Rights group says Angola must end Cabinda arrests

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The Angolan government should end the unlawful detention and torture of people suspected of rebel activities in the oil-producing province of Cabinda, New York-based Human Rights Watch says.

Cabinda is an underdeveloped northern enclave of Angola that produces more than 60 percent of the African nation’s oil and where rebels have waged a separatist campaign for several decades, explains Reuters.

The Human Rights Watch report claims that between September 2007 and March 2009, at least 38 people suspected of belonging to the Liberation Front of the Enclave of Cabinda, the main separatist guerrilla movement, were arbitrarily arrested.

Most of those arrested by the Angolan military were subjected to lengthy detentions, torture, and cruel or inhumane treatment and were denied due-process rights, the 27-page report says.

“The Angolan armed forces are committing serious human rights violations in Cabinda,” Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement based on the report.

Angola‘s security concerns do not justify torturing people or denying them their most basic rights.”

A foreign ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The report, based on interviews with prisoners, also claims that some people were arrested on the basis of confessions obtained under torture and charged with state security crimes for involvement in attacks carried out by Cabindan separatists

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“The military beat me, squeezed my testicles and my tongue with a pincer, telling me to say the truth,” Human Rights cited one detainee as saying in the report.

Torture is prohibited by international human rights law at all times, and international due-process standards prohibit confessions obtained under duress from being used as evidence.

Human Rights also refers to the case of Fernando Lelo, a former Voice of America correspondent, who it claims was convicted of national security crimes in an “unfair trial” in September 2008.

A 2006 peace agreement signed by the government of Angola and a faction of the separatist guerrilla movement sought to formally end the armed conflict in Cabinda, which has endured since Angola‘s independence in 1975.

The Angolan government says the war in Cabinda is over.



However, sporadic attacks on government forces and expatriate workers have continued, and a FLEC group has threatened to increase activities ahead of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, which will also be held in