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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The west African state of Angola became independent from Portugal on the 11th November 1975, the date of the entry into force of the first constitution of the country, known as the Constitutional Law (CL) to emphasize its transitory character.

The present CL was approved in 1992 by Law nコ 23/92, after negotiations between the ruling party, the MPLA, with opposition parties, including UNITA, which has been waging a war against the government from 1975. The 1992 CL has its primary source in the 1991 CL, adopted in 1991 to change the single party political system into a multiparty system and to integrate the economic reforms legislation adopted from 1988. It aimed as well to implement some of the terms and conditions of the Acordo Geral de Paz (General Peace Agreement) entered into by the Angolan government and UNITA at Bicesse (Portugal) in the same year.

In September 1992 there were, under the supervision of the UN and the ォtroyka of observersサ of the peace process (Portugal, Russia and the USA), the first multiparty elections (presidential and legislative) in the country, already under the framework of the 1992 CL. Since then, due to widespread war waged by UNITA after loosing the 1992 elections, no new elections could take place.

The 1992 constitution is now under revision to implement some terms agreed to between the Government and UNITA in the Lusaka Protocol (1994).

The constitution

1. Fundamental principles

The Republic of Angola is a unitary (CL, art. 5コ), democratic (arts 1コ, 2コ and 3コ), lay (art. 8コ) and rule of law state (art. 2コ).

The CL provides that ォall the sovereignty lies in the peopleサ (art. 3/1) which ォexercises political power by universal periodic ballot for the choice of representatives, by referendum and other forms of democratic participation of citizens in the life of the Nationサ (art. 3/2). Art. 4/1 defines the aims of political parties in representative democracy. Political parties shall contribute to the consolidation of the Angolan nation, the preservation of territorial integrity and to the defence of national sovereignty, democracy, human rights as well as the ォthe republican form of the state and the unitarian and lay character of the stateサ (art. 4/2). Political parties shall have equal treatment by the authorities and the media (art. 4/3). Art. 4/4 provides for the requirements for the creation and working of a political party, especially, freedom to form and join parties, democratic organisation and functioning of parties, prohibition of use of violence and the creation of military, paramilitary or militarised organisations as well as prohibition of money funding from foreign states.

The sovereignty organs are the President of the Republic (PR), the National Assembly (NA), the Government and the courts (art. 53コ). Art. 54コ establishes principles for the organisation and working of the state organs, as the election of the members of representative organs (art. 54/a), the subordination of state organs to the law (art. 54/b), separation and interdependence of powers (art. 54/c), local autonomy (art. 54/d), administrative decentralisation and de-concentration as well as unity of governmental and administrative action (art. 54/e), and civil and criminal liability of senior officials for actions or omissions in the exercise of their powers (art. 54/f).

The CL establishes a mixed economy where economic actors of parastatal, mixed, private, co-operative and family nature have equal treatment (art. 10コ). The state shall protect the investment and property of foreigners (art. 11/4) as well as the ownership and possession of land by farmers (art. 12/4) and promote the mixed, private, co-operative and family economic activity and initiative, especially the small and medium sized enterprises (art. 11/3). The state shall promote as well ォthe protection and conservation of the country's natural resourcesサ and ォsupervise their exploitation and development for the benefit of all the communityサ (art. 12/2). In the utilisation of state property the state shall ensure its efficiency and profitability (art. 11/2).

The state ォsupervises the development of the national economy aiming at the harmonious and balanced growth of all the economic sectors and regions of the country, the rational and efficient utilisation of all the national productive capacities and resources, as well as the improvement of welfare and the quality of life of citizensサ (art. 9コ). Furthermore, the state shall promote and intensify ォthe economic, social and cultural solidarity of the regionsサ of the country, aiming at ォthe common development of all the Angolan nationサ (art. 7コ).

The tax system shall aim at the satisfaction of the needs of the state and ォa fair distribution of income and wealthサ (art. 14/1).Taxes only may be created by law (art. 14/2).

