Angola: Rafael Marques trial resumes over book on abuses in diamond mining - Companies urge govt. to drop charges

Rafael Marques

Latest news: Judge gives 6 month suspended sentence to journalist Rafael Marques.  Further details here.

Rafael Marques is an independent Angolan journalist whose 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 7 Angolan generals, several of whom are part owners of diamond mining firms in Angola, as a result of his investigation and is being counter-sued by them. On 24 March 2015, 15 further charges of criminal defamation were brought against him, and the judge decided to hold proceedings in camera – behind closed doors, with the press and public excluded. On 23rd April the trial was postponed until May due to ongoing settlement discussions. The trial resumed on 14th May.

In March 2015, the Index on Censorship awarded Mr. Marques its annual Freedom of Expression Award for journalism.  Several dozen human rights, press freedom, and anti-corruption NGOs worldwide including Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, and Transparency International have expressed grave concerns over irregularities in the proceedings against him to date, and that Mr. Marques will not receive a fair trial in Angola.  Two international experts on freedom of expression – a UN Special Rapporteur and a Special Rapporteur to the African Commission on Human & Peoples' Rights – jointly called on the Angolan Government in March 2015 to ensure protection of Rafael Marques's rights in March.

Prior to the 23 April trial date, two leading jewellers, Tiffany & Co. and Leber Jeweler, called on the Angolan Government to drop the charges. Since then, another prominent jeweller, Brilliant Earth, has joined the call.

For previous information on the lawsuit against Mr. Marques, click here.

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Article
20 May 2015

Power Fights Truth in Angola

Author: Garth Meintjes, Executive Director, Intl. Senior Lawyers Project, on AllAfrica

If the world’s awareness about diamonds and their tarnished journey to the west has grown, it is, in part, because of the fierce and fearless work of journalists like the Angolan Rafael Marques de Morais... Rafael is on trial in Angola for exposing murder and abuse in the mining industry. His accusers, the generals and companies who bear responsibility for these alleged crimes, were willing to settle this case before trial on condition that Rafael retract his claims.  In good conscience, Rafael refused to give them the exoneration they demanded. Instead, he offered only to admit that it is possible that they did not know about or order the abuses. As a journalist, Rafael is concerned with the facts... Since Nuremberg, international justice has held that those who know about, or should have known about, the actions of their subordinates or others whom they control, bear responsibility for the crimes that result... Nevertheless, many in positions of power, continue to insist that a lack of actual knowledge absolves them of any responsibility from their actions. Thanks to journalists like Rafael, excuses like that are no longer tenable.

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Article
16 May 2015

Defamation Trial of Angolan Journalist Rafael Marques Is Turning Into A Political Prosecution

Author: Kerry Dolan, Forbes (USA)

It may be impossible for Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais to get a fair trial in his home country.

Marques has been charged with criminal defamation by several Angolan military generals as a result of his 2011 book, “Blood Diamonds: Corruption andTorture in Angola” in which he wrote that the generals had orchestrated torture and killings in Angola’s diamond-mining region.

In many countries, the generals would be the ones on trial, not the journalist who exposed the alleged crimes. But this is Angola, a country with a state-run news media, an iron-fisted president and next to no tolerance for opposition...The judge has allowed a line of questioning to Marques that makes no sense whatsoever... He says that the generals are the owners of private security companies that protected the diamond mines, and that employees of these companies killed and tortured villagers...

An out-of-court settlement went nowhere because Marques refused to apologize for what he had written. “I do not agree to compromise my principles,” he said.

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Article
13 May 2015

Dispatches: A Political Prosecution in Angola

Author: Lisa Lefkow, Deputy Director - Africa Division, Human Rights Watch (USA)

Rafael Marques de Morais...is preparing his defense against a politically motivated prosecution. On May 14, he will be in court in the capital Luanda defending himself against a litany of criminal defamation charges.  The charges stem from Marques’ 2011 book, Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, which explained how Angolan military officials and private security companies killed and terrorized Angolan villagers to protect lucrative diamond mining operations... Just after his book was published, Marques filed a criminal complaint in Luanda accusing nine Angolan generals of crimes against humanity in connection with diamond mining. In response, seven of the generals and some of their fellow board members of two diamond companies, Sociedade Mineira do Cuango (SMC) and ITM-Mining, filed a number of lawsuits against Marques, alleging criminal defamation. Their lawsuit in Portugal, where Marques’ book was published, was dismissed for lack of evidence... Politically motivated prosecutions don’t get much clearer than this... But the biggest cost of this trial falls on the people of Angola, who continue to suffer from corruption and crimes at the hands of Angola’s political and military elite.

