Nearly 40 members of the Commission of the Legal Sociological Manifesto of the Lunda Tchokwe Protectorate (Comissão do Manifesto Jurídico Sociológico do Protectorado da Lunda Tchokwe – CMJSP-Lunda), an organization that calls peacefully for economic and administrative autonomy of the diamond rich Lunda provinces in north-eastern Angola, were arrested between April 2009 and October 2010. Most are being held in Conduege prison in Dundo, Lunda Norte province, although three, including the organization’s leader were imprisoned in the capital, Luanda. Most were charged with contravening the now repealed Article 26 of Law on Crimes Against the Security of the State (Law 7/78 of May 1978). The repealed article criminalised “All and every act, not foreseen in the law that puts at risk or could put at risk the security of the state”. This Article was vague and open to misuse by the Angolan authorities who often used it to arrest peaceful political activists like the CMJSP-Lunda members as well as human rights activists. The article also violated international human rights law.
Soon after the law was revoked in December 2010, four human rights activists who had been convicted under the terms of this law were released from prison unconditionally.
However, 33 members of the CMJSP-Lunda remain in detention without trial on charges of contravening this article.
Three other members of CMJSP-Lunda are serving prison sentences after been convicted in September 2010 on the basis of Article 26.
The Angolan authorities have not responded to the detainees’ lawyers appeal for their release or to the writ of habeas corpus issued on 14 January 2011 They have also not provided an explanation for their continued detention.
It is reported that on 19 January the Supreme Court, which deals with habeas corpus petitions, requested the Lunda Norte Provincial Court to explain why these detainees had not been released. However, the Lunda Norte Provincial Court has not yet responded to the request.
The continued detention of the 36 members of the CMJSP-Lunda, charged under a law that has now been repealed, is a violation of their human rights. Amnesty International calls on the Angolan authorities to immediately and unconditionally release these and all other detainees in the country being held for allegedly violating this law, as well as those serving sentences after being convicted on the basis of this law.