The state ォshall create the political, economic and cultural conditions enabling the citizens to enjoy effectively their rights and to perform adequately their obligationsサ (art. 50コ).

2. Fundamental rights

The rights provided for in human rights international instruments to which Angola is a party, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights 1981, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights 1966 and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966, the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979, are in force in the country as fundamental rights. Indeed, CL expressly states that ォThe fundamental rights provided for in this Law do not exclude other rights emerging from laws and applicable rules of international lawサ (art. 21/1). Also, ォthe constitutional and legal norms related to fundamental rights shall be interpreted and integrated according the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights and the other international instruments of which Angola is a partyサ (art. 21/2).

In the constitution are expressly established the right to life and the prohibition of death penalty (arts 22コ and 20コ), the rights to the inherent dignity of the human person (arts 20コ and 2コ), free development of personality (art. 20コ), personal integrity (art. 20コ), equality under the law and non discrimination on grounds of ォcolour, race, ethnic group, sex, place of birth, religion, ideology, educational level, economic and social conditionサ (art. 18コ) and to good reputation (art. 20コ). The CL also establishes the prohibition of ォtorture (... or) other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishmentsサ (art. 23コ).

The CL provides for the freedoms of expression, meeting, demonstration and association (art. 32コ), of press and related prohibition of censorship (art. 35コ), of conscience and religion (art. 45コ), of choice and exercise of profession and employment (art. 46/3), to form trade unions and professional organisations (art. 33コ), to strike (art. 34コ) and for the freedom of movement within the national territory (art. 25コ). No person shall be subject to arbitrary and unlawful interference with his/her home or correspondence (art. 44コ).

After establishing the principles of nullum crimen sine lege (art. 36/1 e 36/3) and non retroactivity of criminal law (art. 36/4), the CL establishes the presumption of innocence (art. 36/5), the right of a person to defend him/herself (art. 36/1), the principle of intervention of a judge when a preventive arrest takes place (art. 38コ), the provision in the law of the grounds and terms of preventive arrest (art. 37コ), habeas corpus (art. 42コ), the right to appeal from courts conviction decisions (art. 41コ), the right to information on the reasons of the arrest of the defendant (art. 39コ) and the right to remain in contact with his/her family and friends (art. 40コ).

Citizens have the right to participate in public life voting in elections and being elected to public office (art. 28コ).

Concerning economic, social and cultural rights, the CL provides for the right to live in a healthy and non polluted environment (art. 24コ), to work (art. 46/1, also ruled in the CL as a duty), to medical and health assistance (art. 47コ), of access to education, culture and sports (art. 49コ) and to legal aid (art. 36/2).

The CL guarantees the protection of the family and the equality of men and women within the family (art. 29コ), the special protection of children (art. 30コ) and young persons (art. 31コ), as well as the special protection of disabled veterans of war, orphans of war e citizens disabled as a consequence of war (art. 48コ).

Any citizen may resort directly to courts in case of breach of fundamental rights and freedoms, with no need of any law regulating them specifically (art. 43コ).

3. The political system

- President of the Republic

The president is elected for a 5 years term (art. 59コ) by universal, direct, equal, secret and periodic ballot (art. 57/1), in a two tier system if no candidate obtains 50% of votes in the first ballot (art. 57/2). The candidates are appointed either by political parties or coalitions of parties or by a minimum of five thousand and a maximum of ten thousand citizens (art. 60コ). The PR may be re-elected for two more mandates, successive or interposed (art. 59コ).

The PR is the head of the state, represents the nation at the national and international levels, ensures the effectiveness of the constitution and is commander in chief of the armed forces (art. 56/1). He/she ォdefines the political orientation of the country, ensures the working of state organs and the independence and territorial integrity of the countryサ (art. 56/2).

