Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press; however, state dominance of most media outlets and self-censorship by journalists limited the practical application of these rights. Most private media organizations were located in the capital.
Freedom of Speech and Expression: Individuals reported practicing self-censorship but generally were able to criticize government policies without fear of direct reprisal. Social media was widely used in the larger cities and provided an open forum for discussion. There are no laws restricting the use or content of social media.
Press and Media Freedoms: Private radio and print media criticized the government openly and harshly. Authorities occasionally threatened journalists and publishers with harassment and arrest for covering sensitive stories. Journalists routinely complained of lack of transparency and communication from government press offices and other government officials. This often led to one-sided reporting, with opposition and civil society figures frequently voicing their opinions in privately owned media outlets while government officials kept silent even on noncontroversial issues. During the year, the government created a senior-level department to coordinate government communication with the media and established the practice of weekly briefings during which journalists could question a government minister. The briefings were broadcast on television and radio.
Official news outlets, including Angolan Public Television, Radio Nacional, and the Jornal de Angolanewspaper, favored the ruling party and gave only limited coverage to opposition political parties. Opposition parties received only limited coverage of their legislative participation in the National Assembly. During the year, however, official news outlets made a noticeable effort to include opposition party members and other commentators in nationally televised debates on issues such as politics, the rule of law, and the economy.
Violence and Harassment: Authorities arrested, harassed, and intimidated journalists. For example, on August 30, security forces stopped a team of journalists from the newspaper Novo Jornal driving within the Zango demolition site (section 1.e.), according to an article published in the newspaper September 2. Security force members allegedly searched the journalists’ vehicle and confiscated their belongings. They then allegedly transported the journalists in a military vehicle and threatened to beat and try them in court. One journalist allegedly was beaten. The security force members released the journalists after six hours and returned their belongings, with the exception of a video camera and 20,000 kwanza ($118).
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists practiced self-censorship. Security force members at times did not allow journalists to digitally record police violence against civilians. For example, on May 24, journalist and foreign news service stringer Coque Mukuta was beaten and detained by local police outside of Luanda, after witnessing an altercation between street vendors (zungeiras), police, and Criminal Investigation Service agents and trying to interview one of the street vendors involved in the incident. Mukuta alleged that police forced him into a police vehicle, beat him, confiscated his possessions, and detained him for 12 hours. Mukuta filed a formal complaint against the policeman who beat him.
The minister of social communication, spokesperson of the presidency, and the national director of information maintained significant decision-making authority over the media. It was commonly understood these individuals actively vetted news stories in the state-controlled print, television, and radio media and exercised considerable authority over some privately owned outlets. State-controlled media and private media outlets owned by those close to the government rarely published or broadcast stories critical of the ruling party, government officials, or government policies.
Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation is a crime punishable by imprisonment or a fine, and unlike in most cases in which defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty (see section 1.e.), defendants in defamation cases have the burden of proving their innocence by providing evidence of the validity of the allegedly damaging material.
Several journalists in print media, radio, and political blogs faced libel and defamation lawsuits. Journalists complained the government used libel laws to limit their ability to report on corruption and nepotistic practices. According to the PGR, some journalists abused their positions and published inaccurate stories about government officials without verifying the facts or providing the accused the right of reply. In May 2015, a judge found journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques guilty of criminal libel and gave him a six-month suspended sentence, which could be reinstated at any point up to two years from the date of sentencing if Marques committed another crime.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal oversight. According to the International Telecommunication Union, in 2015 approximately 12 percent of residents had access to the internet. In 2014 the government started the program Angola On-line, a free Wi-Fi service.
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, but the government regularly restricted this right.
The law requires written notification to the local administrator and police three days before public assemblies are to be held. For public assemblies during a workday, the law requires the events to start after 7 p.m. The law, however, does not require government permission for such events. The government at times prohibited events based on perceived or claimed security considerations. Police and administrators did not interfere with progovernment gatherings. Nonpartisan groups intending to criticize the government or government leaders, however, often met a heavy police presence and government excuses preventing them from holding the event. Usually authorities claimed the timing or venue requested was problematic or that the proper authorities had not received notification.
