Defense of Human Rights. The case of Sarah WYKES, a symbol of human rights abuses in Cabinda.
By Master Roland BEMBELLY, Bobigny France
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which implies the right not to be worried about their opinions and the right to seek, receive and impart, regardless of frontiers, information and ideas. by any means of expression ”.
This provision of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights thus enshrines the right of everyone to express their opinion without losing their freedom.
The Angolan government ignored this provision when on February 18, 2007 it decided to deprive Sarah Wykes of her freedom, for the simple fact of having tried to fulfill her profession as a journalist.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,
Do not expect any exordium or general considerations from me on the case between Dr Sarah Wykes and the Angolan government before your jurisdiction. But simply the indignation of a servant of the law in the face of a flagrant violation of a fundamental human right.
Dr Sarah Wykes is being brought before your court for having visited Cabinda and for having met with human rights associations in February 2007. The Sarah Wykes case has hit the court chronicle in Angola and in the United Kingdom. United.
Politicians in both Luanda and London have interceded in various ways to restore Dr. Wykes’s freedom unjustly confiscated by the Angolan government. Their efforts were partially in vain because, if Sarah left Angolan jails, she still remains under prosecution for acts of espionage.
However, it is common knowledge that my client has worked, sometimes with difficulty, with human rights associations in Africa (to do what?), Especially in Congo Brazzaville, a country bordering Cabinda.
Was she curious (did she go beyond the limits of her profession?) By going to Angola and more precisely to Cabinda, or did she simply want to do her job as a journalist and defender of the human rights ? The answer is obvious. She only wanted to do her job as a journalist and human rights defender.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,
A year after the facts of February 2007 for which my client is being prosecuted in your court, I plead the release of the British journalist Sarah Wykes.
Indicted without legitimate cause in Angola, Sarah Wykes remains awaiting her summons to the Angolan courts.
The decision that your Tribunal will take may lead the Angolan authorities to dismiss the case in the context of this case owing, I say at the outset, to the absence of evidence or evidence against the Court. against my client.
To better characterize the violations of human rights in Cabinda through the Sarah Wykes case and to sensitize the international community, it is important to situate this country, to recall the facts and to demonstrate the absence of charges against my client.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,
Where is Cabinda? Some geography textbooks correctly place it in Central Africa; others place it, wrongly, in Southern Africa because of the situation in Angola. A territory coveted by the great powers before the Berlin Conference of 1885, Cabinda has an area of 7,200 km2. Former Portuguese protectorate since 1885, located between Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the province of Cabinda, which produces the bulk of Angolan oil (80%), was annexed by Angola at the time of the independence of Angola, November 11, 1975. Its population varies between 600,000 inhabitants.
On the side of the prosecution, the Angolan occupier, I feel uneasy about the geographical location of Cabinda.
The representative of the Angolan State will tell you, after my plea, that Cabinda has been an integral part of Angola since the Alvor (city of Portugal) agreements of January 2, 1975.
You will appreciate the arguments of the opposing party, the Angolan authorities, on the issue of the right to self-determination of the Cabindan people. The Angolan State and your jurisdiction will forgive me for insisting on the difference between Cabinda and Angola. In truth, Cabinda is, for several reasons, different from Angola.
Sarah Wykes was arrested because she was about to discover the Cabindan reality in cultural, historical and legal terms.
In Cabinda, the population speaks the Fiote language and not Ibinda as some believe or affirm.
Historically, Cabinda was a Portuguese protectorate under the Simulabumcu agreements of February 1, 1885 between the Cabindais and the Portuguese. The Cabindais placed themselves under Portuguese protection. Angola has been a Portuguese colony since the 15th century.
All Portuguese constitutions (1933, 1974 …) maintain the distinction between Cabinda and Angola. For administrative convenience, in 1956 Portugal reunited Cabinda with Angola as was the case in several territories during colonial times.
The Organization of African Unity (OAU) clearly distinguished the two countries: Angola 35 countries to be decolonized, and Cabinda 39 states to be decolonized.
I will not use this platform to plead the cause of Cabinda for its right to self-determination. Nevertheless, international opinion knows that the date of November 11, 1975 marks the beginning of the atrocities of the Cabindan populations which continue to this day.
The case of Sarah Wykes is the cause and the reason for my presentation before your court.
The reminder of these few elements is imperative to your jurisdiction since the case of Sarah Wykes reflects the suffering of thousands of Cabindais who have remained in oblivion.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,
Sarah Wykes, European, British citizen and committed woman, has committed the crime of wanting to reveal that Angola obtains most of its oil in Cabinda which does little to benefit the Cabindans.
For this reason alone, Sarah Wykes has been the victim of intimidation from the Angolan army, which fears transparency in the management of Cabindan oil. Does Oil Stay Above Human? Should we let a people die in the hotel of economic reason? Sarah Wykes wanted to know the destination of the oil revenues coming from the Cabindais subsoil.
