Eight Angolan generals, acting as private prosecutors, have filed a suit for damages, in Portugal, against Angolan journalist and human rights defender Rafael Marques and his publisher Tinta-da-China. The generals are seeking 300,000 euros (almost US $390,000) in damages for libel and defamation.
In 2011, Rafael Marques published, in Portugal, the book “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola.” The book is a chilling account of systematic human rights abuses by soldiers of the Angolan Armed Forces and guards of Teleservice, the largest private security company in the country. The generals are shareholders of both the diamond mining company Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, and its security contractor Teleservice. The book details several cases of murder, with more than 100 victims, and dozens of torture cases, with more than 500 victims.
The journalist was notified of the suit on March 7. Last month the Portuguese Public Prosecutor’s Service decided not to press charges and not further pursue the criminal complaint previously filed by nine Angolan generals against the author and his publisher.
The generals alleged that the author defamed and slandered them. However, the Public Prosecutor, having examined the documentation entered into evidence, found that the publication of the book fell within the legitimate exercise of the basic right of freedom of information and expression, protected under the Constitution. The Public Prosecutor ruled that there was a lack of evidence that Mr. Marques defamed the generals, and it established that the investigative material presented in the book was of public interest.
General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias “Kopelipa”, minister of State and head of the Military and Intelligence Bureau at the presidency, the most trusted ally of president Dos Santos, is the leading official involved in the complaint. The other generals, currently on duty, are Carlos Alberto Hendrick Vaal da Silva, inspector-general of the General Staff of the Angolan Armed Forces; Adriano Makevela Mackenzie, head of the Directorate for Training and Education of the Angolan Armed Forces; Armando da Cruz Neto, governor of Benguela province; and António dos Santos França “Ndalu”, MPLA member of Parliament. The former chief of the General Staff, general João Baptista de Matos, leads the group of inactive generals in private business enterprises, including the brothers Luís and António Faceira. The ninth general, Paulo Pfluger Barreto Lara, former head of Operations, of the General Staff, has withdrawn from the case.
PLMJ, one of Portugal’s most prominent law firms, is representing the generals, while the International Senior Lawyers’ Project, based in New York, is providing pro bono legal assistance to Mr. Marques, through the Portuguese lawyer Manuel Magalhães e Silva.
After the publication of the book, in November 2011, Mr. Marques lodged a criminal complaint, in Angola, against the generals and the executives of Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, for crimes against humanity. A year later, the Office of the Attorney General shelved the complaint for lack of evidence, without undertaking any field investigation.
Publisher Bárbara Bulhosa, from Tinta-da-China, who had been, together with Mr. Marques, initially charged for defamation and slander by the Portuguese Public Prosecutor’s Service, explained: “I would have not published the book if I was not sure of the accuracy of the facts it denounced. I had access to all documents that Mr. Marques collected over the years and upon which he based the book on.” She further added: “A publisher cannot be afraid.”
The book sold over 7,000 copies both in Portugal and Angola.