Tag Archives: Angola diamonds

Angola’s second largest diamond discovered by Australian company

Reuters

A 227-carat diamond, the second-largest ever found in Angola, has been discovered at the Lulo Diamond Project mine east of the capital Luanda, Australian miner Lucapa Diamond said on Monday.

Lucapa, along with Angolan state firm Empresa Nacional de Diamantes E.P., co-own the mining concession.

A 404-carat stone was discovered in 2007, Lucapa said.

“The recovery underlines the significant potential of the Lulo Kimberlite drilling programme,” the Australian company said in a statement.

Angola is the world’s fourth-largest diamond producer by value. It is keen to find alternative exports to oil, following a sharp drop in global crude prices over the last two years which has forced it to borrow to cover a shortfall in revenue.

(Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Angola – Marques gets suspended sentence over blood diamond book

Reuters

An Angolan journalist was given a six-month suspended sentence on Thursday after he was convicted of slander for accusing generals of human rights abuses at diamond mines, concluding a high-profile trial in one of Africa’s most repressive states.

Rafael Marques de Morais’ 2012 book “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola” detailed more than 100 alleged killings and torture of civilians and workers at diamond mines owned by senior army officers.

The generals denied the allegations and brought defamation charges against Marques de Morais in former colonial master Portugal, where the book was published; but that case was dismissed for lack of evidence.

The generals then turned to the courts in Angola, where rights groups say the ruling party, in power since independence in 1975, pays scant regard to freedom of expression.

Marques de Morais reached an out of court agreement with the generals requiring him to remove books from circulation and the Internet. In return, they agreed to drop their libel case.

However, state prosecutors decided to continue with the case on the grounds it constituted a criminal offence.

The case put a spotlight on the major African oil-producer, which is keen to improve its reputation abroad amid criticism from donors and rights groups about its record on issues such as human rights and financial transparency.

(Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Ralph Boulton)

Angola – Marques verdict expected today in trial for exposing corruption

Daily Maverick

Rafael Marques, on the eve of his verdict – ‘It’s torture’

  • SIMON ALLISON
simon-rafael-torture-subbedm.jpg

On Thursday, Rafael Marques discovers his fate. After being set up in court, the award-winning Angolan investigative journalist and corruption fighter is likely to spend a month in jail – despite the charges against him being dropped last week. Ahead of the verdict, he speaks to SIMON ALLISON.

For Rafael Marques de Morais, the last few days have been a strange mix of elation and despair. Elation last week when the charges levelled against him in an Angolan courtroom were dropped; despair when they were somehow reinstated on Monday, with the prosecution defying both logic and the law in the process.

Marques is one of Angola’s few investigative journalists, and over the years has fearlessly uncovered a string of major scandals. His book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola, exposed details of more than 100 killings, and many more cases of torture, perpetrated by private security guards working for mining companies in Angola’s diamond fields. It’s his book that got him into trouble (this time, at least; Marques is rarely on the right side of the government).

In it, he names the powerful generals that own the abusive mining companies, and the generals took exception. They first tried to sue him for defamation in Portugal – the case was dismissed – and are now trying their luck in Angola’s rather less rigorous judicial system. On Thursday, the judge will deliver his verdict, with Marques denied a chance to present evidence or defend himself. On the eve of the verdict, I spoke with Marques in a telephone interview. While he retained the strength to chuckle at the sheer Kafka-esque absurdity of the situation, he was understandably nervous, and angry. For all that he’s already been put through, there’s still plenty of fire in his belly.

SIMON ALLISON: Rafael, what exactly is happening? Last week you thought the charges were dropped, and now the prosecution is calling for jail time.

RAFAEL MARQUES: On 20 April, I was called to a meeting to try and reach an agreement so that the trial would not drag on and have all of the witnesses parading in front of the court. The conditions imposed on me by the lawyer of one of the mining companies were so absurd that I walked out of the meeting. Basically this guy…said that he had already spoken to the judge because the judge had been his student. If I apologised, he had already told the judge to give me a symbolic three day sentence which I should not contest…but I would still have to pay the compensation.

It was nuts, so I said the only reason I was at the meeting was out of respect for the generals who were at the meeting. So in that light I would battle the case in court, and I would very respectfully ensure that my statements, in regards to the generals, were as understanding as possible not to cause more grievances.

The following day we showed up on court, on the 21st. We’d spent the whole night preparing documents and witnesses and all sorts of things. The generals were not in the courtroom even though it was the day for them to testify. I knew from the outset that they would not show up in court because they didn’t want to go through the gruelling process of testifying and so forth. So I said ok, and we were waiting to be called for the trial to commence, and the generals’ lawyers approached my lawyer and said we should talk before the proceeding starts. From one in the morning I had been receiving messages from one of the generals, basically to say you’re a patriot, and this case rests in your hands. It’s up to you if you want to bring it to an end or not. We’ve done our part and so forth, it’s not about who wins or loses, it’s in your hands; if you just make some symbolic statement in court basically saying you communicated with the companies but now you’re aware that the companies did not inform the generals so the generals didn’t know what was going on in the diamond fields.

