Honorable Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
Esteemed Heads of the Distinguished Delegations,
Esteemed Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to Angola,
Esteemed Representatives of agencies forming part of the UN system,
Esteemed representatives of Civil Society Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is with great honor that the Republic of Angola hosts the 55th African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ordinary Session in Luanda on 28 April 2014. On behalf of the Angolan people as a whole, I would like to welcome you, wishing you a pleasant stay in Luanda.
We feel proud because the people of Angola have always enriched Africa and the world at large with their ability to promote dialogue and bring the various cultures together.
From our forefathers we have inherited a profound desire to bring dignity to our continent and to plan for the future with honor. This noble mission is what brings us together in this hall today as representatives of the various African countries.
We fulfill a part of this goal as we jointly examine our common problems, especially when the rights, freedoms and well-being of our peoples come under scrutiny. We believe that the 55th African Commission Session will attain its stated goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We firmly believe that since independence Angola has promoted and defended the fundamental rights and freedoms of human beings both as individuals and members of organized social groups. This has ensured the respect and guarantee of human rights by the legislative, executive and judicial branches through the relevant agencies and institutions as provided in the Angolan Constitution and the various international legal instruments in force in the country, notably the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The African Charter fully complies with national institutions which have been established and are committed to the social, economic and political development of our countries – an indispensable factor in the consolidation of peace and social harmony.
In Angola, the African Charter has progressively been implemented with good results, notably the strengthening of public institutions protecting these fundamental rights. We have strengthened ties with various civil society organizations, enabling us to identify and resolve a number of situations. This has positively contributed towards the promotion, protection of human rights.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As with the previous Constitutions, the Constitution of the Republic of Angola, which has been in force since 5 February 2010, provides for fundamental rights and duties which ought to be interpreted in the light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as other international human rights treaties ratified by Angola.
The Republic of Angola is a sovereign and independent State, which steadfastly respects the dignity and the will of its people. Its main goal is the construction of an increasingly free, just, democratic and cooperative society where economic, social and cultural equality and progress shall prevail.
The Angolan Government is headed by His Excellency José Eduardo dos Santos who is the President of the Republic. Angola has put policies in place and has been executing multidisciplinary programs, taking into account not only the country’s geopolitical dimension, but also the strengthening of civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights of our people.
On the occasion of this important event, we would like to refer to the implementation of fundamental human rights in Angola.
We would like to underline that the State of Angola guarantees and respects the right to life. Life is an inviolable right. We categorically oppose any form of summary or arbitrary executions. In fact, in Angola such practices are punishable by law.
The death penalty was formally abolished in Angola in 1991, and in fact it had not been imposed since 1979.
In virtue of this, the role of Angolan institutions has been and shall continue to be to defend human life.
Hence, we would like to draw attention to an irrefutable fact: any attempt on the life of an individual shall always be met with a firm response from the State of Angola, the aim being to protect life as a fundamental asset and to act with the certainty of in-depth and definitive solutions. We rely on institutions which are geared towards achieving these goals, in particular the Office of the Attorney-General and Public Prosecutor.
Moreover, it is important to state that in terms of Article 40 of the Constitution, the right to freedom of expression and to press freedom is guaranteed in our country. This provision of the Constitution states that every citizen is entitled to freely express, disseminate and share his thoughts, ideas and views.
Regarding press freedom, it is important to underline that those who disseminate news have a duty to act with caution. News media professionals should strictly adhere to technical, professional and ethical standards.
Still on this issue, we would like to recall that in terms of Article 67 of the Angolan Constitution, “a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty”. Regardless of the charges brought against an individual, the Courts have the final say.
Looking at it from the same standpoint, I would like to quote from Article 20 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Angola is a State Party. It specifically states that “any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law” and that “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
Our societies should, therefore, be urged to act with view to
Ensuring the most precious gain of our countries – "Independence and Peace".
Basically, this is the path we must travel down in order to keep independence and peace intact, while ensuring the well-being of Angolans as a whole and Africans in general.
This being the case, those who exercise the right to freedom of expression have a duty to adhere to this principle.
Furthermore, we would like to refer to the right to freedom of assembly and to demonstration, as enshrined in Article 47 of the Angolan Constitution.
The full exercise of the right to peaceful demonstration should ensure that the voice of those who demonstrate is heard, without disregarding the rights of other citizens because everyone is equal before the law.
In Angola, the right to protest and to freedom of association should be exercised in a peaceful manner and within fixed parameters in order not to clash with other fundamental rights.
The Angolan Government upholds the right to freedom of religion accorded to the various denominations in keeping with the tenets of a secular State.
The Law regulating freedom of conscience, religion and worship enshrined in the Constitution also guarantees equal treatment, and stipulates criteria through which a denomination may acquire legal status. The acknowledgement of such status depends solely on strict compliance with the provisions of this Law.
It is important to point out that every citizen is expected to comply with the law and all its provisions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We believe that the development of our institutions will allow a substantial improvement in the identification and resolution of the complex human rights dissemination and consolidation process in Angola.
There are 301 NGOs in Angola, of which 228 are Angolan and 73 international. They enjoy support and have been given incentives to conduct their activities in Angola. We are delighted and proud to see their presence at international human rights fora and institutions, including the distinguished African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
I would like, however, to highlight the work of the Intersectorial Human Rights Reporting Commission in examining every situation requiring special attention and structuring on the part of the State of Angola and Angolan society.
We would like to emphasize the gains stemming from the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms by Angolan citizens, notably in relation to family matters, children, the elderly and disabled persons.
As of 16 May we will conduct “the General Population and Housing Census”. This is a major social and demographic survey which will allow the State to collect indispensable data for planning, executing and enhancing the distribution of wealth, and for complying with the rights of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Angola.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are aware that the 55th African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ordinary Session has a set of current affairs on its lengthy agenda.
In general, the human rights situation in Africa calls for great attention. It is our understanding that each situation ought to be analyzed separately, given the specific conditions of each State.
The Republic of Angola has sought to actively contribute towards efforts aimed at finding solutions through dialogue, with a view to resolving a number of situations while taking always into account the importance of cooperating with National and International Human Rights Institutions as well as NGOs active in this field.
We are aware of the importance of statements to be made by the distinguished State Delegations, AU bodies with a human rights mandate, intergovernmental and international organizations, NHRIs and NGOs.
We also regard as important the approach to matters related to the submission of Periodic State Reports by Member States within the scope of their undertakings under human rights treaties which they ratified.
During this session, the dialogue which will take place with countries which have submitted State Reports, as well as the appraisal of Activity Reports from members of the Commission and its Special Mechanisms shall enrich the plans to be developed for the future of human rights in Africa.
We would like this useful debate to take place in a spirit of fraternity and that everyone will interact with one another, taking mutual respect into account so that we may find lasting solutions to the most sensitive and complex problems afflicting not only our countries, but the African continent as a whole.
We look forward to far-reaching debates inspired by African wisdom, which take into consideration the shortcomings faced by a great many of our countries when compared to the lessons recently learned from mankind.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We would like to once again thank the Commission’s Secretariat for its efforts in planning for this Session, as well as every team which created the right conditions so that this event would be a success.
Finally, I wish you success and that the outcome of your activities shall contribute towards peace, social harmony, cooperation and development, and that Africans may see their civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights promoted, protected and upheld.
I declare the 55th African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ordinary Session open.
I thank you!