They gathered to read a book. They met because of a hope, dream, desire of speaking freely in the press and on the streets about the need for change; to live a life without fear of violent repression of protest marches; to see an end to corruption. Instead they were arrested, tortured, held in solitary confinement, denied access to their families, legal counsel and medical attention. They are the #Angola15.
Luaty Beirão was arrested on June 20th in Luanda, the capital of Angola. He and 12 others assembled to discuss a book about peaceful protest measures intended to bring policy changes in government. The police raided the home, arresting all in attendance as well as several others over the following days. They were held over three months without charges until this week when they were officially accused of rebellion and plotting a coup. Luaty and several others arrested are protesting their detention through a hunger strike. Luaty is now in critical condition. Amnesty is demanding all those arrested be released immediately.
There has been a marked increase in repression of freedom of expression, association and assembly in Angola in recent years. Amnesty has documented arrests and trials that violate international justice norms, the violent suppression of peaceful protest, killing of activists by state security forces, and attempts to silence independent media through intimidation and prosecution for defamation and slander.
Angola must do better. There must be an end to politically motivated arrests and prosecutions designed to silence dissent. There must be political space to allow citizens to express their justified grievances. The government must cease to attack those who bring human rights issues to attention. Angolans deserve better. Luaty Beirão and his fellow detainees are literally starving to have their basic rights be respected.
This post is the first in a series of blogs detailing the shrinking political space in several sub-Saharan nations through increasing repression of civil and political rights.