Angola: NGOs urge UN to investigate abuses in Cabinda

News and Press Release
Originally published
LUANDA, 21 January (IRIN) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, has promised a continued role for the UN in the promotion of human rights in Angola. However, the Brazilian diplomat has rejected calls for the UN to play a more forceful role in the investigation of alleged human rights abuses.
"If you want to transform the role of the UN here into an investigative one, we will go nowhere, particularly not in the immediate future," said De Mello, who ended a four day visit to Angola at the weekend.

He emphasised the UN's partnership with the government in raising awareness of human rights "as part of our efforts to reform the institutions of this country, including the army, the police, the justice system which is very weak, and the office of the prosecutor-general".

"The government is keen, there is interest to identify those weaknesses which are violations of human rights and transform the behaviour of those institutions so that those violations will not occur again in future," De Mello added.

A discussion document drawn up by NGOs working in Angola said the UN's role in Angola had hitherto been "helpful but not adequate in addressing human rights issues". At a meeting with De Mello, the organisations called on the UN to "engage at all levels, provincial and national, in following through with human rights abuses and seeking resolution to them".

The NGO document drew particular attention to abuses suffered by displaced people and former soldiers and their families waiting in demobilisation camps. The document also spoke of a "gross violation of the rights of people in Cabinda" - where government forces are seeking to crush a rebellion by separatist guerrillas.

The independent Angolan weekly paper Agora accused De Mello of "bypassing human rights violations" by not including Cabinda on the agenda for his trip.

De Mello argued that the systematic abuse of human rights in Angola was the consequence of the civil war between government forces and UNITA rebels, which ended with a peace accord in April last year.

"What I think we face in Angola is what we have faced in other countries that have emerged from a protracted civil conflict - where what we call a culture of violence has developed, patterns of behaviour have either been encouraged or spontaneously emerged over the years that have led either to systematic or occasional violations of human rights. You do not change that overnight," he noted.

The UN Security Council is not expected to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Angola (UNMA), which is due to expire in February. Until now, the work of the Human Rights Division (HRD) in Angola has fallen under UNMA and consequently been funded out of the UN general budget, something which will have to change with the closure of UNMA.

De Mello said that the HRD's future work in Angola would depend on the resources it was able to gather.

"Our office depends on voluntary contributions, but our intention is to remain fully engaged in the phase following the withdrawal of the UNMA," he said.

"We will form an integral part of the [UN] country team under the leadership of the resident co-ordinator and will do our utmost to achieve the many objectives which the Angolan government and people have set for themselves in this post-conflict transition," he added.


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