On 28 July 2021, I wrote a communication to the Government of Angola concerning the harassment and charges brought against human rights defender and journalist Mr. Coque Mukuta. The letter was written jointly with the UN expert on freedom of opinion and expression and the expert on freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Mr. Coque Mukuta is a human rights defender, journalist and correspondent who has covered anti-government demonstrations in Angola, in particular the alleged excessive use of force by security forces against those taking part in peaceful protests and against women street sellers. He is currently a correspondent for the online newspaper Voz da América newspaper in Luanda and previously worked with Radio Despertar. He is also the author of the book Os Meandros das Manifestações em Angola – I Volume (The Troubled Ways of Demonstration in Angola – Book I).
Prior to the charges brought up against Mr. Coque Mukuta, he was subjected to several acts of harassment and threats. On separate occasions on the 27 April, 29 April and 1 May 2012, unidentified individuals broke into Mr. Mukuta’s home. It is reported that Mr. Mukuta filed a formal complaint to the Cazenga Police Station about the first break-in on 28 April 2012, but no information about the investigation that might have been conducted was available at the time of writing this communication. Further, On 15 April 2012, Mr. Mukuta was reportedly threatened by a youth group known as Jovenes Organizados para Defensa da Paz, who left a letter at his home threatening his safety and suggesting he leave the neighbourhood.
On 17 June 2021, the National Department of Investigation and Penal Procedure (DNIAP) of the Attorney General’s Office of Angola interrogated Mr. Mukuta and charged him with abuse of “press freedom” under Chapter IV Article 74 of the Angolan Press Law. It is reported the charges against the human rights defender are in relation to an article critical of the Angolan Government’s handling of widespread internal corruption, which he wrote in August 2020. The questioning came two days after Mr. Mukuta took part in a peaceful gathering outside the Attorney General’s Office in Luanda on 15th June 2021, in protest against alleged judicial harassment and political persecution of journalists and media professionals.
The human rights defender remains free pending trial, however a travel ban has been imposed on him, prohibiting him from national and international travel. Mr. Mukuta must seek permission from the authorities if he wishes to leave his residence for a period of over 5 days. It is also reported that the human rights defender is under constant government surveillance.
In the communication we voiced serious concern at the harassment and persecution of Mr. Mukuta, which appeared to be directly related to his work as a human rights defender and to his criticism of the Angolan Government. We expressed further concern that the targeting of Mr. Mukuta may form part of a wider strategy of intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders and journalists in Angola. In the context of the upcoming general elections in 2022, we are concerned that the targeting
of dissenting voices critical of the Government will inhibit and discourage human rights defenders and media professionals from carrying out their legitimate work.
This is a shorter version of the original communication.