According to press reports and NGO sources, on July 23, police detained 35 members of the protest movement “Revolutionary Movement” or “Revus” in Benguela as they traveled to a demonstration to protest the rising price of food in the province. The governor of Benguela denied the request to organize the protest, but the organizers decided to proceed, and police set up checkpoints on main roads to intercept and detain protesters. Police released the protesters the same day.
The government at times arbitrarily restricted the activities of associations it considered subversive by refusing to grant permits for organized activities. Opposition parties generally were permitted to organize and hold meetings; nevertheless, opposition officials continued to report obstructions to the free exercise of their parties’ right to meet.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The constitution and law provide for the right of association, but the government did not always respect this right (see also section 7.a.). Extensive delays in the NGO registration process continued to be a problem. NGOs that had not yet received registration were nevertheless allowed to operate.
The government published a new NGO regulation in March 2015 that civil society criticized as potentially restrictive and intrusive. For example, the new regulation requires NGOs to obtain approval from the government before the implementation of any project, imposes local authorities as the supervisors of NGO projects within their municipalities, and requires frequent financial reports of NGO activities to the government. The government stated this regulation is part of its strategy to combat money-laundering and terrorist financing.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; however, the government at times restricted these rights.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The government sometimes cooperated with the Office of 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), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern. UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, visited the country at the invitation of the government from May 3-10. Crepeau’s report, issued subsequent to his visit, criticized the government for its lack of adequate protections for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants and cited government failure to implement key elements of the 2015 Asylum Law, which had the effect of impeding refugee and asylum seekers’ access to basic services and documents such as birth certificates for children of foreign-born parents. Several NGOs that work with refugee populations also cited security force harassment of the refugee and asylum seeker community. In diamond-rich Lunda Norte Province, NGOs and the media reported several acts of violence and degrading treatment, including rape and sexual abuse of Congolese migrants. In response to the allegations of sexual violence, President dos Santos created a commission that included UN representatives to improve the situation around the borders. The commission performed regular verification missions to assess progress at the border crossing points.
In-country Movement: Police maintained roadside checkpoints throughout the country. Reports by local NGOs suggested some police officers extorted money from civilians at checkpoints and during regular traffic stops. Reports from the diamond mining provinces of Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul indicated some government agents restricted the movements of local communities.
In 2013 the Angolan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) governments agreed on a special laissez-passer program for their nationals that allows for increased legal movement of persons and products between Lunda Norte and the DRC province then known as Katanga.
Emigration and Repatriation: In 2012 UNHCR and regional governments agreed to a cessation of prima facie refugee status for Angolans on the grounds that asylum and protection for most Angolans was no longer required. On September 30, the Ministry of Assistance and Social Integration stated the government would no longer acknowledge refugee status for citizens living outside of the country, citing the completion of its voluntary repatriation program, which allowed 525,871 citizens to return between 2003 and 2015. During the year Angolan former refugees returned spontaneously from Zambia and the DRC.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
The government did not provide adequate protection to refugees and asylum seekers.
Access to Asylum: The Asylum Law provides specific procedures for the submission of an asylum application and guidance on the determination of asylum and refugee cases. UNHCR and several NGOs reported that the law did not function in practice during the year and asylum seekers and refugees did not have a mechanism to apply for or resolve their status. The law changed the role of the Committee for the Recognition of the Right to Asylum (COREDA), the former implementing mechanism to identify, verify, and legalize asylum seekers, to that of an advisory board; however, by September the government had not put into practice an alternative mechanism to adjudicate asylum and refugee cases in COREDA’s place. The law also established the creation of reception centers for refugees and asylum seekers where they are supposed to receive assistance until the government makes a decision on their cases. There were three reception centers.
