Security Forces Acting As Death Squads In Angola

Despite Angola ending the nearly four-decade rule of Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ repressive and violent regime, reports of extrajudicial killings by the Angolan Criminal Investigation Service (SIC) continue to worry human rights groups. Video footage captured by a bystander has been highly circulated on social media and shows members of SIC executing a criminal suspect, which marks one of the dozens of reported cases of police officers killing suspected criminals in Angola. In this particular case, Angola’s interior minister explained the man was part of a criminal gang that had robbed a car. The minister condemned the police actions and pledged that the officers involved in the killing would face disciplinary actions. Human Rights Watch’s Southern Africa director, Dewa Mayhinga, argued: “Angola police have a responsibility to fight crime within the confines of the law, and those who don’t should face punishment.” This “apparent cold-blooded execution,” demonstrates Angolan authorities are failing to promptly and impartially investigate criminal investigations.

Rafael Marques, a human rights activist and investigative journalist, has documented dozens of similar extrajudicial executions by Angolan CIS officers. Marques gathered written and oral testimonies from many friends, family members and witnesses. A clear pattern emerged from these testimonies, naming individual SIC offices who had shot and killed victims in broad daylight. Overall, Marques’ investigation unveiled “a systematic SIC death squad operation targeting young men merely suspected of undesirable or criminal behaviour.” Marques’ final investigation was published in February on Maka Angola, a human rights group website, summarizing 50 cases of killings of young men suspected of gang activities. As a result, this investigation demonstrates how the SIC offices are working as a “death squad” with impunity. In response, the Angolan Government and SIC have continued to deny the existence of death squads. They have also failed to uphold their promise to investigate the cases highlighted by Marques. Combined with violent crackdowns on peaceful protests, and the obstruction of opposing views and freedom of speech, these extrajudicial executions by SIC forces demonstrate a worrying trend in Angola.

In September, Angola welcomed their new President João Lourenco, ending nearly four decades of Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ repressive and violent rule. Despite severe restrictions on protests, freedom of speech and information due to censorship, voting was largely peaceful during the election. President Lourenco has significantly reformed state media to allow for greater diversity of political views. Nonetheless, the SIC death squad and violent crackdowns on protests since Lourenco’s election demonstrates that more must be done. None of the witnesses involved in Marques’ investigation have been contacted as part of the government’s promised investigation into the crimes. The officers identified in the extrajudicial killings have not been suspended or removed from their positions. Therefore, it is apparent that the new Angolan Government, and its leaders, have continued to turn a blind eye to the SIC officers’ murderous actions.

Angolan authorities have the opportunity to properly investigate Marques’ reports, and depart from the past four-decade authoritarian rule of Jose Eduardo dos Santo. This should be part of a broader effort by the new government to end these grave human rights abuses and encourage a peaceful and open society. If the opportunity to progress from Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ authoritarian rule is lost, with it, Angolan communities continuing to struggle will have trouble trying to find faith and trust in their government.