and promised a swift investigation. The government was still considering criminal charges against the accused police officers at year's end.
The Memorandum of Understanding for Peace and Reconciliation for Cabinda Province, signed in 2006, largely brought an end to the insurgency in the province, although sporadic attacks by dissident factions of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) and counterinsurgency operations by the Armed Forces of Angola (FAA) continued during the year.
On March 31, FLEC claimed responsibility for an attack on three foreign-operated trucks in Cabinda, resulting in the death of a foreign national.
On April 20, FLEC claimed responsibility for an attack in Cabinda that killed five soldiers.
On April 28, FLEC claimed responsibility for an attack in Cabinda that killed eight soldiers.
On December 22, FLEC claimed responsibility for the killing of 15 soldiers during an attack in Miconje.
In 2007 there was one report of an unlawful killing in Cabinda that could be linked to FAA soldiers. The incident remained under investigation.
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of killings by private security companies in diamond concession areas.
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of vigilante violence.
Landmines placed during the long civil war continued to be a threat. According to the National Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Assistance, landmine and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) accidents killed eight and injured four during the year. The government continued to strengthen and expand national demining capacity during the year, and it partnered extensively with international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on demining operations and mine-risk education.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. However, there were media reports that persons taken into police or military custody disappeared. On May 15, the president of a local movement in Lunda-Norte, Jota Malakito, was taken into police custody and held incommunicado for six months. He was awaiting trial at year's end.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices; however, government security forces tortured, beat, and otherwise abused persons. Reports of beatings and other abuses in police stations during interrogations were common. The media reported that on October 9, seven former police agents from the National Police force claimed that they were tortured while undergoing interrogation in prison.
In 2007 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions (UNWGAD) reported a number of detainees with visible signs of torture. Police and other security forces rarely were held accountable. Although the government punished some violators administratively, no prosecutions occurred during the year.
Abuses by the army continued. There were NGO and media reports of violence by security forces in Cabinda and Lunda Norte. In Cabinda, FAA troops illegally detained, beat, or threatened citizens suspected of FLEC collaboration during anti-insurgency operations, according to human rights NGOs.
On January 7, a local NGO reported that security forces arrested three citizens in Cabinda for crimes against the state and collaboration with FLEC. Security forces beat and tortured them with cigarette burns, prolonged sun exposure, heavy weights tied to their testicles, and flogging until they bled from their ears, noses, eyes, and mouths. There were no updates on the case by year's end.
On March 24, a lawyer reported that several civilians awaiting trial for alleged participation in a FLEC attack in Cabinda showed visible signs of torture.
On November 10, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), approximately 60 soldiers arrived in the village of Sassa Zau Velho and severely beat two elderly men. The soldiers pillaged the men's houses and stole money. Villagers reported that the military commander of the northern region in Cabinda later apologized. He also reportedly stated that if victims could identify the perpetrators, the soldiers would be punished. However, the victims were unable to identify the soldiers, and the FAA neither restored the stolen goods nor paid damages to cover the medical and hospital bills.
The government continued to conduct operations throughout the country to identify, detain, and expel illegal immigrants, particularly in the diamond-rich provinces of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul.
Between May and August police expelled approximately 30,000 illegal immigrants, most of them diamond workers in Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul. NGOs and the media reported acts of violence and degrading treatment associated with these operations. Military and national police forces, collaborating to deport illegal Congolese diamond miners, arbitrarily beat and raped deportees. Deportees were forced to march to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border without food or water. Government security forces conducted immigration raids on settlements of illegal miners by employing harsh and intimidating tactics, such as firing weapons in the air, beating or raping resisters, and stealing their personal effects. During the expulsions in Lunda Norte, immigration officials detained suspected illegal Congolese in makeshift camps with poor living conditions for weeks and, in some cases, months at a time before deporting them.
The Ministry of Interior reported that 33,567 illegal immigrants were expelled during the year, compared with 69,183 in 2008. There were reports of violence and degrading treatment associated with these operations. In October local NGOs reported cases of extortion, theft, and physical violence against Congolese during mass expulsions of Angolans and Congolese from the DRC and Angola, respectively.
In 2007 the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that illegal Congolese immigrants detained in Lunda Norte were systematically raped. MSF also reported beatings, forced labor, withholding of food and water, and repeated body cavity searches without the use of gloves as the authorities moved immigrants to the DRC border for expulsion. Several children died from malnourishment and dehydration. Although the women said "soldiers" abused them, it remained unclear whether the abusers were FAA, national or border police, or armed and uniformed private security forces. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) also reported allegations of excessive use of force by government security forces during expulsions, including the burning of houses, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence, extortion, and forced labor. Three Congolese workers reportedly died while in custody. The FAA had not commented publicly on the findings of its investigation by year's end.
Reports of abuses by private security companies continued, especially in Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul. According to reports from human rights activists, private security contractors hired by diamond companies to protect their concessions from illegal exploitation were responsible for most of the violence.
Police and immigration officials at border checkpoints and provincial airports extorted money from travelers and harassed returnees and refugees.
Reports of rape and sexual abuse during arrest or detention occurred during the year. On May 29, a 15-year-old girl in Samba was sexually abused while detained at a municipal prison.
Landmine and other ERW-related deaths continued during the year, as infrastructure improvements made possible increased movement of persons and goods in rural, war-affected areas. In February, March, and May, a total of three persons were killed by landmines.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening. NGOs reported that prison officials routinely beat and tortured detainees. In 2007 the UNWGAD interviewed prisoners who showed visible signs of torture, starvation, and abuse. A local human rights NGO reported similar conditions while visiting prisons during the year.
Overcrowding and lack of medical care, sanitation, potable water, and food caused some prison deaths. It was customary for families to bring food to prisoners, but guards demanded bribes as a precondition for food delivery. Some prisoners died of disease, especially in provincial prisons. Prison conditions varied widely between urban and rural areas.
In March 2008 the National Criminal Investigation Department (DNIC) building collapsed, killing 31 inmates. All police escaped from the building prior to its collapse; however, prisoners were not freed from their holding cells.
Due to violent prison riots in 2007 that resulted in at least two prisoner deaths, the government worked to reduce overcrowding. However, the national prison system continued to hold more than five times the number of prisoners for which it was designed. Luanda's Central Prison, built to house 600 prisoners, held 3,300 before the riots. By the end of 2007, the prison population there was reduced to approximately 1,000 prisoners. However, during a prison visit, a local human rights NGO noted the transfer of prisoners from Luanda to the provinces worsened overcrowding in the provincial prisons. A local human rights NGO reported an overcrowded prison in Lubango that held 690 prisoners in a facility built for 150. In addition, prisons in both Huambo and Viana were grossly overcrowded.
