Angola: Law should not be an instrument to stifle economic, social and cultural rights defenders

17.09.2015

In a joint report sent to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ISHR sheds light on the judicial pressure and other means used by the Angolan Government to silence defenders.

ISHR Briefing paper on Angola

In a joint report sent to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ISHR sheds light on the judicial pressure and other means used by the Angolan Government to silence defenders.

Image of briefing paper on the situation of human rights defenders in AngolaThe report published by ISHR and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) on the situation of human rights defenders in Angola reveals the particularly fragile situation of economic, social and cultural rights defenders in Angola and the recurrent misuse of judicial instruments and procedures by Government authorities to hamper and even block their action. 

An increasingly restrictive legal environment and arbitrary application of the law combine to make the working context for human rights defenders in general, and economic, social and cultural rights defenders in particular, both unsafe and disempowering. This includes:

  • Arbitrary arrests and detention
  • Judicial harassment, abusive lawsuits and sentences
  • Legal restrictions to freedom of association
  • Purposely long and complex registration process for NGOs
  • Intimidation and violence by police officers
  • Defamation and criminalisation of defenders
  • Ban threats for organisations and defenders setting up protests

Journalists reporting on economic, social and cultural rights and defenders demanding transparency and disclosing governmental corruption  are among the most exposed to these violations.

The 56th Pre-sessional Working Group of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will consider the joint submission by ISHR and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in developing a list of issues to be posed to Angola at its next examination. The aim of the review will be to assess Angola’s progress towards compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Warning lights on for civil society freedoms

In a latest move to keep watch over civil society organisations, the Government recently used counter terrorism as a pretext to enact a presidential decree that made it almost impossible for NGOs to carry out a wide range of procedures such as receiving foreign funding or acquiring legal personality. As for activists, those ‘defending labour rights and the right to housing, health, development and public participation in the context of business operations, face both restrictions in terms of access to information and transparency, as well as attacks and criminalisation in response to their work’, underlines Ben Leather, ISHR Advocacy and Communications Manager.

Lucy McKernan, Geneva Representative for GI-ESCR explained that ‘the effective protection and realisation of economic, social and cultural rights relies upon the valuable contribution of civil society, by monitoring and evaluating State compliance with the Covenant, providing input into policy formulation and program design and holding decision-makers accountable.  States must ensure that civil society can play this vital role,  and can voice their critiques of government action without fear of reprisals.’

The Pre-sessional Working Group of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights must therefore ask Angola to indicate what legal and policy steps it intends to take in order to relax undue governmental oversight and de facto restrictions imposed on civil society action.

For more information, contact Ben Leather at  b.leather@ishr.ch