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Article
5 May 2015

Open statement calling for charges to be dropped against journalist Rafael Marques de Morais in Angola

Author: Brilliant Earth

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Article
1 May 2015

Trial of Angolan ‘Blood Diamonds’ journalist delayed

Author: Michelle Graff, National Jeweler (USA)

The trial of Angolan investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, who is being charged with libel by those he implicated in his book exposing corruption and abuse in the country’s diamond industry, will not resume again until mid-May...Sarah Hager...[of] Amnesty International U.S.A....said that his trial, which originally was set to resume April 23, was adjourned again, this time until May 14... 

She said two of the mining companies and the seven generals who brought criminal defamation charges against de Morais for his 2011 book, Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola, are trying to work toward a settlement with the journalist... As of last Thursday, a third mining company...ITM Mining Ltd., had indicated that it was not interested in negotiating with de Morais and wanted to move forward with the trial... 

The trial of de Morais has evoked international outcry from a number of organizations, including...Leber Jeweler and Tiffany & Co., both of which issued public statements in support of de Morais at the behest of...Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.  Brian Leber told National Jeweler back when de Morais’ trial started that “If Angola is to be part of the global community and if Angola’s diamonds are being sold by U.S. retailers to U.S. consumers, then Angola has a fundamental obligation to observe the rights of Rafael Marques (de Morais) to both freedom of speech and freedom of the press.” [also refers to De Beers]

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Article
25 April 2015

Angola: Trial of "Blood Diamonds" author Rafael Marques postponed - settlement possible

Author: Kerry Dolan, Forbes (USA)

"Defamation Trial Of Angolan Journalist Rafael Marques Postponed, Settlement Possible"

The defamation trial of Angolan journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, which was slated to begin on Thursday April 23..., was postponed until May due to ongoing settlement discussions, according to reports by the AFP...and The Guardian... Marques is being sued by Angolan military generals whom he accused in his 2011 book "Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture In Angola" of orchestrating torture and killings in Angola's diamond-mining region... Marques told AFP, "This agreement, which could be announced at the next hearing on May 14, would permanently close the case, and would show that we are seeking reconciliation." Lawyers for the generals told AFP they needed time to decide on legal and technical issues... On April 22, two prominent jewelers – Tiffany & Co. and Leber Jeweler of Chicago, Illinois, issued a statement calling for the charges against Rafael Marques to be dropped.

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Article
22 April 2015

Open statement calling for charges to be dropped against journalist Rafael Marques de Morais in Angola

Author: Tiffany Co., Leber Jeweler

We, the undersigned companies, are concerned over reports of human rights abuses in the diamond sector in Angola, and over efforts by the Angolan Government to criminally prosecute the award-winning journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais on charges of libel against a number of Angolan generals... As jewelry firms, we wish to work toward a global diamond supply chain free from human rights abuses. We respectfully call on the Angolan Government to drop all charges against Rafael Marques. Furthermore, we request the Presidency to 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 reported by Rafael Marques.

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Article
8 April 2015

Letter urging jewellery firms & business organizations to call for charges against Rafael Marques to be dropped

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Front Line Defenders, Intl. Service for Human Rights, Open Society Institute for Southern Africa - Angola

We are human rights organizations, writing to ask you to sign the statement below by fellow jewelry companies and organizations, calling for criminal defamation charges against the award-winning journalist and human rights activist, Rafael Marques de Morais, to be dropped. Rafael Marques currently faces charges of criminal defamation relating to his book...[alleging] human rights abuses against Angolan villagers involving Angolan military officials and private security companies contracted by mining firms, in the course of diamond mining operations.  All jewelry and diamond firms, regardless of whether or not they source directly or indirectly from Angola, should work toward a global diamond supply chain free from human rights abuses.

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Article
7 April 2015

An Embarrassment in the Making for the Kimberley Process?

Author: Rob Bates, Jewelers' Circular Keystone (USA)

Many in our industry are wary of the NGOs... But some of them, particularly those based in African countries, often do their work under considerable threat. They are brave people.  I have now interviewed two NGO activists who have been arrested. The first, Farai Maguwu, head of the Zimbabwe NGO Centre for Research and Development, was accused of passing government secrets to the Kimberley Process monitor in 2010. He spent 40 days in jail and nearly died... Now, Rafael Marques de Morais, an Angolan author and activist who has written and spoken frequently about the human rights problems in the country’s diamond fields (including to JCK), has been charged with defamation by seven government-connected generals over his book... Angola is chairing the KP this year. It certainly doesn’t appear right for a blood diamond watchdog to be headed by a country that might jail a blood diamond activist... “It is the elephant in the room,” says Alan Martin, research director at Partnership Africa Canada, and member of the NGO coalition. “We fully support him. His case is certainly being raised in individual conversations...” ...Angola “has made a lot of efforts in accepting the faults that people have pointed out before—including some of the things that Rafael has talked about,” he says.

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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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