Chronically underpaid prison officials supported themselves by stealing from prisoners and extorting money from their family members. Prison guards continued to demand that prisoners pay for weekend passes to which they were entitled. There were continued reports of prison officials operating an informal bail system, releasing prisoners until their trial dates for a fee.
Female inmates informed the UNWGAD that prison guards regularly raped them.
Authorities at provincial prisons regularly housed juveniles, often incarcerated for petty theft, together with adults, and subjected the children to abuse by guards and inmates; however, authorities in urban prisons often separated juveniles from the main prison population. Juvenile detention centers existed in Luanda but were severely overcrowded.
Authorities frequently held pretrial detainees with sentenced inmates and held short-term detainees with those serving long-term sentences for violent crimes, especially in provincial prisons.
The government permitted foreign diplomatic personnel and local and international human rights observers to visit prisons during the year. However, the government limited access to politically sensitive inmates. For example, during the year and in 2008, the government did not permit NGOs to visit the former secret service chief, Fernando Garcia Miala, who was serving a four-year sentence in a civilian penitentiary for a military charge of insubordination. Miala was released during the year.
In 2008 the government opened new or rehabilitated prisons in eight provinces.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, police legally can detain an individual under reasonable suspicion for six hours without evidence of a crime. Security forces often did not respect these prohibitions in practice.
On February 7, police arbitrarily detained two youths at police headquarters when they delivered an obituary notice about their cousin, a victim of a gang killing in Luanda. Police stated they detained the youths because of their potential participation in a rumored plan to break into gang members' houses. An investigation continued at year's end.
Local human rights NGOs reported that authorities detained family members of individuals wanted by the police.
During the year a local NGO reported that a total of 30 Cabindans were detained in eight separate instances for supposed crimes against the state.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The National Police, controlled by the Interior Ministry, are responsible for internal security and law enforcement. The Internal Intelligence Service reports to the Office of the Presidency and investigates sensitive state security matters. The FAA is responsible for external security but also has domestic security responsibilities, including border security, expulsion of illegal immigrants, and small-scale actions against dissident FLEC factions in Cabinda.
Other than personnel assigned to elite units, police were poorly paid, and the practice of supplementing income through extortion of civilians was widespread. Corruption and impunity remained serious problems. Most complaints were handled within the National Police by internal disciplinary procedures, which sometimes led to formal punishment, including dismissal. However, the government did not establish mechanisms to expedite investigations and punish alleged offenders, and it rarely disclosed publicly the results of internal investigations.
The government's closure of the UN Human Rights Office (UNHRO) in May 2008 hampered the Ministry of Interior's efforts to train police and army recruits. However, police participated in professional training with foreign law enforcement officials from several countries in the region. In October police forces participated in training to prevent trafficking in persons and to provide security for the upcoming African Cup of Nations.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
Prior to an arrest, the law requires a judge or magistrate to issue a warrant, although a person caught committing a crime may be arrested immediately without a warrant; however, security forces did not always procure arrest warrants before detaining persons. The constitution provides the right to prompt judicial determination of the detention's legality, but authorities often did not respect this right in practice.
The law mandates that detainees be informed of charges against them within five days, or the prosecutor may permit the suspect to return home and provide a warrant of surveillance to local police. This generally occurred in practice.
If the crime is a misdemeanor, the suspect may be detained for 30 days before trial. If the crime is a felony, the prosecutor may prolong pretrial detention up to 45 days. In practice authorities regularly exceeded these limits.
A functioning but ineffective bail system, widely used for minor crimes, existed. Prisoners and their families reported that prison officials demanded bribes to release prisoners.
Police often extorted bribes. Police did not obtain warrants before conducting searches for illegal vendors and making sweeps of public markets.
Unlawful arrest and detention continued to be serious problems. NGOs continued efforts to secure the release of illegally detained persons. During the year NGOs reported more than 500 cases of illegal detentions. In 2008 citizens reported to NGOs 700 cases of illegal detention; NGOs reported receiving petitions daily from relatives of illegally detained persons seeking pro bono legal assistance. NGOs also reported that police often detained citizens without charge or denied them access to a judge for extended periods and then released them.
In mining provinces such as Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul, and Bie, international organizations reported that government security forces detained illegal immigrants and their families in transit centers, where the security forces subjected them to systematic rape, body cavity searches, and deprivation of food and water.
Security officials arbitrarily arrested members of the opposition. For example, in August 2008 security forces arrested 13 members of the Party for Democratic Support and Progress of Angola opposition party for distributing pamphlets on behalf of another opposition party. The Luanda Provincial Court dismissed the case as the prosecutor found the charges erroneous.
Cabinda residents continued to report that security forces detained persons suspected of FLEC activity or collaboration. In 2008 NGOs reported that security forces held civilians incommunicado and denied the UNWGAD and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) permission to visit them.
The law mandates access to legal counsel for detainees and states that indigent detainees should be provided a lawyer by the state. These rights often were not respected, in part due to the shortage of legal professionals. The law also allows family members prompt access to detainees; however, this occasionally was ignored or made conditional upon payment of a bribe.
Excessively long pretrial detention continued to be a serious problem. An inadequate number of judges and poor communication among authorities contributed to it. Police often beat and then released detainees rather than prepare a formal court case. In some cases, authorities held inmates in the prison system for up to two years before their trials began. In 2008 an NGO estimated that more than 50 percent of inmates were pretrial detainees, most of whom had not been formally charged. The government did not release detainees who had been held beyond the legal time limit, claiming previous releases of pretrial detainees resulted in an increase in crime.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary remained understaffed, inefficient, corrupt, and subject to executive and political influence (see section 4).
The Supreme Court heads the formal justice system and administers the 18 provincial courts as well as a limited number of municipal courts. The president appoints Supreme Court justices for life terms without confirmation by the parliament. The Supreme Court generally heard cases concerning alleged political and security crimes. The Ministry of Defense also tried civilians in military courts.
On August 20, the Supreme Court rescinded the 12-year sentence of former Voice of America (VOA) correspondent Fernando Lelo. The tribunal released him from prison after his conviction by a closed military tribunal in September 2008 for crimes against state security and instigating a rebellion.
In June 2008 the government created a seven-member constitutional court to provide judicial review of constitutional issues and supervise the electoral process. The president nominated three judges, parliament nominated three, and the Supreme Court nominated one, all to serve seven-year terms.
There were long trial delays at the Supreme Court level. Criminal courts also had a large backlog of cases that resulted in major delays in hearings.
