Police Beat, Set Dogs On Peaceful Protesters
The Angolan government should urgently and impartially investigate police use of force to disperse a peaceful protest in the capital, Luanda. The police beat activists with batons and injured at least four protesters using police dogs.
“The Angolan authorities are responding to peaceful protests with batons and police dogs,” said Daniel Bekele, senior Africa advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to investigate the police crackdown on protesters and hold those responsible to account.”
On February 24, 2017, about 15 people gathered at 2 p.m. in the First of May Square (Largo Primeiro de Maio) to call for the resignation of the territorial administration minister, Bornito de Sousa.
He is second on the list of candidates for the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and would become vice president if the MPLA wins the parliamentary elections scheduled for August. Because he is in charge of the voter registration process for the elections, the protesters fear he could manipulate the election.
Witnesses to the protests, as well as several participants, told Human Rights Watch by phone that the protesters were peaceful, and carried no banners or weapons. They were walking toward the square when the police set upon them and started beating them with batons.
Video recorded by a resident in a nearby building shows the police hitting the protesters with batons and using police dogs to disperse the group. The video reveals no aggressive actions by the demonstrators.
A protest organizer, Luaty Beirao, said he saw about a dozen police officers when he arrived and another group of officers soon emerged with a Rottweiler and two German shepherd dogs on leashes. “We argued with them for a few minutes, before one of the commanders started chasing people away and beating people who had come to watch the situation,” Beirao said.
The police then set the dogs on the protesters. “The Rottweiler bit my left arm, while one of the German shepherds bit the right side of my waist,” Beirao said. “The wound to the waist was not as big as the one to my left arm.”
Beirao provided two photos that are consistent with his account. One photo from the protest shows him with a bloody left arm. The other, taken after the protest, shows him with deep bruising on the back, side, and buttocks, which he said was from baton strikes.
Another activist, Samussuku Chiconda, said police officers beat him with batons and then dragged him into a police van. A photo he provided showed a deep gash on his forehead, which he said required stitches.