Angolan security forces tasked with implementing COVID-19 restrictions killed at least seven people between May and July 2020, according to a new investigation by Amnesty International and Angolan rights organization OMUNGA.
The victims were all boys and young men, and the youngest victim was just 14 years old. The organizations believe the true death toll is likely to be much higher.
Through interviews with friends and relatives of seven victims, as well as eyewitnesses, Amnesty International and OMUNGA have pieced together details about the killings. Angolan security forces have repeatedly used excessive and unlawful force when dealing with breaches of state of emergency regulations imposed to control the spread of COVID-19.
“The stories we heard from relatives and eyewitnesses are harrowing. One teenage boy was shot in the face while he lay injured; another was killed when police fired on a group of friends practicing at a sports field. A state of emergency is no excuse for such outrageous human rights violations,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
“There must be a thorough, independent, impartial, transparent and effective investigation into these killings, and perpetrators must be brought to justice in fair trials. There must be proper oversight to ensure that Angolan security forces comply with international human rights standards when enforcing COVID-19 prevention measures.”
Amnesty International and OMUNGA were able to verify the killings of seven boys and young men by security forces. They received multiple eyewitness accounts of the police’s use of excessive force and firearms, which often targets disadvantaged communities. All the killings took place in poorer neighbourhoods. Both Angolan National Police (Polícia Nacional de Angola – PNA) and Angolan Armed Forces (Forças Armadas Angolanas – FAA) officers are suspected to be responsible.
On the evening of 13 July, José Quiocama Manuel, a motor taxi driver known as Cleide, was shot dead by police while he was on his way to a friend’s house in the Prenda neighbourhood of Luanda municipality. According to witnesses, at around midnight people in the neighbourhood started shouting that the police were coming. Cleide and Maurício, a 16-year-old boy, tried to hide, but a police officer fired at them. Maurício was shot in the shoulder and survived, but Cleide died instantly.
On 4 July, 16-year-old Clinton Dongala Carlos was shot in the back by police. Clinton was returning from dinner at his aunt’s house, a 300-metre walk, in the Cacuaco Municipality of Luanda province. According to witnesses, Clinton was chased by a group of security force agents, two from the FAA and three from the PNA, and an officer shot Clinton in the back while he was running home.
According to witnesses, officers asked local residents for water and poured it on Clinton’s face as he lay injured. The neighbours, who were hiding in terror, then heard a second shot. When the officers left, they saw that Clinton had been shot in the face.
On 3 July at around 7 am, police shot and killed Mabiala Rogério Ferreira Mienandi, known to his family as Kilson. Kilson was at a sports field with a group of friends, who were playing soccer and dancing. According to witnesses a police vehicle approached and, without giving any warning, officers started shooting at the boys, who ran in all directions to hide. Kilson was hit by a bullet. According to witnesses, three policemen then got out of the car and approached Kilson. They kicked him three times and then drove off.
“The authorities have used emergency measures to impose arbitrary restrictions on human rights. Any use of force by security forces should be exceptional and must comply with the state’s international human rights obligations, particularly the obligation to respect and protect the right to life and physical integrity and security of the person. This is set out in Article 3 of the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials which states that law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty,” said João Malavindele, Executive Director of OMUNGA.
“The ultimate aim of combating the spread of COVID-19 should be to save lives and protect livelihoods. When state agents are responsible for the killing of people, it defeats this purpose.”
One young man with pre-existing health problems died during an incident where police intimidated and humiliated him.
On the morning of 17 June, 20-year-old João de Assunção was heading to the communal bathroom in his village in Palanca neighbourhood, Luanda province, when he was stopped by PNA officers. João said he would go and get his mask, but officers asked him to perform a somersault while pointing their guns at his face. João told them he felt tired and ill and could not, and an officer fired into the air next to his head, to intimidate him. João fell to the ground. The neighbours told officers that João had problems with his heart and hypertension, and he was taken to Hospital Cajueiros, where he died. The results of the autopsy have not yet been released.
On the evening of June 5, 15-year-old Altino Holandês Afonso went to see his grandmother and aunt at the canteen they owned. Shortly after he arrived, police began shooting in the streets, possibly to disperse people.
Witnesses told Amnesty International and OMUNGA that an officer chased Altino, who tried to run to his aunt’s home, and shot him in his stomach just outside the door. Witnesses also alleged that the officer who shot Altino was drunk.
The youngest victim in Amnesty International and OMUNGA’s investigation was 14-year-old Mário Palma Romeu, known as Marito, who was shot dead by police on the morning of 13 May. Marito had gone to buy sugar for his mother at the Tombas beach square in Benguela municipality, Benguela province. That morning, young men working on fishing boats on the same beach started a riot, and the police were called to intervene. A police officer shot twice into the air to disperse the young men. The second shot hit Marito’s head and he died instantly.
On May 9, police officers shot 21-year-old António Vulola, known as Toni Pi, who had been hosting friends to celebrate the birth of his first child. According to witnesses, at around 10PM Toni Pi and his friend André accompanied other friends to the public transportation stop. On their way home they saw five PNA officers beating and dispersing a gathering of young people, and started running home as they were not wearing masks. The police officer fired at them and Toni Pi was fatally hit in the head.
There are ongoing criminal investigations against the state agents suspected to be responsible for the deaths of Mário, Altino, Clinton, Mabiala Kilson, João, António and José Cleide. The association Mãos Livres is providing legal assistance to ensure that the human rights violations and abuses are promptly, thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated, those suspected to be responsible are brought to justice, and that the families receive justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation.
“Angolan authorities should ensure that the ongoing investigation is swift, independent and impartial. The state agents suspected to be responsible for human rights violations and abuses must be held to account and families provided justice, truth and reparation.” said João Malavindele.
“Nobody should have to fear for their life, and the Angolan authorities must hold to account anyone who arbitrarily deprives an individual of their rights, including the right to life.”