The lawyers repeated that to my lawyer in court and said we will drop all the charges and close the case and we all go home. My lawyer said ok, you know we all have lots of things to do, why drag it on if they’re willing to drop the case? – and said Rafael, just make a short statement and this is very fair.

So I took the stand and said look, I never contacted the generals directly but just the companies, and I have learnt now that the companies and managers never informed them of my diligence; and if that information had gone up to the generals eventually I would have written differently about them in the book, given their responses. And of course as a journalist or writer, if someone gives you an answer you will quote that answer. If someone doesn’t give you an answer you will interpret in light of the cases you have. And that’s what basically I did. And of course I knew clearly that what was going on. So I made that statement and they dropped the charges.

So they said ok, we’re very happy with Rafael’s statements, they’re very sincere and truthful, and then we drop the charges. And I made a voluntary commitments that I would not reprint the book…just as a sign of good faith. And also because they book was printed eight times, and it is open source on the internet and has had 55,000 downloads. That’s just on the publisher’s website, it was posted on other websites as well [context: in South Africa, if a book sells 5,000 copies it’s a best-seller].

So that was basically it. We went home, happy, and said charges dropped; and then they said on Monday we had just have to follow up with the court formalities for the oral submissions, and on Thursday the sentence will be passed, it’s all symbolic. I said fine, a few more days, if you want to go through the formalities no problem.

So we went there on Monday, and to my surprise the public prosecution starts by saying that I apologised in court; that I acknowledged in court that what I had written in the book are all falsehoods. Luckily there have been international observers in court throughout the proceedings, including the American Bar Association and some embassies, otherwise I would have looked like I was making up stories. So the public prosecutor twisted all my words, said things I never said. The content of the book was never discussed throughout the trial, except one question that the generals insisted on the first day of my questioning: if I had seen any generals shooting. And I never said in the book that I had seen any generals shooting.

Why do you think they were so insistent on that detail?

Because they had no case. Because the generals are the owners of the companies, and I accused them of being responsible for those abuses because as the owners of the companies they never did anything to stop them. That’s what I wrote in the book. They had responsibility for what their men were doing.

What happened after the prosecutor said you had apologised?

He asked for a 30-day conviction.

What about the agreement from before, it disappeared?

Yes.

So were you set up? What game were they playing?

That’s what I said in public – this was a set-up. They wanted to prevent my witnesses from testifying, and to prevent me from submitting more documents in court which proved that all the cases I published in the book concerning the generals’ companies I had submitted to their companies six months before the book was published. And usually journalists don’t send the cases, they send questions. I not only sent questions, but sent the mother of a victim who was hacked to death by one of the guards from the generals companies. So she could explain in person what they did to her son, and how she sought justice. The police refused her by saying this is a general’s company, and everyone refused to listen to her. I had the evidence, the emails printed and everything, that I submitted that in writing.

What’s the next step?

On Thursday, then the judge passes the sentence.

Is there any chance the judge will ignore the prosecution’s recommended sentence?

No, because the judge is doing everything he is told to do.

Is there an appeals process?

There is an appeals process, but the way this justice works, is strange, it’s just odd…[trails off] I think it’s just the hatred some of these people in power have for me, for exposing corruption and their shenanigans, overpowers any common sense they might have about the things they are doing to bring me down.

How do you feel? You’ve been dealing with this case for years, and last week you thought it was finally over.

I’m taking it not so lightly. It’s just too much confusion up here…It’s torture.

To change the subject, slightly. At the same time as your case has been going on, Angola has been dealing with the aftermath of the Mount Sumi massacre. Why hasn’t this received much attention? [On April 16, Angolan security forces allegedly massacred hundreds of members of a religious sect on the slopes of Mount Sumi. Read the Daily Maverick’s analysis here]

RM: The reason why there isn’t much attention is because one, it’s very difficult for foreign journalists to travel to Angola; and secondly the area was immediately militarised to prevent people from accessing the area. The main problem now is not just that the massacre happened. People are being hunted down for belonging to the sect. I just received information yesterday, and I’m passing it on to a friend to publish now, that south of Luanda a police commander refused to take orders from the town mayor to basically go after the sect and kill them. It hasn’t stopped. People are being persecuted…persecuted and killed.

Where does Angola go from here?

They don’t want to go anywhere. They’re in power, they’re tired, they no longer know what they are really doing. They’ve stolen galore and they’re just running the country to the ground. DM

Photo: Rafael Marques de Morais by Simon Allison.

