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Angolan Security Forces Accused of Killing at Least 7 While Enforcing COVID-19 Restrictions  

FILE - Soldiers patrol the streets in the Kifangondo District in Luanda on May 13, 2020.
FILE - Soldiers patrol the streets in the Kifangondo District in Luanda on May 13, 2020.

Amnesty International and the Angolan human rights group OMUNGA are accusing security forces of killing at least seven people while implementing COVID-19 restrictions in the southern African country.

On Tuesday, the two rights groups called for complete, transparent investigations into the deaths of at least seven young men and boys between May and July. The youngest victim was 14.

“Angolan security forces have repeatedly used excessive and illegal force when faced with violations of state of emergency regulations imposed to control the spread of COVID-19,” the groups said in a joint news release.

Representatives of the rights groups pieced together accounts of the killings, most of which have been reported in Luanda province, home to the country’s coastal capital city.

One victim was 16-year-old Clinton Dongala Carlos. On the evening of July 4, he reportedly was walking home in Luanda province’s Cacuaco municipality when five security troops gave chase and shot him in the back. Witnesses said police asked locals for water and poured it on the injured teen’s face as he lay on the ground.

“The neighbors, who were hiding in terror, then heard a second shot,” the report said. “When the officers left, they saw that Clinton had been shot in the face.”

All the killings occurred in disadvantaged neighborhoods, said the report by Amnesty and OMUNGA. The latter name means “solidarity” in Umbundo, one of Angola’s two major native languages. The report said members of both the Angolan National Police and Angolan Armed Forces were suspected of involvement.

A spokesman for Interior Minister Eugénio Laborinho, who oversees security and police, did not respond to VOA Portuguese’s attempts to reach him by phone on Tuesday.

But Joao Pinto, a congressman in the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) Party, told VOA all complaints should be properly investigated to assess the agents’ intentions and whether the deaths were the result of overzealous law enforcement.

"The Angolan government is the first to protect human life, and our history has proved this," Pinto said. He added that the government does not need foreigners’ guidance on defending human rights.

While Amnesty and OMUNGA say they have confirmed the seven deaths by security forces, the two organizations say the count is probably higher.

OMUNGA’s executive director, João Malavindele, told VOA he believes at least 16 people have been killed by security forces.

For instance, the toll excludes a 21-year-old man allegedly fatally shot last Saturday by security forces in Luanda. He was not wearing a face covering, which Angola’s government has required in public since July 9 to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

Criminal investigations into the seven deaths already are under way, according to the news release.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s director for Southern Africa, insisted that the probes be “independent, impartial and transparent,” and that “those responsible must be brought to justice in fair trials. The state of emergency is no excuse for scandalous human rights violations,” he said.

Salvador Freire, who leads Mãos Livres, told VOA the nonprofit legal aid group “already has a team of lawyers” to assist victims and their families in getting answers and justice.

This report originated in VOA’s Portuguese service.