Informal courts remained the principal institutions through which citizens resolved conflicts in rural areas. Traditional leaders (sobas) also heard and decided local cases. These informal systems did not provide citizens with the same rights to a fair trial as the formal legal system; instead, each community in which they were located established local rules.
As most municipalities did not have prosecutors or judges, local police often served as investigator, prosecutor, and judge. Both the National Police and the FAA have internal court systems that generally remained closed to outside scrutiny. Although members of these organizations can be tried under their internal regulations, cases that include violations of criminal or civil laws can also fall under the jurisdiction of provincial courts.
The law provides for the right to a fair trial; however, the government did not always respect this right. Suspects must be in the presence of a judge and defense attorney when charged. Defendants are presumed innocent until convicted. By law trials are usually public, although each court has the right to close proceedings. Juries are not used. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. The law requires that an attorney be provided at public expense if an indigent defendant faces serious criminal charges. Outside Luanda, the public defender was generally not a trained attorney due to shortages in qualified personnel. Defendants do not have the right to confront their accusers. They may question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The government did not always respect these rights in practice.
Defendants and their attorneys have the right to access government-held evidence relevant to their cases. In addition, defendants have the right to appeal. Lawyers and prosecutors can appeal if the sentence is unsatisfactory, but only a higher court can modify the sentence. However, the government did not always respect these rights in practice.
The law extends to all citizens, and a separate court, under the Ministry of Justice, is designated for children's affairs. It functions as part of Luanda's provincial court system. Minors are considered adults at 18 but leave the juvenile court system at 16; between 16 and 18, they are tried and imprisoned with adults but are subject to lighter sentencing. Minors bear the responsibility of proving their age; however, in many rural provinces, courts tried as adults those minors without identification papers.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Although the law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, the judiciary was subject to political interference. Civil courts functioned in some provinces but faced severe backlogs. During the year Luanda's civil courts had more than 2,000 pending civil suits. The Ministry of Justice continued work with national and international partners to improve court-clerk training and technical capacity in provincial and municipal civil courts. Damages for human rights violations could be sought in court, but no cases were tried during the year.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions in practice.
Citizens widely believed that the government maintained surveillance of certain groups, including government critics, opposition parties, and journalists.
The government continued to demolish informal squatter housing in Luanda and to forcibly relocate residents in large provincial cities such as Lobito.
In February Lobito and Benguela local administrations demolished six slums, housing 1,000 to 3,500 persons. Local NGOs reported a lack of legal due process and no compensation.
In March the government evicted and forcibly relocated approximately 400 residents in the neighborhood of Coreia in Luanda. Their houses were demolished.
In April the government evicted and forcibly relocated approximately 700 families from the Ilha neighborhood of Luanda without compensation, allegedly because their residences were at risk of damage by high seas. Residents protested with burnt tires and roadblocks, but police quickly quelled the protest.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press; however, government regulations and minimal independent media outside of Luanda limited these rights in practice. For example, authorities cancelled live radio call-in shows in the weeks leading up to the September 2008 legislative elections. Human rights activists and journalists practiced self-censorship.
Individual citizens reported practicing self-censorship but were generally able to criticize the government without fear of direct reprisals. The government engaged in subtle repression and economic coercion, often in the form of withdrawing business or job opportunities, to discourage criticism.
There were 12 privately owned weekly newspapers and four Luanda-based commercial radio stations. The government permits state-owned Radio Nacional to broadcast nationally, but all other radio stations can only broadcast within the province where they are located. Radio Mais, whose ownership includes individuals associated with the ruling party, also broadcasts in Luanda, Huambo, and Benguela. Authorities did not allow independent stations to use repeaters to expand their signal reach; they were required by law to open radio stations in every province they wished to reach.
Independent radio and print media criticized the government openly and at times harshly. Unlike in previous years, local journalists were able to criticize government officials, particularly the president, without fear of arrest or harassment. However, the government restricted nationwide independent broadcasting through licensing laws.
In 2008 the state-run National Television of Angola (TPA) suspended a leading anchor of a prime-time news program without pay for four months for publicly declaring that censorship occurred at the TPA. The journalist was later reinstated.
In October 2008 three journalists from national state broadcaster Radio Nacional de Angola were suspended after they questioned President Jose dos Santos's choices for ministry leadership.
The government continued to give preferential treatment and access to state media organizations, including Angola Public Television, Radio Nacional, and the only national daily newspaper, Jornal de Angola. Government-owned press minimally covered the statements, issues, or activities of independent journalists, opposition leaders, and civil society organizations.
The 2006 press law ended the state monopoly on television, partially opened the FM bandwidth to independent broadcasters, and rescinded travel restrictions on journalists. Nonetheless, on March 26, a privately owned radio station began broadcasting in Huambo Province. A private television station, TV Zimbo, also began operating in 2008.
During the year authorities arrested, harassed, and intimidated journalists.
In May the DNIC investigated the publisher of the weekly newspaper Folha 8, William Tonet, for supposed crimes against the state; no trial was held by year's end. On May 9, authorities seized his passport when he attempted to visit Namibia. Police notified Tonet that he was on a list of persons forbidden to leave the country.
On December 13, FAA soldiers detained a local correspondent of VOA in Cabinda, Jose Manuel Gimbi, and an international Dow Jones Newswires reporter, Benoit Faucon, for taking photographs of the new stadium built in Cabinda for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations. Both were questioned but released after several hours. Gimbi claimed to have received several domestic intelligence calls following his arrest.
In September 2008 the government accused former reporter Fernando Lelo of inciting treason and sentenced him to eight years' imprisonment for encouraging five soldiers to desert the FAA and join the FLEC guerrilla movement. On August 20, the Supreme Court rescinded his sentence and released him from prison.
In 2007 security forces imprisoned Graca Campos, director of a private weekly newspaper that frequently criticized the government. Campos, who was charged with defamation, was sentenced to eight months in prison--two months more than the maximum legal sentence--and fined an unprecedented 18.75 million kwanzas ($208,000). Campos was tried in absentia, after he repeatedly did not heed summaries to appear in court, which he stated he never received. He was released and awaiting trial at year's end. He was also convicted in another case, dating back to 2001. Media and civil society groups strongly criticized the government's legal irregularities in the case; Campos appealed and the court declared a mistrial in 2007, granting him early release.
There were reports that security forces interfered with journalists' attempts to take pictures or video during the year. On May 10, a photographer in Cabinda was detained for taking pictures of the president without previous authorization. In 2008 the government refused to issue visas to a number of Portuguese journalists seeking to cover the electoral process. In addition, authorities prevented a foreign news crew from filming railroad construction in 2008.
