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Under the law the prosecution and defense have 90 days before trial to prepare a case, although this deadline may be extended by attorneys' general under extenuating circumstances. The Constitution also provides prisoners with the right to receive visits by family members.
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However, a scarcity of resources and the lack of qualified and motivated personnel in the judicial system limited the exercise of these rights. In the Council of Ministers decided to transfer control of the judicial process and prison system from the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry.
However, this transfer had not yet been made by year's end. Interior Ministry personnel continued to systematically, arbitrarily, and secretly arrest and detain persons for all categories of crime for indefinite periods of time, often without any apparent intent of bringing the detainees to trial. The Government did not use forced exile. Denial of Fair Public Trial The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but in practice the court system lacked the means, experience, and training to be truly independent from the influence of the President and the ruling MPLA.
The judicial system was largely destroyed during the civil war and during did not function in large areas of the country. The court system comprises the Supreme Court at the appellate level, and municipal and provincial courts of original jurisdiction under the authority of the Supreme Court. The President has strong appointive powers, including appointment of Supreme Court judges, with no requirement for confirmation by the National Assembly.
As of September, 12 of the 16 seats on the Supreme Court remained vacant. The Court serves as an appellate tribunal for questions of law and fact, but it does not have authority to interpret the Constitution. The Constitution reserves this role for a Constitutional Court, an entity that had not yet been constituted at year's end.
The Constitution provides for the creation of an office of the "Provider of Justice," designated by the National Assembly for a 4-year term, to defend citizens rights and liberties. This office also had not yet been constituted at year's end. Trials for political and security crimes are handled exclusively by the Supreme Court. There were no known political or security trials.
The Constitution provides defendants the presumption of innocence, the right to a defense and legal assistance, and the right of appeal. Amendments to the Code for Penal Process in provided for public trials, established a system of bail, and recognized the accused's right to counsel and to testify.
However, the Government often did not respect these rights in practice.
Municipal courts normally deal rapidly with routine civil and misdemeanor cases on a daily basis. Judges are normally respected laymen, not licensed lawyers. The judge and two laymen selected by the full court act as jury. Routine cases are normally dispatched by a court within 3 months. The verdict is pronounced the day following the conclusion of the trial in the presence of the defendant. There are credible reports that the Government holds political prisoners; however, the number is unknown. UNITA has established a military and a civilian court system in territories under its control and claims that its civil code is equivalent to the Portuguese Civil Code currently used by the Government.
Juries consist of male elders chosen from the community. The accused reportedly has the right to a lawyer.
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Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The Government maintained a sophisticated security apparatus dedicated to surveillance, monitoring, and wire tapping of certain groups, including journalists, opposition party leaders, members and suspected sympathizers of UNITA, National Assembly deputies, and foreign diplomats. The law requires judicial warrants for searches of private homes.
However, executive orders have been used to override normal legal provisions, as in the case of an executive order authorizing joint armed forces and police sweeps to seize weapons held by civilians in major urban areas in July and August. In August the Government began a 4-month operation, "Cancer II," that expelled over 4, Malian, Lebanese, Gabonese, and other foreign residents of Angola whose immigration status was deemed irregular.
These prisoners were often held for more than 72 hours without appearance before a judge, and their deportations were carried out entirely within the executive branch without any judicial oversight or opportunity to challenge the legality of the decisions of police, customs, and immigration officers. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts Consolidation of the Lusaka Protocol peace process resulted in a significant decline in the widespread abuses of humanitarian standards committed by both government and UNITA forces during the previous 20 years.
However, government and UNITA forces continued to subject hundreds of civilians to robbery, rape, or murder. While no peacekeepers were hit, five civilians were killed and at least six injured. Millions of mines, which were planted during the year civil war to gain military advantage and to restrict the free circulation of people and goods, continued to kill and maim thousands of people.
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Many major roads were demined and reopened as a consequence of Government and UNITA commitments to allow the free circulation of people and goods throughout Angola. However, in many areas local authorities and military commanders of both parties continued to restrict free and safe passage of local populations, humanitarian organizations providing relief assistance, and United Nations observers.
There were isolated incidents in the northeastern Lunda provinces and in Moxico where credible evidence indicates that demined roads were newly remined.
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Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press, and specifically provides that the press cannot be subject to political, ideological, or artistic censorship. However, the Government does not respect these rights in practice. Citizens, including deputies in the National Assembly, expect reprisals for public criticism of the Government or the MPLA, and the Government attempts to impede such criticism by monitoring and restricting access to political meetings.
Journalists are intimidated into practicing self-censorship.
The Government runs and tightly controls the only daily newspaper, the only television station, and the major radio station. It tightly restricts opposition leaders' access to these media. While two commercial radio stations and three private weekly and biweekly newspapers all practice self-censorship, several occasional newsletters are published that are openly critical of government officials and policy.
Media policy and censorship are controlled by a committee composed of the Minister of Social Communication, the press spokesman for the presidency, and the directors of the state-owned radio, television, and newspaper. The state-controlled national radio headquarters in Luanda cleared programs broadcast on national radio stations in provincial capitals. Journalists admitted that they practice self-censorship and that repeated "errors in judgment" could result in dismissal and death threats. The January murder of Ricardo de Mello, editor of the independent newsletter Imparcial Fax, remains unsolved.
It was a major blow to the development of a free press in Angola. Foreign journalists require authorization from the Minister of Interior in order to obtain access to government officials or travel within Angola. UNITA runs a tightly controlled radio station whose broadcasts of often inflammatory material are heard throughout Angola.
Lusaka Protocol provisions to convert this station into a nonpartisan private commercial station have not yet been completed. Academic life has been severely circumscribed by the civil war, but there is academic freedom, and academics do not practice self-censorship. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The Constitution provides for the rights of association, assembly, and protest, but the Government does not respect these rights in practice. The Government strictly controls both assembly and association, the Rapid Intervention Police were mobilized twice in the capital during May to deter planned demonstrations.
Legislation allows the Government to deny registration to private associations on security grounds, and the Government arbitrarily limits organized activities deemed inimical to its interests. The law also requires a minimum of 3-days' prior notice to authorities before public or private assemblies and makes participants liable for "offenses against the honor and consideration due to persons and to the organs of sovereignty" see Section 2.
In May Konrad Leibsher, a Catholic priest working with Luanda's poor, was arrested and tried for "crimes against the security of the state" for displaying placards decrying deteriorating economic conditions in Luanda. The government prosecutor argued that crowds drawn by the priest's placards violated the law on meeting and demonstrations, which requires prior government approval of gatherings which have the potential to endanger public order. The defense argument that freedom of speech guarantees are enshrined in the Constitution prevailed.
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UNITA did not allow free assembly and association in areas under its control. Freedom of Religion The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the separation of church and state, and the Government respects this right in practice. The authorities apparently did not enforce a government order prohibiting the practice of religion outside of approved locations. The Angolan Catholic Church issued aresponse supporting the priest, calling it the duty of every religious minister to confront issues of social justice.
Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation The Constitution provides for freedom of movement and residence within Angola and freedom of exit from and entry into the country, but the Government does not respect these rights in practice. As part of the peace process, both the Government and UNITA committed themselves to allow the free circulation of people and goods, but local authorities and military commanders continued to restrict movement in many areas.
Nevertheless, many major roads were demined and opened to traffic, and part of Angola's , internally displaced persons and of the , refugees in neighboring countries began to return to their homes. In a 4-month period beginning in August, the coordinated government operation Cancer II expelled more than 4, foreign residents whose immigration status was deemed irregular see Section 1.