Who is Sarah Wykes?
A journalist for the Global Witness association, which specializes in the defense of human rights and the transparency of oil revenues, headquartered in London, Sarah had obtained all authorizations to travel to Angola. His passport was valid, and his visa was issued by Angolan authorities in London. As a journalist, she had her professional card and all her working equipment: camera, photographic camera, a cell phone, her computer, etc.
Sarah Wykes had a smooth stay in the Angolan capital, Luanda. It was when she arrived in Tchiowa that things got complicated for her.
Sarah was in Cabinda in a car when she was stopped by Angolan army soldiers. Sarah did not have any family in Cabinda. The only link remained the Cabindese civil society. It should be noted that my client knew the region of Central Africa. After working in the Congo, she learned from London and even in Brazzaville or Pointe Noire, the difficulties encountered by the Cabindese populations, the suffering of the Cabindais in the refugee camps in the two Congos: neither rice nor camera.
My client wanted to break the silence of the international community on the tragedy of these people. Sarah Wykes’s only crime, in the eyes of the Angolan authorities, was to have met a human rights activist, Mr. Agostino Chicaia, President of the Cabinda civic association, MPALABANDA.
Your Court in its clairvoyance will not be able to retain this heresy. You cannot indict a human rights defender for having had contact with a civil society official in a country.
Arrested on February 18, 2007 in the Angolan province of Cabinda, released on Wednesday February 21, 2007, the case of my client showed that the Angolan authorities are keeping Cabinda in a black hole.
The wealth of Cabinda in oil is its misfortune. It is this misfortune that my client suffered in this African territory.
When my client was arrested, the Angolan authorities’ argument was: “She had subversive documents”.
How can a camera, a photographic apparatus, a professional card and a computer be considered as dependent or dangerous elements for a journalist and human rights defender who does not film the many military camps of the Angolan army?
In this case, you will refer to the procedural file, there are no documents except the copy of his passport and the various authorizations from the Angolan authorities.
It is true that Mr. Patrick Alley, Director of Global Witness, indicated at the time that there was confusion in the situation of Sarah Wykes.
Today, the veil is lifted, we will not speak of confusion but it is appropriate to speak of emptiness. Asked by the press, as usual, the Angolan police spokesperson declined to comment on the arrest and incarceration of my client.
Sarah Wykes has been formally charged with “espionage”; this rather curious prevention chief was most needed in the former countries of Eastern Europe and in several African countries. Where is the credibility of the Angolan authorities in this case? Yet Sarah Wykes traveled to Angola with “all the necessary official documentation.”
I want the representative of Angola to produce or enter into the proceedings the exhibits or evidence that justify my client’s guilt. You will notice, moreover, that no document has been communicated to me by the opposing party.
No one could ignore the harsh and harsh conditions of detention of Sarah Wykes. The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights in its article 3 condemns inhuman and degrading treatment. Your Tribunal will note that the Angolan authorities violated this principle.
Indeed, during her detention, Sarah was deprived of the most basic rights: to bathe, to eat and to have contact with people outside. Imprisoned in Tchiowa central prison, Sarah Wykes suffered unacceptable treatment in a United Nations member country.
Members of the Tribunal,
In the case of Sarah Wykes, even after her release, she was not allowed to leave Cabinda. She was awaiting instructions from the public prosecutor. Sarah Wykes was released on bail of 180,000 kwanza, the equivalent of 2,000 US dollars. She would have to wait for prior authorization from the Angolan judicial authorities before leaving Angolan soil.
All his working tools were confiscated and I will ask your court for the return of all the sealed objects belonging to my client.
In fact, Sarah Wykes traveled to Angola “to meet with civil society, businesses and the government to assess progress made in transparency in the use of funds from the Angolan oil sector,” Global Witness said in a report. press release of February 21, 2007.
My colleague Lwemba said in this case: “We know that the process will be long because the police must gather the evidence, then the prosecutor must check the validity of the charges before deciding whether to refer the case to a court”, Sarah Wykes is in the hands of Angolan justice.
After one month in Angola, and despite herself, Sarah Wykes arrived in London on March 18, 2007, exhausted, tired and still determined to defend freedom. She was able to reunite with her family and friends; she hopes to return to Angola one day to continue working with civil society.
The judiciary will continue the proceedings to support the prosecution against Sarah Wykes in Angola. We put our faith in international justice, yours, because it is neutral, independent and just.
Contacted by my cabinet in March 2007, Sarah Wykes did not wish to speak publicly in this case because her case is “in the hands of Angolan justice”. Maybe I should stress that Sarah Wykes is a journalist, human rights activist. Doesn’t she need to take advantage of the “freedom of expression” contained in the European Convention on Human Rights?
Therefore, I plead for the release of my client: Sarah Wykes’ file is empty. The espionage charges are unfounded.