Defamation is a crime punishable by imprisonment or fine. Accuracy is not an acceptable defense against defamation charges; the accused must provide evidence proving the validity of the allegedly damaging material.
Depending on the issue, the minister of social communication, the spokesperson of the presidency, the national director of information, and the directors of state-run media organizations had policy and censorship authority.
Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail; however, there were reports that the government monitored Internet chat rooms and Web sites and at times pressed for the removal of defamatory material from Web sites. Availability of Internet service and Internet cafes increased during the year, but the high cost of Internet service put it beyond the reach of most citizens.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
The constitution and law provide for the right of assembly; however, the government at times restricted this right.
The law requires written notification to the local administrator three days before public or private assemblies are to be held; however, the government at times prohibited events based on perceived or claimed security considerations. Participants potentially were liable for "offenses against the honor and consideration due to persons and to organs of sovereignty." Applications for progovernment gatherings routinely were granted without delay; however, applications for demonstrations, protests, or opposition party assemblies frequently were denied, usually based on government claims that the timing or venue requested was problematic. At other times the government did not respond to the applicants, which then enabled local authorities to threaten demonstrators with arrest for holding an event without authorization.
In July police dispersed a crowd of protestors marching to protest the recent demolition of houses in the Luanda neighborhoods of Iraq and Baghdad.
On September 25, the government cancelled the celebration of Eid al Fitr organized by the Islamic Community of Angola, the only Muslim organization in Luanda, by flanking the entrance of the rented local stadium with soldiers.
During the 2008 electoral period, numerous opposition parties reported that local authorities denied requests to use buildings and public spaces for political party rallies. They also reported that the ruling MPLA reserved public spaces for the entire campaign period, which permitted party supporters to interrupt and disperse opposition party rallies in the space they had reserved. In August 2008 authorities in Namibe denied the opposition party National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) access to space it had reserved and paid for, telling members that the MPLA had reserved the same space months prior. However, the ledger indicated that the space was available when UNITA reserved it.
In 2007 the municipal administrator denied the Forum of Political Women, a nonpartisan group with membership from 13 political parties, permission to distribute literature on women's political rights in a Luanda market. Following media pressure, the local government granted permission to use another market, and the group rescheduled the event. However, on the rescheduled date, the market administrator denied permission, stating municipal authorities had not notified him. While municipal authorities apologized for what they called a bureaucratic delay, the group decided not to reschedule again.
Freedom of Association
The constitution and law provide for the right of association, and the government generally respected this right in practice. The government legally may deny registration to private associations on security grounds. Extensive and unexplained delays in the NGO registration process continued to be a problem. For example, five civil society associations (the Association for Justice, Peace, and Democracy (AJPD); Human Rights Coordination Council; SOS-Habitat; Maos Livres; and Omunga) constituted between 2000 and 2006 remained without certificates to operate from the Ministry of Justice at year's end.
The government sometimes arbitrarily restricted associations it considered subversive by refusing to grant permits for organized activities. During the year opposition parties generally were permitted to organize and hold meetings; however, opposition officials continued to report minor obstructions to their free exercise of their parties' right to meet.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution and law provide for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
Religious groups must register with the ministries of justice and culture and they must have at least 100,000 adherents to qualify for registration. During a visit in 2007, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief noted that this provision discriminated against religious minorities. The Muslim community and many Christian groups were not recognized due to this provision and were therefore limited in their rights and activities. The government legally recognized 85 denominations; 800 other religious denominations had pending registration applications; the latter did not meet the membership requirement to receive legal status, but the government did not bar their activities.
Government officials issued statements opposing Muslim proselytizing and linking Muslims to sensitive national issues of illegal immigration, rising crime, and international terrorism. In March the head of the National Religious Affairs Institute, Maria de Fatima Republicano Viegas, said the government was concerned about Islam in the country and would investigate the activities of all mosques over concerns that Islamic practices go against cultural norms. The domestic intelligence service, charged with compiling a report on mosque activities, had begun conducting these investigations. Republicano described Islam as alien to the culture and traditions of the country and claimed it victimized women who married Muslim men.
The government continued its ban on 17 religious groups in Cabinda on charges of practicing harmful exorcism rituals on adults and children accused of witchcraft, illegally holding religious services in residences, and lack of official registration.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The Muslim community suffered negative public attitudes throughout the country.
There is a Jewish community of approximately 350 persons, primarily Israelis. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/drl/irf/rpt.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution and law provide for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; however, the government at times restricted these rights in practice. The government cooperated with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), returning refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.
Extortion and harassment at government checkpoints in rural areas, and at provincial and international border checkpoints, interfered with the right to travel. Extortion by police was routine in cities on major commercial routes. The government and private security companies restricted access to designated diamond concessions. Citizens living near concession areas were regularly denied access for any purpose, including obtaining water.
NGOs reported that security forces often used excessive force in expelling illegal artisanal miners and their families. Landmines and other ERW remaining from the civil war continued to impede freedom of movement in rural areas.
The constitution prohibits forced exile, and the government did not employ it.
Internally Displaced Persons
A 2006 joint assessment by the government, the UN, and foreign governments estimated that 100,000 IDPs remained unsettled from the civil war. The majority did not intend to return to their area of origin, as many considered their new locations to be home. Some of those yet to return to their homes stated that a lack of physical infrastructure and government services, such as medical care and landmines, were major deterrents to their return.
The Ministry of Assistance and Social Reinsertion (MINARS) has primary responsibility for returnees and remaining IDPs, as well as housing and resettlement programs; however, its efforts remained inadequate. MINARS delegated primary responsibility to provincial governments to ensure safe, voluntary resettlement in areas cleared of mines and with access to water, arable land, markets, and adequate state administration.
In October the DRC forcibly repatriated approximately 52,000 Angolans, mostly documented refugees, to the border provinces of Uige and Zaire. Throughout October the government struggled to provide supplies, water, and bathroom facilities for those housed in temporary camps. By the end of November, MINARS had resettled approximately 75 percent of the refugees; however, logistical problems for those who remained in the camps persisted. Local NGOs reported that some MINARS state security officials charged 6,000 kwanzas ($67) for transportation.
The government did not usually restrict aid efforts by international humanitarian groups. However, the IOM and other international organizations reported that the government sometimes denied their access to camps for returnees in Zaire and Uije provinces.
Protection of Refugees
The government is a party to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 protocol, and the 1969 African Union Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa. The country's laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.
The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. In October the government and the UNHCR resumed joint efforts to repatriate more than 200,000 refugees remaining outside the country since the civil war.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The law provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully. Citizens were able to exercise the right to elect parliamentary representatives in 2008; however, the right to elect a head of state and local leaders remained restricted.
