The head of the Intelligence Bureau at the Presidency, General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa,” six other Angolan generals and the mining company Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (SMC) are jointly demanding damages of US$1.2 million from Rafael Marques de Morais, the journalist whom they have accused of defamation.
Marques de Morais went to the Luanda Provincial Court on Tuesday morning to sign the formal acknowledgement of the charges against him. The trial date will be set in the coming weeks.
The generals’ complaint of criminal libel is solely based on the public prosecutor’s decision to set aside a complaint that Marques de Morais brought against the same group of generals in 2011 on the grounds of alleged crimes against humanity committed in the diamond-producing Lunda Norte province.
In addition to Kopelipa, the generals who brought the complaint are Carlos Alberto Hendrick Vaal da Silva, Adriano Makevela Mackenzie, João Baptista de Matos, Armando da Cruz Neto, Luís Pereira Faceira and António Emílio Faceira.
In his book Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção em Angola (Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola), Rafael Marques de Morais provided detailed accounts of hundreds of instances of torture and killing by employees of the private security company Teleservice in Lunda Norte. The generals are the owners of Teleservice as well as shareholders in SMC, which mines diamonds in the Cuango River Basin.
At the time the book was published, the general and the ruling MPLA parliamentarian António dos Santos França “Ndalu,” who is not involved in the current complaint, was the chairman of the board of Teleservice. General Luís Faceira is the chair of Grupo Gemini, a holding company for the generals’ interests, including Teleservice.
In the book, Marques de Morais holds the generals morally responsible for the systematic violation of human rights by their companies’ employees in the Cuango Basin. Since 2004 the author has regularly published reports on the human rights situation in the region, and presented these reports to the authorities as proof of the systematic pattern of human rights violations.
The prosecutor’s decision to drop the case was based on an unprecedented conclusion. The prosecutor summoned victims and others whose cases were reported in the book – including a mother who had lost two children – to testify in court. However, the prosecution rejected their statements on the grounds that they merely repeated “what they had said to the journalist and what appeared in his book, thus not providing any new element to confirm his statements.”
A criminal complaint against Marques de Morais and his Portuguese publisher, Bárbara Bulhosa, was brought to a court in Portugal by the generals, including General António dos Santos França “Ndalu,” as well as Teleservice and Sociedade Mineira do Cuango. The Portuguese prosecution service dismissed the generals’ complaints, in February 2013, for it found no evidence of a crime having been committed by the author and publisher. It also argued that the publication of the book was a legitimate exercise of the right to free expression, and that the need to inform the public about such human rights abuses superseded other rights.
In reaction, a month later, the generals and their private companies filed another complaint, in Portugal, as private citizens, claiming 300,000 Euros in damages against the journalist and the publisher.
After the failure of the Portuguese case, the generals have attempted to save their honour by means of a further complaint in the Angolan courts. Marques de Morais was questioned for the first time on 3 April 2013 for allegedly defaming the generals. When it was pointed out that Angolan law does not permit double jeopardy in the same case, the accusation was altered to that of criminal libel.