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Human Rights

Angola was a signatory to several international human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Political Rights of Women of 1953, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War and the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1967. However, as of 1988 Angola was not a signatory to the Slavery Conventions of 1926 and 1956; the Genocide Convention of 1948; or the International Conventions on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of 1966.

Although Angola had acceded to such conventions, and its Constitution guarantees most human rights, actual observance was subject to severe abridgments, qualifications, and contrary practices. A human rights organization, Freedom House, consistently gave Angola the lowest ratings on its scale of political rights and civil liberties, and The Economist World Human Rights Guide assigned Angola an overall rating of "poor." Amnesty International and the United States Department of State also issued reports highly critical of human rights practices in Angola.

The lack or disregard of international human rights standards in Angola was evident in several respects. Arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without due process were among the most common abuses. Although Angolan law limited the amount of time one could be detained without charge, there did not appear to be a specific period within which a suspect had to be tried, and as many as several hundred political prisoners may have been detained for years without trial. The regional military councils had broad authority to impose restrictions on the movement of people and material, to requisition supplies and labor without compensation, and to try crimes against state security. The BPV also had functions relating to maintenance of public order, the exercise of which was not subject to normal judicial safeguards and due process.

Constitutional protections of the inviolability of the home and privacy of correspondence were routinely ignored by government authorities, who made arbitrary home searches, censored correspondence, and monitored private communications. Arbitrary executions of political prisoners, especially those accused of supporting UNITA or perpetrating "economic crimes," occurred despite international protests and periodic reorganizations of the security services. The government maintained strict censorship, did not tolerate criticism or opposition, and denied freedom of assembly to any group that was not sanctioned or sponsored by the MPLA-PT. UNITA alleged that compulsory military service was meted out as punishment by the Ministry of State Security and the BPV. Furthermore, the government did not permit the International Committee of the Red Cross access to persons arrested for reasons related to internal security or military conflict.

Amnesty International also reported numerous instances of torture during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Ministry of State Security officials were reported to have permitted or sanctioned torture of criminals and political prisoners by such methods as beating, whipping, and electric shock. Political detainees arrested for offenses such as criticizing government policies were deprived of food and water for several days and subjected to frequent and severe beatings during interrogation and confinement. Although allegations of torture and mistreatment remained common in the mid1980s , such practices did not appear to have been systematic.

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There is voluminous material available on Angola's military history and contemporary national security affairs. The Angolan independence struggle is thoroughly examined in John A. Marcum's two-volume The Angolan Revolution. The civil war of 1975-76 is covered by some of the excellent essays in Southern Africa since the Portuguese Coup, edited by John Seiler. The external dimension of the civil war is treated in Charles K. Ebinger's Foreign Intervention in Civil War, Arthur Jay Klinghoffer's The Angolan War, and Ernest Harsch and Tony Thomas's Angola: The Hidden History of Washington's War.

The UNITA movement has been extensively studied as well. One sympathetic treatment is Fred Bridgland's Jonas Savimbi. Two excellent politico-military analyses of the UNITA insurgency are Donald J. Alberts's "Armed Struggle in Angola" in Insurgency in the Modern World and James W. Martin III's unpublished doctoral dissertation, "UNITA Insurgency in Angola."

The human cost of the war--at least in terms of refugees--is well covered by the U.S. Committee for Refugees' Uprooted Angolans. The devastating economic impact of the protracted war is most fully and systematically examined in Tony Hodges's Angola to the 1990s.

A standard reference work on military forces and order of battle data is The Military Balance, issued annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Supplementary information is available in the annual Defense and Foreign Affairs Handbook, specialized annuals such as Jane's Fighting Ships, Jane's Weapon Systems, and Jane's All the World's Aircraft, and Combat Fleets of the World, edited by Jean Labayle Couhat and Bernard Prézelin. Other useful reference works are John M. Andrade's World Police and Paramilitary Forces and Michael J.H. Taylor's Encyclopedia of the World's Air Forces. Statistics and other information on arms transfers, military spending, and armed forces are contained in the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency's annual World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's annual SIPRI Yearbook.

Internal security and human rights conditions are evaluated annually in the Amnesty International Report and the United States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Additional worldwide human rights reviews are Charles Humana's The Economist World Human Rights Guide and Raymond D. Gastil's Freedom in the World.

Finally, specialized current news sources and surveys are indispensable to research on contemporary national security affairs. The most relevant and accessible include the annual Africa Contemporary Record and periodicals such as Africa Research Bulletin, Africa Confidential, Africa Diary, Defense and Foreign Affairs Weekly, Jane's Defence Weekly, and International Defense Review. The most useful sources are African Defence Journal and its sister publication, Afrique Défense. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of February 1989

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