Elections and Political Participation
After having postponed parliamentary elections for two years, the government held the first postwar elections in September 2008. The ruling MPLA won 81.6 percent of the vote. Domestic and international observers reported that polling throughout the country was peaceful and generally credible, although the ruling party enjoyed advantages due to state control of major media and other resources. Serious logistical failures marred polling in the capital, Luanda. Opposition parties criticized many aspects of the electoral process, including state control of the major media, late disbursement of public campaign funds, the National Electoral Commission's (CNE) failure to accredit some opposition and civil society electoral observers, and the CNE's last-minute decision to discard the legal requirement that a voter registry be used to verify voters' identity and residence at polling stations. Despite these and other irregularities, election day was peaceful, and more than 87 percent of registered voters participated. Opposition parties generally accepted the electoral results.
On January 15, the constitutional commission of parliament resumed work on a new constitution, which will determine the nature and timing of presidential elections. Although a presidential election was expected during the year, the deadline was extended to accommodate constitutional reforms.
The ruling MPLA dominated all political institutions. Political power was concentrated in the president and the Council of Ministers, through which the president exercised executive power. The council can enact laws, decrees, and resolutions, assuming most functions normally associated with the legislative branch. The National Assembly comprises 220 deputies elected under a party-list proportional representation system. This body has the authority to draft, debate, and pass legislation, but in practice laws generally were drafted and proposed by the executive branch for the assembly's approval. After the September 2008 legislative elections, opposition deputies held fewer than 20 percent of the parliamentary seats. Nonetheless, parliamentary committees frequently held hearings in which senior government officials were required to explain and defend government policy.
There were 96 registered opposition parties, 11 of which received government subsidies based on their representation in parliament. Of the 96, only 10 parties and four coalitions fulfilled the legal requirements to participate in legislative elections. The DNIC informed all parties that it would investigate and prosecute political parties that used forged documents for its members during the electoral period.
Opposition parties stated that their members were subject to harassment, intimidation, and assault by supporters of the ruling party. In May the FAA and National Police targeted UNITA party members during operations to deport foreign citizens from Lunda Norte province. On February 23, in Huambo, police detained two secretaries of the UNITA party youth wing, apparently based on MPLA accusations that they caused a public disturbance. UNITA officials claimed that police beat the two secretaries. One suffered a broken arm and both were jailed for more than 24 hours. UNITA officials secured their release and received assurances from the police commandant that the two officers would be disciplined. However, no investigation had taken place by year's end.
Also in February, police destroyed UNITA posters in Bie Province. Prior to the September 2008 elections, the UNITA municipal secretary in Benguela Province reported that a member of his party was beaten for wearing a UNITA T-shirt in the town of Ganda during the election campaign period. In August 2008 MPLA members harassed UNITA members in Namibe's town center when they tried to hang UNITA party flags on lampposts. UNITA campaign materials also regularly were torn down in Huambo Province.
Opposition party members and civil society leaders cited examples of political intolerance during the election process.
There were 62 women in the 220-seat parliament and 19 women in the 91-member cabinet, including nine ministers and eight vice-ministers. There were three female governors, including the governor of Luanda Province.
The country has three dominant ethnolinguistic groups: the Ovimbundu, Mbundu, and the Bakongo, which together constitute approximately 77 percent of the population. Other groups also were represented in government. There were six members of smaller ethnic groups in the parliament and one minority member in the cabinet who is Chokwe. The majority of political parties had limited national constituencies, but all parties were prohibited by law from limiting party membership based on ethnicity, race, or gender.
Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement these laws effectively, and local and international NGOs and media sources reported that officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The Tribunal de Contas was the government agency responsible for combating government corruption; however, the DNIC also investigated some cases.
The World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a severe problem.
Government corruption was widespread, and accountability was limited due to a lack of checks and balances, lack of institutional capacity, and a culture of impunity. Despite the widespread perception that government corruption at all levels was endemic, public prosecutions were rare. However, at year's end, the former director of immigration and foreigners, along with six other senior Ministry of Interior officials, were on trial for corruption.
In February a high school principal was dismissed for selling matriculation to the school for approximately 11,000 to 13,000 kwanzas ($120 to 140) per student.
There continued to be a lack of transparency in the government's procurement and use of oil-backed loans from the international community.
In April media sources investigated housing project contracts to build one million homes and wrote about unconfirmed reports that government officials received bribes in exchange for accepting contracts.
In September a foreign bridge-building company was convicted of foreign bribery with undisclosed Angolan ministers and officials dating back to 1990.
In October the DNIC held the finance division leader of Kwanza Sul provincial police force on charges of corruption, citing extraordinary charges and salary payments to deceased and retired police agents.
In October the government also charged five high-level immigration officials with fraud and corruption on embezzlement of funds and acceptance of bribes in immigration services in exchange for 27,000 to 90,000 kwanzas ($300 to 1,000). The trial was ongoing at year's end.
On October 15, former governor of Bengo, Isalino Mendes, was found guilty of embezzling public funds.
In 2007 the government charged the former director general of immigration with extortion; the charges stemmed from a 2006 investigation that resulted in the conviction of other immigration officials.
The government continued its efforts to reduce discrepancies between reported and actual oil revenues by making data available online. To monitor and control expenditures more effectively, the Ministry of Finance continued implementation of the Integrated Financial System, a system designed to record all central government expenditures. State-owned oil and mining companies were required to conduct internal audits and submit the results to the government for review.
Parastatals, most notably the oil entity SONANGOL, were required to report revenues to the central bank and the Ministry of Finance, but inconsistent accounting practices hampered transparency. SONANGOL's dual role as governmental regulator and national oil company hindered transparency in the petroleum sector.
Audits of ENDIAMA, the state diamond parastatal, likewise were not made public. Serious transparency problems remained in the diamond industry, particularly regarding allocation of exploration, production, and purchasing rights.
The business climate continued to favor those connected to the government. Government ministers and other high-level officials commonly and openly owned interests in companies regulated by or doing business with their respective ministries. There were no laws or regulations regarding conflict of interest. Petty corruption among police, teachers, and other government employees was widespread. There were credible reports of high-level officials receiving substantial kickbacks from private companies awarded government contracts.
The law provides for public access to government information; however, the government was slow in providing it to the public. Information posted on most government Web sites remained limited. The government's limited technical capabilities also restricted its ability to provide information.
Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated throughout the country. Some of those investigating government corruption and human rights abuses alleged government interference in their activities throughout the year.
More than 350 domestic NGOs operated in the country. An estimated 100 NGOs worked on human rights issues, although only a few were considered effective. Local NGOs actively promoted and defended human rights during the year by documenting prison conditions, protesting forced evictions, providing free legal counsel, lobbying government officials, and publishing investigative reports.
