Global Freedom of Expression

Public Prosecutor v. Beirão, et al. (15+2)

On Appeal Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Speech
  • Date of Decision
    March 28, 2016
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment, Criminal Sanctions
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Angola, Africa
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation, Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests, Political Expression
  • Tags
    Individuals of public importance

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

In March 2016, the Provincial Court of Luanda, Angola found 17 youth activists guilty of criminal association, acts of rebellion and plotting against President José Eduardo dos Santos, whose presidency has lasted 37 years. They were all sentenced between two to eight years imprisonment.

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify the official legal and government records on the case and that the information contained in this report was derived from secondary sources. It must be noted that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding this legal matter will be updated as an official source becomes available.


In June 2015, fifteen youth activists were arrested at a gathering in Luanda, Angola. The meeting was led by Domingos da Cruz, an Angolan author, journalist and human rights activist. The group discussed Gene Sharp’s book, “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” and peaceful ways to protest against the current president and his 37-year regime.

At the meeting, Domingos da Cruz was arrested along with fourteen activists, including Luaty Beirão, a local rapper and political activist. Two other female activists, Rosa Conde and Laurinda Gouveia, were arrested separately as they did not attend the gathering. The Public Prosecutors Office of Luanda charged all of them with planning a rebellion and plotting a coup to overthrow the ruling regime.

In September 2015, a number of the activists went on hunger strike to protest their arrest. In October 2015, as the government continued their detention, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders urged the Angolan government to release the activists. Yet upon their initial indictment on two criminal charges, the public prosecutor added a criminal association charge under Article 273 of the Criminal Code. 

Decision Overview

On March 28, 2016, Justice Januário Domingos delivered the opinion of the Provisional Court of Luanda.

He found the activists guilty of planning a rebellion and criminal association, coupled with aggravating circumstances of premeditation and performance by various agents. The criminal sanctions varied for each defendant. Two of them were sentenced to two years and three months in prison; thirteen others were sentenced to four years and six months in prison; Luaty Beirão was sentenced to five years and six months; and Domingos da Cruz was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison. Upon sentencing, they were immediately taken into custody despite their right to obtain a temporary suspension of the sentence pending an appeal.

The lawyers for the activists have filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Angola and a habeas corpus petition before the country’s Constitutional Court.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The judgment imposes criminal sanctions on activists for meeting to discuss their country’s political climate and ways to engage in civil society. The decision has the effect of discouraging people from expressing their views on matters of public interest.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Although it does not set binding precedent, this judgment has a chilling effect for freedom of speech, protest, and political activism in Angola. The judgment is symbolic in a country that still suffers from past civil conflicts.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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