Employment: Formal restrictions on a refugee’s ability to seek employment existed. Regulation 273/13 restricted refugees from obtaining the mandatory business license, “Alvara commercial,” required to own and operate a business. Refugees often faced difficulty obtaining employment due inability to obtain legal documents required to work in the formal sector. These difficulties were compounded by a general lack of acceptance of the refugee card and lack of knowledge about the rights it was intended to safeguard.
Access to Basic Services: Persons with recognized refugee status could at times obtain public services; however, UNHCR, NGOs, and refugees reported that refugees were unable to obtain legal documents following passage of the Asylum Law and at times faced difficulty accessing public services such as health care and education. Corruption by officials compounded these difficulties.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage and conducted by secret ballot guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the people. Citizens exercised this ability at the national level, but did not have that ability at the provincial or municipal levels.
According to the 2010 constitution, presidential and legislative elections should be held every five years. In 2012 citizens elected legislative representatives and the president. The constitution calls for the first-ever local elections; however, the right to elect local leaders remained restricted, and local elections did not occur.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: In 2012 the government held legislative elections and the country’s first postwar presidential election. The ruling MPLA won 71.8 percent of the vote in the legislative elections. Domestic and international observers reported 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. Opposition parties contested aspects of the electoral process and the results but accepted their seats in the National Assembly. In 2012 the constitutional court rejected opposition appeals and certified the election results as free and fair.
The central government appoints the provincial governors, and the constitution does not specify a timeline for implementing municipal-level elections. By year’s end, government and ruling party officials had not announced a target date for the municipal elections postponed in 2015. Opposition parties and some members of civil society were dissatisfied with the slow pace and claimed the ruling party lacked the political will to organize municipal elections.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The ruling MPLA party dominated all political institutions. Political power was concentrated in the presidency 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 consists of 220 deputies elected under a party list proportional representation system. This body has the authority to draft, debate, and pass legislation, but the executive branch often proposed and drafted legislation for the assembly’s approval. After the 2012 legislative elections, opposition deputies held 20 percent of parliamentary seats, up from 13 percent in 2008.
Political parties must be represented in all 18 provinces, but only the MPLA, UNITA, and the Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola, to a lesser extent, had truly national constituencies. By law no political party could limit party membership based on ethnicity, race, or gender.
Several altercations between MPLA and opposition parties’ supporters reportedly occurred during the year. On May 25, a delegation comprising UNITA parliamentarians and local party representatives was attacked in Benguela Province, allegedly by MPLA supporters and local residents, resulting in the deaths of four individuals, including two MPLA supporters and one UNITA supporter. UNITA initiated a parliamentary inquiry into the incident. The Ministry of the Interior referred the case to the PGR, which launched an investigation. On July 1-2, a UNITA party office in the Ramiros neighborhood of Luanda was vandalized and the party flag burned. UNITA party officials and several press reports alleged the vandals responsible were MPLA supporters. On July 1, President dos Santos publicly called on political parties, citizens, and associations to avoid engaging in political intolerance and report incidents of intolerance to appropriate authorities. Opposition politicians alleged a lack of interest by the national police, especially in the provinces, to investigate alleged violence against opposition political parties. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights stated many of the complaints by opposition parties were under investigation.
Participation of Women and Minorities: There are no laws limiting the participation of women and minorities in the political process and women and minorities did participate. Of the 220 deputies in the national assembly, 79 were women. Two women served as governors (out of 18 nationwide), and five women were cabinet ministers (out of 35). The country has multiple linguistic groups, many of which were represented in government.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
Although the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the government did not implement these laws effectively, and local and international NGOs and media sources reported officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
Corruption: Government corruption at all levels was widespread, and accountability was limited due to a lack of checks and balances, lack of institutional capacity, and a culture of impunity, although there were some institutions working to improve transparency and accountability within the government. The judiciary was subject to political influence and conflict of interest. Public prosecutions of corruption cases were rare.