The Law of Association requires NGOs to specify their mandate and areas of activity. The government used this provision to prevent or discourage established NGOs from engaging in certain activities, especially those that were politically sensitive or related to election issues. Six NGOs did not have a registry certificate. Government officials threatened to ban those NGOs it determined to be operating outside their mandate or not effectively working on the specific issues they were created to address; no NGOs were banned during the year.
The government arrested and harassed NGO workers. In September the director of SOS Habitat reported continued harassment and intimidation by security forces in Luanda, allegedly over his vocal opposition to housing demolitions.
The government also criticized domestic and international NGOs. In 2007 the director of the Humanitarian Assistance Technical Coordination Unit, the government agency that oversees NGOs, alleged that certain local NGOs and international NGOs such as Search for Common Ground, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute had instigated public discontent and disobedience, operated outside of legal parameters, and illegally involved themselves in political activities. The director also accused the organizations of not being legally registered. However, the government took no action against these NGOs.
There were reports of police or military presence at community meetings with international NGOs, especially in Cabinda.
In 2007 security forces arrested Sarah Wykes, a well-known anticorruption researcher and specialist on extractive industry transparency. Authorities charged Wykes with unspecified crimes against state security during her visit to Cabinda to research transparency in the oil sector for Global Witness. Authorities released Wykes on bail three days later and allowed her to travel to Britain. She agreed to return for any future trial.
Problems with governmental delays in processing registration applications for NGOs continued. The AJPD, which continued to operate under a clause in the registration law that automatically grants legal operating status if authorities do not reject a group's application within 80 days, remained unregistered, and its request to register remained with the Supreme Court at year's end. Despite the lack of certification, the AJPD continued to work closely with some ministries, including in the expansion of its human rights training program with the National Police.
Mpalabanda, a civil society organization formerly based in Cabinda, remained banned; its registration was rescinded in 2006 when it joined the Cabindan Forum for Dialogue, a mechanism that negotiated peace with the government. The government determined that Mpalabanda was acting as a political entity outside of its legal mandate as a civil society organization. Mpalabanda supporters continued to distribute statements through the Internet and to attend public forums throughout the year. Former leaders reported low-level harassment and intimidation throughout the reporting period.
More than 100 international NGOs operated in the country. The government did not refuse visas to international NGO observers or otherwise restrict their access to the country.
Several international human rights organizations maintained a permanent presence in the country, including the ICRC. The government cooperated with international governmental organizations and permitted visits by UN representatives; however, in May 2008 the UNHRO closed its office following a government decision not to grant a full mandate to the office. The government had earlier requested a UNHRO presence in Luanda to contend with war-related human rights abuses, but the government claimed after six years of peace it had sufficient institutional capacity to address the issues independently. The decision to close the office directly contradicted government commitments to work more closely with the UNHRO, made when Angola won a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council in 2007.
The ombudsman's office conducted prison visits during the year but issued no reports. In 2007 the ombudsman discounted reports of human rights abuses from SOS Habitat, Amnesty International, and HRW, stating they contained generic and unwarranted criticisms. He admitted the reports had "indicative value" but said his office did not have the staff necessary to follow up or issue reports.
The parliamentary committee on human rights visited prisons and held hearings on human rights issues during the year but did not issue any reports.
Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, religion, disability, language, or social status; however, the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. Violence and discrimination against women, child abuse, child prostitution, trafficking in persons, and discrimination against persons with disabilities and indigenous persons were problems.
Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to eight years' imprisonment; however, limited investigative resources, poor forensic capabilities, and an ineffective judicial system prevented prosecution of most cases. The Organization of Angolan Women operated a shelter in Luanda that offered special services for rape victims. From January to June, the police commissioner in Luanda estimated that 10 cases of rape occurred daily nationwide, 40 percent in Luanda. In 2007 reports indicated that 350 rapes occurred in the capital. The Ministry of Justice worked with the Ministry of Interior to increase the number of female police officers and to improve police response to rape allegations. The government also instituted mass public campaigns against gender violence.
Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, was common and pervasive, particularly in urban areas. Domestic violence is not illegal; however, the government occasionally prosecuted it under rape, assault, and battery laws. A 2007 preliminary study on domestic violence in Luanda indicated that 78 percent of women had experienced some form of violence since the age of 15. Twenty-seven percent of women reported abuse in the 12 months preceding the study; among women living in the poor outskirts of Luanda, 62 percent reported abuse in the same time period. During the year police recorded 831 cases of domestic violence. The Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women (MINFAMU) registered 283 cases of domestic violence for 2008. Common-law husbands or boyfriends perpetrated the majority of violence. The MINFAMU maintained a program with the Angolan Bar Association to give free legal assistance to abused women; the ministry maintained counseling centers to help families cope with domestic abuse. Statistics on prosecutions for violence against women under these laws during the year were not available.
Religious leaders in Lunda Norte and Uige reported that societal violence against elderly persons and rural and impoverished women and children occurred occasionally, with most cases stemming from accusations of witchcraft. Women sometimes were killed, beaten, or expelled from their families or died from mistreatment and malnourishment. The religious leaders, who offered church-run shelter to the victims, reported that police did not take action due to fears that the women might practice witchcraft on them.
Prostitution is illegal, but the prohibition was not consistently enforced. Many women engaged in prostitution due to poverty, but there were no estimates of its prevalence. The MINFAMU operated a women's shelter in Luanda that was open to former prostitutes.
Sexual harassment was common and is not illegal. However, such cases may be prosecuted under assault and battery and defamation statutes.
Information on government provisions for reproductive health services or diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, was not available.
Under the constitution and law, women enjoy the same rights as men; however, societal discrimination against women remained a serious problem, particularly in rural areas. There were no effective mechanisms to enforce child support laws, and women generally bore the major responsibility for raising children. In addition the ministries of labor and health published an executive decree that listed the types of jobs prohibited to women.
The law provides for equal pay for equal work; however, women generally held low-level positions in state-run industries and in the private sector, or worked in the informal sector. The government, in an interministerial effort spearheaded by the MINFAMU, undertook multiple information campaigns on women's rights and domestic abuse and hosted national, provincial, and municipal workshops and training sessions during the year.
The government was committed to the protection of children's rights and welfare but lacked the human and logistical resources required to provide necessary programs. The National Institute for Children (INAC) had primary responsibility for coordinating government action concerning children's affairs.
