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18 May 2015

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

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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.