Angola: Journalist Rafael Marques faces defamation charges over work exposing abuses in diamond industry

Rafael Marques_credit_Maka Angola

Rafael Marques is an independent Angolan journalist, recipient of numerous international awards including the recent Freedom of Expression award from Index on Censorship. Rafael is due to stand on trial on 24 March 2015 in Angola. He faces 11 defamation charges brought by 7 Angolan generals and 4 of their business associates over a book he wrote alleging human rights abuses in the diamond industry.   

Rafael's book “Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola,” details 500 alleged cases of torture and 100 killings in a diamond-mining district in Angola.  Rafael Marques filed crimes against humanity charges against the 7 Angolan generals as a result of his investigation and is being counter-sued by them.

International NGOs launched a campaign in support of Rafael's rights and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited leading diamond companies to issue public statements in support of Rafael.  Leber Jeweler issued a statement which you can access below.

Below is a selection of materials on the case.

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Article
26 March 2015

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invites diamond companies to issue public statements of support for Rafael Marques

Author: National Jeweler

“Journalist who exposed industry abuses now on trial”, 26 March 2015

…Rafael Marques de Morais went on trial…to face charges of criminal defamation brought by seven generals…all…shareholders in the companies (among them Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, or SMC, and ITM-Mining) accused of human rights abuses in his 2011 book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola. Originally, the journalist was set to face nine counts of defamation but…he now faces up to 15 additional counts…The trial has been adjourned until April 23...de Morais published Blood Diamonds in Portugal in 2011. The book details more than 500 cases of torture and 100 killings allegedly carried out by guards of a private security firm called Teleservice and soldiers in the Angolan Armed Forces in the Lunda Norte province...As de Morais…he is…on trial…for “having lodged a complaint against the generals for their moral responsibility in the events…”…[which]…is a 2011 charge he filed with the Angolan Attorney General…The attorney general set that case aside. The generals attempted to sue de Morais and the Lisbon-based publisher of his book for libel and defamation, but the Portuguese Attorney General dismissed the case. The generals then brought the case to Angola…[and]…new charges were drafted on the basis that de Morais defamed the generals when he tried to sue them in 2011. Mauricio Lazala, the deputy director of the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, told National Jeweler…that it has written to…Tiffany & Co., Signet Jewelers Ltd. and De Beers, as well as Chicago independent Leber Jeweler--asking them to issue public statements of support for de Morais. The Centre…will disseminate these statements…Leber Jeweler is submitting a statement and Lazala said they are waiting on responses from Tiffany, Signet and De Beers…

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Item
26 March 2015

Leber Jeweler calls on Angolan state prosecutors to drop all charges against Rafael Marques

Author: Leber Jeweler

Leber Jeweler Inc. continues to express our concerns over efforts by the nation of Angola to criminally prosecute human rights activist and investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais on charges of criminal libel against a number of Angolan generals. The state-sponsored trial is a direct result of his research that has linked these senior generals, who are also major shareholders in a diamond mining company, with torture, homicide, and land seizure...Leber Jeweler Inc. calls on the Angolan state prosecutors to drop all charges against Rafael Marques de Morais. In addition, we formally request Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos order the formation of an independent commission that will fairly and objectively investigate the allegations of human rights abuses committed against artisanal diamond mining communities documented by Rafael Marques de Morais’ thorough and rigorous reporting.

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Article
26 March 2015

Review: The book about Angolan blood diamonds that landed Rafael Marques in court

Author: Mercedes Sayagues, Daily Maverick (So. Africa)

...In 2011, the first edition of 500 books in Portugal was mysteriously bought out as soon as it hit the stores. After a flurry of press reports, the book, now in its fifth edition, became a best seller in Portugal – whose government is a major shareholder in the company that owns 49% of the diamond company Sociedade Mineira de Lucapa, which operates in Angola...And what chilling read it is - stories of torture, female corpse mutilation, dozens of miners buried alive, land dispossession, denial of access to land, water and subsistence agriculture, all carried out by the army and Teleservice private security...But the Kimberley Process's narrow definition of blood diamonds as those mined and sold by rebels whitewashes the violence associated with the diamond trade and abuses committed by governments - United Nations members – against their own people...

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Article
26 March 2015

Urgent appeal by Africa & UN special rapporteurs on Rafael Marques’ trial urges Angolan govt. to fulfil its obligations to uphold right to freedom of expression

Author: Special Rapp. on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa & UN Special Rapp.on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

“Joint Appeal by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression concerning Mr. Rafael Marques de Morais”, 23 March 2015

…We have the honour to address Your Excellency…regarding the forthcoming trial of Mr. Rafael Marques de Morais…on charges of defamation,…scheduled to commence on 24 March 2015…Mr. Marques was indicted in January 2013 on charges of defamation in relation to his book titled "Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola" which was published in Portugal, in 2011. It is alleged that following criminal complaints by seven Angolan generals, a civilian, two mining companies and a private security company implicated in the book, eleven (11) charges of criminal defamation were brought against Mr. Marques. It is further alleged that a number of procedural irregularities have occurred during the pre-trial period…[W]e are concerned that if indeed these reports are accurate, it would amount to a failure on the part of the Government of the Republic of Angola to fulfil its obligations to uphold the right to freedom of expression…[T]he African Commission has…called on Member States to the African Charter to repeal criminal defamation laws and to repeal or amend all other similar criminal laws…At global level, the approach to defamation is similar...[W]e…request the Government of the Republic of Angola to repeal its criminal defamation laws and end prosecutions on the basis of these laws. With regards to Mr. Marques, we call on the Angolan authorities to ensure protection of his rights guaranteed under the African Charter…Special Rapporteur of Expression and Access to Information in Africa…[and]…UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

