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Angolans still subject to arbitrary detention, other abuses, says UN expert group

Angolans still subject to arbitrary detention, other abuses, says UN expert group

A United Nations human rights team has reported that Angolans are still being arbitrarily detained, tortured and often denied access to lawyers, following a 10-day visit to the southern African nation.

“There is still no effective system in place which can prevent instances of arbitrary detention from occurring,” concluded the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in a statement issued yesterday by its Chairperson Leila Zerrougui.

The Group, composed of independent experts, interviewed some 400 detainees during its visits to the capital, Luanda, as well as the cities of Cabinda and Dundo, which were carried out at the invitation of the Government.

“The Working Group has received credible allegations in Cabinda that civilians are or were detained incommunicado at military institutions and never produced before a judge,” Ms. Zerrougui stated.

“It would like to stress that secret detention puts the persons concerned at risk of ill-treatment, disappearance and other serious human rights violations.”

The Group found that a number of detainees at Cacuaco and Viana Prisons in Luanda “showed visible signs of torture.”

Among the team’s other findings, Ms. Zerrougui noted that “the right to access to a lawyer and a corresponding legal aid system as guaranteed by the Constitution exists only in theory.”

Also, while Angolan law stipulates that those arrested must be presented to a prosecutor within 24 hours, “this rule is virtually never adhered to,” according to information received by the Group.

Another issue of concern is the lack of a special system for minors, who according to the country’s laws are criminally liable from the age of 16. “They are treated like adults during the criminal proceedings, and merely receive a lighter sentence than an adult.” In addition, they are regularly detained together with adults at police stations and prisons.

The Group also found that prisoners are facing “harsh conditions” in prisons and other detention facilities, citing overcrowded cells and a food and water supply problem.

Angola is the third African country visited by the Group, which reports to the UN Human Rights Council, since its creation by the former Commission on Human Rights in 1992. It visited South Africa in 2005 and just concluded a mission to Equatorial Guinea in July.