On March 1, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Global Fund, an international organization focused on fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, published the findings from a corruption investigation related to a 2013 malaria grant to the government. The OIG reported that senior Ministry of Health officials committed fraud and collusion by diverting several million dollars of Global Fund grant money into their own private investments. The Ministry of Health required that the officials repay the funds, which the Global Fund reported were later repaid, and referred the case for prosecution. There was no public information on the status of the case at year’s end.
The Ministry of Finance published the national budget including information on national expenditures and debt obligations, on its website. Accountability of public funds expenditure, however, remained poor. During the year the Ministry of Finance and the International Monetary Fund collaborated on financial transparency initiatives.
In June 2015 the National Assembly passed the Mutual Legal Assistance Law, which allows government agencies and private companies to share information with international law enforcement agencies to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. In 2012 the government decided to pursue structural anti-money-laundering (AML) reforms. In support of this strategy, the country joined the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) established by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental “policy-making” body responsible for setting standards and implementing necessary measures to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other threats to the integrity of the international financial system. The government worked with ICRG as well as the regional FATF group to which it belongs, the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), to conform its laws, regulations, and organizations to FATF’s recommendations, and adopted a mutual evaluation report (MER) on antimoney laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies to be addressed. For its efforts in addressing these deficiencies, the country was removed from the FATF/ICRG gray list in February, with the goal to continue working with the ESAAMLG to address the full range of AML/CFT deficiencies. In August, however, the ESAAMLG Task Force of Senior Officials reported the country had not made significant progress and had failed to implement the MER recommendations since August 2015.
While the National Bank of Angola (BNA) announced a series of actions to implement stronger AML/CFT measures, many local and international financial sector commentators noted that the BNA lacked sufficient oversight on AML/CFT issues. Experts point to the persistent lack of coordination across the country’s financial and law enforcement agencies on identifying and ultimately prosecuting financial sector crimes. Despite the ESAAMLG’s recommendation to the government to increase the role, independence, and visibility of the country’s five-year-old Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the FIU largely continued to operate in the shadow of the BNA and relied on the BNA for its budget. The Anti-Corruption Group, formed in 2013 and chaired by the Ministry of Justice, met infrequently and did not make public its findings during the year.
As in previous years there were credible reports government officials used their political positions to profit from business deals. The business environment continued to favor those connected to the government, including members of the president’s family.
Government ministers and other high-level officials commonly and openly owned interests in public and private companies regulated by, or doing business with, their respective ministries. There are laws and regulations regarding conflict of interest, but they were not enforced. Petty corruption among police, teachers, and other government employees was widespread. Police extorted money from citizens and refugees, and prison officials extorted money from family members of inmates.
Financial Disclosure: The law on public probity requires senior government officials to declare their assets to the attorney general. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the financial information of government officials was provided to the appropriate government office. The law treats these reports as confidential. The president, vice president, and president of the National Assembly are exempt from these public probity requirements. Nonexempt government officials are to make a new declaration within 30 days of assuming a new post and every two years thereafter. The law does not stipulate a new declaration be made upon leaving office but states that officials must return all government property within 60 days.
Penalties for noncompliance vary depending on which section of the law was violated but include removal from office, a bar from government employment for three to five years, a ban on contracting with the government for three years, repayment of the illicitly gained assets, and a fine of up to 100 times the value of the accepted bribe. The National Office of Economic Police is responsible for investigating violations of this law, as well as other financial and economic crimes, and then referring them to the Financial Court for prosecution. There were no known cases related to this law during the year.
Transparency problems remained in the diamond industry, particularly regarding allocations of exploration, production, and purchasing rights.
Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information. While the amount of information posted on government websites gradually increased, it remained limited. Laws are made public by being published in the official gazette. The gazette can be purchased for a small fee but was not available online in its entirety. In general the government was not responsive to routine requests for information, and it was sometimes unclear what information the government considered public versus private.