Citizenship is derived by birth within the country's territory or from one's parents. However, the government does not register all births immediately, and activists reported that many urban and rural children remained undocumented. The government did not permit undocumented children access to the educational system, and fees for birth certificates and identification cards remained prohibitive for impoverished families. Although the official registration drive ended in 2004, the government continued to partner with UNICEF to identify and assist undocumented children and provided limited subsidies to cover fees for families with proven financial need. The government implemented a previous plan to provide birth certificates in health clinics and maternity wards during the year.
Education is free and compulsory for documented children until the sixth grade, but students often had significant additional expenses. The Ministry of Education had insufficient resources, and educational infrastructure remained in disrepair. There were insufficient schools and teachers to provide universal primary education. The Ministry of Education estimated an 85-90 percent primary enrollment rate during the year. An estimated 30 percent of eligible children were enrolled at the secondary level.
Children in rural areas generally lacked access to secondary education, and seats were often insufficient even in provincial capitals. There were also reports of families paying bribes to education officials to ensure their child had a seat. According to the UN Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization, enrollment rates were higher for boys than for girls, especially at the secondary level.
The government provided free medical care for children with identity documents at pediatric hospitals and health posts throughout the country; however, in many areas, health care was limited or nonexistent. Where medical care was available, boys and girls had equal access.
Child abuse was widespread. Reports of physical abuse within the family were commonplace, and local officials largely tolerated abuse. In November 2008, 40 children were rescued from religious rituals of torture. In 2007 the government created the National Children's Council, an interministerial commission designed to define priorities and coordinate the government's policies to combat all forms of violence against children, including unlawful child labor, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. In 2007 INAC inaugurated a child protection network for Luanda Province.
During the year abuse of children accused of witchcraft continued to be a problem. In October 2008 the government closed three Luanda churches when neighbors reported abuse of children accused of witchcraft. Children accused of witchcraft were subject to abuses such as isolation from their families, denial of food and water, or ritualistic cuttings and the placing of various caustic oils or peppers on their eyes or ears. Persons sometimes killed children during "exorcism" rituals. Most cases of abuse relating to traditional beliefs occurred in Luanda, Uige, and Zaire provinces. Vulnerable children, such as orphans or those without access to health care or education, were more likely to be victims of practices involving witchcraft. Government and religious leaders called for an end to these practices, but the influence of these traditional beliefs remained strong.
In 2007 a teacher in Uige Province kidnapped and beat two children he suspected of witchcraft; one died from his injuries while the other one recovered. Authorities imprisoned and sentenced the teacher to eight years' hard labor.
The legal age for marriage, with parental consent, is 15. The government did not enforce this effectively, and the traditional age of marriage in lower income groups coincided with the onset of puberty. Common-law marriage was regularly practiced.
Child prostitution is illegal; however, local NGOs expressed concern over child prostitution, especially in Luanda and Cunene provinces. In February media sources reported on child prostitution cases in Luanda. In March NGO leaders appealed to the government for a collective response; however, they did not receive it by year's end.
Sexual relations with a child under 12 are considered rape. Sexual relations with a child between the ages of 12 and 15 may be considered sexual abuse, with convicted offenders liable for sentences of up to eight years in prison; however, limited investigative resources and an inadequate judicial system prevented prosecution of most cases. There were no known prosecutions during the year.
Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit slavery; however, there are no specific laws against trafficking in persons. Persons were trafficked from and within the country.
The country is a source for a small but significant number of women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Women and children were primarily trafficked to South Africa, the DRC, Namibia, and Portugal. Officials reported an increase in trafficking due to more open border posts. Young boys were reportedly trafficked to Namibia for bonded agricultural work.
Women and girls were trafficked within the country for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation; young men were trafficked internally for agricultural or unskilled labor.
The country is also a destination for women and girls, mainly from the DRC, who are trafficked into diamond mining camps in Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul. Congolese women and children as well as Brazilian women were trafficked to the country during the year. Poor children and adults were most vulnerable to trafficking.
The few traffickers working in the country were not thought to function as a tightly organized unit; rather they worked mainly through a series of informal or loosely associated contacts. Methods used by traffickers to obtain and transport victims were mostly unknown, although some reports claimed false promises of employment opportunities that result in forced labor, including forced prostitution.
To prosecute trafficking cases, authorities used laws criminalizing forced or bonded labor, prostitution, pornography, rape, kidnapping, and illegal entry. The minimum sentence for rape is eight years' imprisonment, and sentences for related offenses carry a maximum of life imprisonment.
In April five Zimbabweans were trafficked into the country with false promises of professional employment. Traffickers detained the victims at a factory complex, subjected them to forced labor, and denied them access to travel documents and freedom of movement. In June the Zimbabwean government assisted in returning them to Zimbabwe.
On May 28, the UN Joint Human Rights Office reported that Congolese officials broke up a sex trafficking ring that trafficked more than 30 women and girls into Cabinda and sold them to members of the Angolan military. Local villagers indicated that the ring had operated for the previous five years. No prosecutions occurred during the year.
In 2007 immigration officials and the INAC in Zaire Province found 15 children trafficked from Luanda to the DRC; police arrested two suspected traffickers. In other cases, police were unable to identify the traffickers. Although the government began investigating one trafficking case in 2007, case records were destroyed in the 2008 collapse of the DNIC building. There were no known trafficking-related prosecutions during the year.
Immigration services and INAC played significant roles in antitrafficking efforts, including training to strengthen provincial and municipal child protection networks. Immigration officials operated border control checkpoints that verified travel documents for children but lacked the resources to control all border areas effectively. No single ministry has direct responsibility for combating trafficking.
The Ministry of Interior partnered with the IOM to provide antitrafficking seminars and training for police. In addition, police and border control officers and representatives of several ministries, including the Ministry of Justice and the attorney general's office, participated in similar workshops and seminars run by the IOM. The government operated facilities throughout the country for abandoned and abducted children; however, in many cases the facilities were underfunded, understaffed, and overcrowded. A Catholic-affiliated center in Namacumbe, near the Namibian border, assisted victims of trafficking to find and reintegrate with their families. The government provided basic assistance to trafficking victims on an ad hoc basis. Local social welfare agencies provided basic necessities. Victim assistance programs did not exist outside of Luanda, nor did the government operate shelters specifically for trafficking victims.
To prevent child trafficking, the Immigration Service operated checkpoints to screen minors for proper travel documentation at the international airport, border posts, and selected internal locations, such as the trafficking hotspot of Santa Clara in Cunene Province. INAC's six mobile provincial teams conducted spot checks of suspected child-trafficking routes by stopping vehicles transporting children to check for identity cards, proof of relationship to the children, and parental permission for the child's travel.