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Article
24 March 2015

Angola: Rafael Marques faces 15 further libel charges for reporting human rights abuses in "Blood Diamonds" book

Author: The Guardian

Angolan journalist faces further charges over blood diamonds claims,  25 March 2015

…The defamation trial of…[Rafael Marques]…has been adjourned after the prosecution announced a slew of additional charges against him…[He]…had been due to face nine charges of criminal defamation when he appeared in court in the Angolan capital, Luanda...[H]is lawyers were told that he now faced a further 15 libel charges arising from the publication of his 2012 book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola…The judge’s decision to hold proceedings in camera – behind closed doors, with the press and public excluded – prompted scuffles outside the court between the journalist’s supporters and police...It said several protesters…were arrested…[T]he judge adjourned the case until 23 April to give Marques’s lawyers time to prepare their case in light of the new charges. If found guilty, he could face nine years in prison and a libel bill for £800,000.  Marques has alleged that the generals and company directors were complicit in the violence because they were profiting from blood diamonds and did nothing to stop the bloodshed.…The journalist has described the legal situation as “Kafkasesque”...Marques said the trial would make him stronger. He later told the Observer: “It will show Angolans there is nothing to fear and challenge them to hold the authorities to account.”

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Article
24 March 2015

Call for criminal defamation charges to be dropped against journalist

Author: Media Legal Defence Initiative, Reporters Without Borders, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, National Endowment for Democracy, PEN Intl., SHERPA, Transparency Intl., World Movement for Democracy

Reporters Without Borders is joining nine other NGOs in demanding the withdrawal of criminal defamation charges against Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, who is due to go on trial on 24 March. The special rapporteurs on freedom of expression and human rights defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations are urged to support this call.

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Article
24 March 2015

This week I may be jailed for writing a book on human rights abuses

Author: Rafael Marques de Morais, in The Guardian

...Tomorrow seven powerful generals, including the minister of state and head of the intelligence bureau of the president, General Kopelipa, will take turns in testifying against me at the start of my trial on nine charges of defamation.... I am not officially being prosecuted for the content of the book, but for having lodged a complaint against the generals for their moral responsibility in the events, and it is the state versus me...

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Article
23 March 2015

Urgent Appeal concerning the prosecution of Rafael Marques de Morais by the Govt. of the Republic of Angola

Author: 17 NGOs

[Urgent appeal letter dated 11 August 2014 to:
- African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information Ms Faith Pansy Tlakula
- African Commission on Human And Peoples’ Rights Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Ms Reine Alapini-Gansou
- UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion Mr David Kaye
- UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Mr Michel Forst
from:
Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI)
Article 19
Associação OMUNGA
Committee to Protect Journalists
Equal Rights Trust
Freedom House
Human Rights Foundation (HRF)
Human Rights Watch
Intl. Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
National Endowment for Democracy
PEN International
Rencontre pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme (RPDH)
Reporters Without Borders
SHERPA
Transparency International
World Movement for Democracy
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)]

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Article
20 March 2015

Angolan Journalist Rafael Marques De Morais Wins Freedom Of Expression Award Days Ahead Of Defamation Trial In Luanda

Author: Kerry A. Dolan, Forbes

Angolan investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais won a Freedom of Expression award on Wednesday from the Index on Censorship, a U.K...The Freedom of Expression award was made less than a week before Marques de Morais is slated to be tried on charges of defamation and criminal libel in Angola. The charges stem from Morais’ brave work exposing human rights abuses in his country...Morais wrote a book in Portuguese in 2011 called “Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola,” which recounts 500 cases of torture and 100 killings that took place over 18 months in a diamond-mining district in Angola. According to the book, the torture and killings were carried out by guards from a private security firm and by members of the Angolan Armed Forces.

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Article
18 March 2015

Prison and intimidation: the price of being a journalist in Angola

Author: Basia Cummings, Guardian (UK)

Rafael Marques de Morais is facing libel for exposing the horrors of the country’s diamond trade. A veteran investigator, he explains why the situation for journalists is getting worse in the country...[I]n 2011 after years of investigation he revealed the horrors and corruption of the country’s diamond trade. Today he faces a $1.6m libel trial brought by seven generals he exposed in the book Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola. The book is a harrowing read detailing 500 cases of torture and 100 murders of villagers living in the vicinity of the diamond mines in the Cuango and Xá-Muteba districts. Marques de Morais filed crimes against humanity charges against the seven Angolan generals as a result of his investigation, but is now being counter-sued for $1.6m. The trial – which has been looming over him after several postponements – finally begins next week...