Angola – trial of journalist Rafael Marques de Morais

allAfrica

Angola: Power Fights Truth in Angola

New York — If the world’s awareness about diamonds and their tarnished journey to the west has grown, it is, in part, because of the fierce and fearless work of journalists like the Angolan Rafael Marques de Morais. As the story of blood diamonds is turning into celebrated Hollywood productions, the fate of the storyteller himself hangs in the balance. Rafael is on trial in Angola for exposing murder and abuse in the mining industry. His accusers, the generals and companies who bear responsibility for these alleged crimes, were willing to settle this case before trial on condition that Rafael retract his claims.

In good conscience, Rafael refused to give them the exoneration they demanded. Instead, he offered only to admit that it is possible that they did not know about or order the abuses. As a journalist, Rafael is concerned with the facts, not with making legal judgments, which is actually what his accusers were demanding.

Without a settlement, the case against Rafael is proceeding and will now likely require the court to judge whether or not he was right in pointing a finger at those who were and are in a position to stop the abuses. That is what this case is about and law is clearly on Rafael’s side.

Since Nuremberg, international justice has held that those who know about, or should have known about, the actions of their subordinates or others whom they control, bear responsibility for the crimes that result. This principle is now codified in the statute of the International Criminal Court. Nevertheless, many in positions of power, continue to insist that a lack of actual knowledge absolves them of any responsibility from their actions. Thanks to journalists like Rafael, excuses like that are no longer tenable.

Governments, Angola’s included, bear an even greater responsibility to investigate and prosecute those who would abuse fundamental rights, which all states are obligated to protect. They cannot, as many have tried, escape this obligation by simply denying any involvement. Due diligence to protect human rights requires concerted efforts to hold abusers to account.

The tide has turned on those who would seek to silence journalists by threatening them with imprisonment. In a case against Burkina Faso, Africa’s highest human rights court recently ruled that it is no longer permissible for a state to imprison someone for defamation. Coming as just its second decision on the merits of any case, this decision signals the Court’s early recognition of the urgent need to protect those who would expose corruption and abuse on the continent.

Instead of prosecuting Rafael for doing what was courageous and right, Angola’s government must investigate and prosecute the generals and companies who bear ultimate responsibility for the murder and abuse he has exposed. Journalists who speak truth to power do all of us a great service. They deserve our appreciation and support, not unfair trial and punishment.

Garth Meintjes is the  Executive Director of the  International Senior Lawyers Project

Angolan journalist facing trial over book revealing diamond trade corruption

BBC

Angola’s de Morais charged over diamond book

Rafael Marques de Morais in London (March 2015)
Campaigners have called for the charges against Rafael Marques de Morais to be dropped

A renowned Angolan journalist has been put on trial on charges of defaming military generals after he accused them of links to the “blood diamond” trade.

Rafael Marques de Morais accused seven generals of being linked to murder, torture and land grabs in Angola’s lucrative diamond fields.

Several people were reportedly arrested for protesting against the trial.

Mr de Morais is a long-standing critic of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ 35-year rule in Angola.

He spent 43 days in prison, including 11 in solitary confinement, in 1999 after he published the article, The Lipstick of the Dictatorship, in a private Angolan newspaper.

‘Packed courtroom’

Dissent is generally not tolerated in Angola and some critics of the authorities are either bought off, jailed or disappear, says BBC Africa analyst Mary Harper.

Angola's President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos (R) waves as he leaves the Elysee presidential palace on 29 April 2014, in Paris after a meeting with French president
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (R) has ruled Angola for 35 years

The latest case against Mr de Morais comes after he wrote a book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola.

“There is no link between the Angolan armed forces and the crimes exposed,” Joao Manuel, a lawyer for the generals, is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

Judge Adriano Cerveira told the packed courtroom in the capital, Luanda, that the trial would be held behind closed doors, the reports.

Outside court, scuffles broke out between police and protesters who chanted “free Rafael” and “imprison the generals”, the agency said.

‘Stooges’

Speaking after the case was adjourned until 23 April, Mr de Morais said: “I went to court today facing nine charges of criminal defamation. I left slapped with up to 15 additional ones for defamation.”

Mr de Morais was in the UK last week to receive a freedom of expression award given to him by campaign group Index on Censorship.

It called for the charges against him to be dropped.

Before the trial opened, Mr de Morais told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme that Angola’s leaders lead Western lifestyles with luxury homes and cars, but denounce critics as “stooges of imperialists” when they demand freedoms enjoyed by people in the West.

“As a good guy I’m out to fight these bad guys until I win,” he said.

If found guilty he could be sentenced to up to nine years in prison and fined $1.2m (£800,000).

The unregulated diamond trade fuelled Angola’s 27-year civil war, which ended in 2002.

Since the end of the conflict, the country – one of Africa’s major oil producers – has witnessed an economic boom, though critics of the elected government say the wealth has only benefited a small elite.