The State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at www.state.gov/g/tip.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care or other state services, but the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. Persons with disabilities included more than 80,000 landmine victims. Persons with albinism were common victims of discrimination, although church groups worked to eliminate the abuse. The NGO Handicap International estimated that persons with disabilities constituted 10 percent of the population. There is no legislation mandating accessibility for persons with disabilities to public or private facilities, and it was difficult for such persons to find employment or participate in the education system. MINARS maintained an office to address problems facing persons with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, and several government entities supported programs to assist individuals disabled by landmine incidents. During the September 2008 election, the government provided voting assistance to persons with disabilities.
An estimated 3,500 San people lived in small, dispersed communities in Huila, Cunene, and Kuando Kubango provinces. The San are traditional hunter-gatherers who are linguistically and ethnically distinct from their Bantu fellow citizens. Their very limited participation in political life has increased, and Ocadec, a local NGO advocate for the San people, worked with provincial governments to increase services to San communities and to improve communication between these communities and the government.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law does not criminalize homosexuality or sodomy, although discussing homosexuality in society was highly taboo.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS is illegal, but lack of enforcement allowed employers to discriminate against persons with the disease. Local NGOs reported cases of discrimination against professionals with HIV/AIDS. There were no reports of violence against persons with HIV/AIDS. The government's National Institute for the Fight Against HIV/AIDS conducted HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaigns. Local NGOs worked to combat stigmatization and discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS. In 2008 the FAA conducted educational programs to discourage discrimination against HIV-positive military personnel and prevent the spread of the disease.
Section 7 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The constitution and law provide for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, and workers exercised this right in practice; however, government approval is required.
The law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference, although the government did not protect this right. Labor unions independent of the government-run unions worked to increase their influence, but the ruling MPLA continued to dominate the labor movement due to historical connections between the party and labor.
Workers have the right to strike, although strict bureaucratic procedures must be followed for a strike to be considered legal, and the government can deny the right to strike or obligate workers to return to work. Unlike in the previous year, there were no strikes in the country. However, in 2007 the government declared some strikes, including those by teachers in Luanda and nurses in Benguela, illegal. Teachers in Luanda were ordered back to work and threatened with termination if they did not comply.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The constitution and law provide for the right of unions to conduct their activities without interference, but the government did not always protect this right. The law protects the right to establish a union for the purpose of collective bargaining. The government routinely thwarted union efforts at collective bargaining with long delays in processing.
There are no legal restrictions on collective bargaining, but bargaining was restricted in practice. The government is the country's largest employer, and the Ministry of Public Administration, Employment, and Social Security (MAPESS) centrally mandated wages.
The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and stipulates that worker complaints be adjudicated in labor court. Under the law, employers are required to reinstate workers who have been dismissed for union activities; however, the judicial system did not enforce these provisions.
The constitution grants the right to engage in union activities, but the government may intervene in labor disputes that affect national security, particularly strikes in the oil sector. The law prohibits lockouts and worker occupation of places of employment and provides protection for nonstriking workers. It prohibits strikes by armed forces personnel, police, prison workers, and fire fighters. The Ministry of Labor has a hotline for workers who feel their rights have been violated. The law does not effectively prohibit employer retribution against strikers, and it permits the government to force workers back to work for "breaches of worker discipline" or participation in unauthorized strikes.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, but international NGOs reported that such practices occurred. The Ministry of Justice has effective enforcement mechanisms for the formal economic sector; however, most labor law violations occurred outside the formal economy and were not subject to legal sanctions.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
Child labor in the formal sector was restricted under the law; however, child labor, especially in the informal sector, remained a problem. The legal minimum age for apprenticeship is 14 years, and 18 for full employment. Children between the ages of 14 and 18 may not work at night, in dangerous conditions, or in occupations requiring great physical effort, and children younger than 16 are prohibited from factory work; however, these provisions rarely were enforced. In 2007 in Kwanza Sul Province, independent newspaper journalists found children as young as age 10 working full-time on a plantation; they did not attend school and stated that they were often paid with food. The local manager was fired, but no charges were filed against the local or general managers.
Most work done by children was in the informal sector. Children engaged in wage-earning activities such as agricultural labor on family farms and commercial plantations, charcoal production, domestic labor and street vending. Exploitive labor practices included forced prostitution, involvement in the sale or transport of illegal drugs, and the offloading and transport of goods in ports and across border posts. Children reportedly were used as couriers in the cross-border trade with Namibia.
Street children were common, especially in the provinces of Luanda, Benguela, Huambo, and Kwanza Sul. Investigators found children working in the streets of Luanda, but many returned to some form of dwelling during the evening. Most of these children shined shoes, washed cars, carried water, or engaged in other informal labor, but some resorted to petty crime, begging, and prostitution.
The MAPESS inspector general is ultimately responsible for enforcing all labor laws; however, the MINFAMU also plays a significant role in investigating complaints of child labor.
The Children's Affairs Court, under the Ministry of Justice, has jurisdiction over general child protection in Luanda. Child labor cases continued to be adjudicated by the provincial criminal courts for minors aged 16 to 18 or by MINFAMU courts for children under age 16. Child labor violations are punishable by fines.
In practice neither the Labor Code nor the judicial system was capable of ensuring protection of labor rights.
Mechanisms were in place to investigate and prosecute, but the court system was overextended and resources for family or children's affairs courts were limited. The government lacked the capacity to oversee the much larger informal sector. There was no formal procedure for inspections and investigations of child labor abuses outside of the family law system, although private persons can file accusations of violations of child labor laws.
The government, through INAC, worked to create, train, and strengthen child protection networks at the provincial and municipal level in all 18 provinces. The networks reported cases in which they successfully identified and removed children from exploitative work situations, but no mechanism existed to track cases or provide statistics. The government also dedicated resources to the expansion of educational opportunities for children.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
In 2008 MAPESS raised the minimum wage in the formal sector to approximately 8,600 kwanzas ($95) per month, which did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Most wage earners held second jobs or depended on the agricultural or other informal sectors to augment their incomes. The majority of citizens derived their income from the informal sector or subsistence agriculture and therefore fell outside of government protection of working conditions.
By law the standard workweek is 40 hours with at least one unbroken period of 24 hours of rest per week. There is a limit on work of 54 hours per week. Required premium pay for overtime is time and a half for up to 30 hours of overtime, and time and three-quarters from 30 to 40 hours. In the formal sector, there is a prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime, defined as more than two hours a day, 40 hours a month, or 200 hours a year. These standards were not enforced effectively unless employees requested it.
The government has set occupational health and safety standards; however, the Ministry of Labor's Office of the Inspector General did not enforce these standards effectively. Inspections occurred, although inspection findings were not effectively enforced. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but the right was not exercised in practice.