Euclid of Megare said in his time that: “What is affirmed without proof can be denied without proof”. The arrest of Sarah Wykes was however preceded by the visit of Belgian parliamentarians on January 31, 2007. Certainly, her arrest and incarceration would be the Angolan authorities’ immediate response to this visit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Sarah Wykes case is the tree that hides the forest. Cases of human rights violations are rife in the territory of Cabinda.
She is charged simply because she came into contact with Mr. Chicaia, head of a human rights NGO MPALABANDA, created in 2001, banned in 2005 by a judgment from an Angolan court.
The head of this association, who met Sarah Wykes, was heard and arrested by the Angolan police after February 18, 2007. MPALABANDA was officially declared dissolved by a court in Cabinda on charges of carrying out unauthorized political activities. by the law.
MPALABANDA’s crime is to have written damning reports on human rights violations in Cabinda for a period of five years. Sarah Wykes’s crime is to have wanted to inform us of human rights abuses committed in Cabindan territory.
According to Amnesty International, in January 2005, the governor of the province admitted that human rights violations had been committed, that cases had been investigated and that many people had been brought to trial.
Sarah Wykes wanted to show through her work as a journalist to the international community that gatherings in Cabindan territory are prohibited by the Angolan authorities.
Sarah Wykes wanted to tell us that in Cabinda, every year, crimes, misdemeanors, arbitrary arrests unfortunately take place.
In November 2005, the Rapid Intervention Police (P.I.R.) used firearms to disperse demonstrators during an organized action in Landana. Protesters were beaten, according to Amnesty International, and 25 of them were arrested and detained for a short period.
Sarah Wykes was arrested for trying to investigate the arrests of human rights defenders.
We can also cite the case of journalist and human rights defender Raul Danda, former spokesperson for MPALABANDA, arrested, imprisoned and released after one month in September 2006.
The Sarah Wykes case is the tree that hides human rights violations in Cabinda.
Your court will remember the case of Father Casimiro Congo arrested on August 4, 2005 for having organized, with the association MPALABANDA, a peaceful or non-violent demonstration against the war in Cabinda. This Cabindan priest, militant of the Cabindan cause, is struck by a ban from leaving Cabinda by the Angolan authorities: his passport is withdrawn and confiscated, as was done in the case of Sarah Wykes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Tribunal can only rely on the case of Father Casimiro Congo and many others to realize that Sarah was deprived of her liberty for wanting to do her job as a human rights activist. Sarah Wykes made the mistake of going to Cabinda.
Indeed, the Cabindans are persecuted both inside and outside Cabinda. In July 2007, in the Lower River sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Messrs. Tomas Gomes, Sebastiao Mabiala, Chinona Tiago and Agusto were kidnapped in the refugee camps. Angolan soldiers regularly enter the camps which are however under the protection of the High Commissioner for Refugees (H.C.R.) in the sites of Seki Zole, to arrest the Cabindan populations. Some sick refugees were taken from their hospital beds in Kizu (Tiéla).
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,
Sarah Wykes’s dossier allows us to unveil and make known to international opinion the tragedy of the Cabindan populations living daily: on August 31, 2007, it was a moment of terror in Cabinda. Thousands of people, male and female, aged between 15 and 20, fled their homes at dawn at around 4.30 a.m. during an occupation army operation in Cabinda territory. . The soldiers of the Luanda regime broke into the homes of Lico, Icazu, Mbuli, Bichekete, Caio and Mpuela. The occupation army chose the villages in the center of Cabinda territory. Hundreds of Angolan soldiers armed to the teeth drove the Cabindan populations to empty lands.
Could they oppose the expulsions of the Angolan authorities? No, several people who opposed were beaten while the others were intimidated and threatened by soldiers who pointed at them and ready to open fire on the populations.
Women of all ages, completely irritated and overwhelmed by this situation, took the road of the Roads of Chiloango to find their husbands and dads, their brothers and their uncles; they said they were ready to die for their parents. Here too, as in the case of Sarah Wykes, the Angolan authorities have unfounded complaints.
When will this form of state terrorism end? The victims of human rights violations in Cabinda on August 31, 2007 believe that the smell of oil hangs over this operation by the Angolan authorities.
Like what Sarah Wykes experienced in a few days, the Cabindese people pay a heavy price every day.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I ask the Tribunal to acknowledge the lack of personal and direct evidence against my client, Dr Sarah Wykes. My client’s file contains no evidence.
I ask your Tribunal for this arbitrary detention to award the sum of 2,000 US dollars to Sarah Wykes for her injury;
To reimburse the deposit paid by my client;
Order the return of the seals;
The Sarah Wykes case must challenge all human rights associations around the world. This case shows how the Angolan authorities, helped by the silence of the international community, shamefully and shamelessly mask the human rights situation in Cabinda.