Within constitutional executive powers, the PR is the president of the Council of Ministers (art. 66/d) and leads its meetings (art. 68/1). He/she also heads the National Defence Council (art. 66/l) and the Council of the Republic (arts 66/f and 76コ).

The PR appoints the prime minister (PM), after consultation of the political parties represented in the parliament (art. 66/a) and assigns cabinet portfolios, after consulting the PM (art. 66/b). The PR may dismiss the government and the PM, after consultation of the Council of the Republic (art. 66/c). The PR also appoints and dismisses ambassadors (art. 66/g), judges of the Supreme Court (after consultation of the Magistrates Supreme Council) (art. 66/h), the General Prosecutor and his/her deputies (after consultation of the Magistrates of Public Prosecution Supreme Council), (art. 66/i), as well as three members of the Magistrates Supreme Council (arts 66/j and 132/2/a), ten members of the Council of the Republic (art. 76/g), the head of chief-staff of the armed forces and any branch of the armed forces, their deputies (art. 66/m) and the officers with the grade of general (art. 66/n).

The PR may dissolve the parliament, after consulting the PM, the president of the National Assembly and the Council of the Republic (art. 66/e). He/she calls for presidential and legislative elections (art. 66/k) and referenda (art. 66/o). Declares the 騁at-de-si鑒e and the state of emergency (art. 66/r), as well as war and peace, after consulting the Government and the Assembly (art. 66/p).

The PR ratifies international treaties after approval by the competent organ of the state (art. 66/x), signs and orders the publication of laws and law-decrees. The President has a veto right concerning laws which only may be waived if in a new ballot the bill is approved by a 2/3 majority of the total number of members of the parliament (arts 66/s and 69コ). The PR also has functions of control of the constitutionality of laws and may require the Constitutional Court to assess the constitutionality of laws before and after their publication and to verify situations of unconstitutionality by omission (arts 66/y, 154/1, 155コ and 156コ).

The PR has a specific consultative organ, the Council of the Republic (art. 75コ), composed by the president of the NA, the PM, the president of the Constitutional Court, the General Prosecutor, the presidents of political parties represented in the NA, former Presidents of the Republic, and ten citizens appointed by the PR (art. 76コ).

- National Assembly

The Angolan parliament consists of one house, composed by 223 representatives elected by universal, direct, equal, secret and periodic ballot for a 4 years term (art. 79/1), according to a system of proportional representation at the national and provincial levels (art. 79/2). Political parties or coalitions of political parties (art. 80コ) shall appoint candidates. Judges and the military cannot be elected (art. 82/2). The status of members of the parliament is ruled in CL arts 81コ-87コ and Law nコ 6/93.

The NA changes and approves the constitution (arts 88/a and 158コ), enacts laws on any matters (art. 88/b), except on composition, organisation and working of the Government (art. 111/1/a, an exclusive power of the Government). Only the NA may enact laws on the matters defined at art. 89コ, as, e.g., nationality (art. 89/a), fundamental rights, freedoms and guarantees of the citizens (arts 89/b), elections and status of the members of organs of sovereignty and local government (art. 89/c), local government (art. 89/d), referenda (art. 89/e), associations and political parties (art. 89/i), economic sectors reserved to the state (art. 89/m), regimes of concession of natural resources (art. 89/m), regimes of transfer of ownership of state property (art. 89/m), definition of sea territorial limits (art. 89/l), monetary system (art. 89/k), organisation of the judiciary and status of judges (art. 89/j), organisation and procedure of the Constitutional Court (art. 89/f) and the organisation of national defence and the armed forces (art 89/g).

The NA may delegate in the Government, by legislative authorisation, the power to enact legislation (law decrees) on the matters defined at art. 90コ (arts 88/c, 90コ and 91コ), such as the status and capacity of persons (art 90/a), the general organisation of the public administration (art. 90/b), the participation of traditional chiefs and citizens in local government (art. 90/k), the status of civil servants and civil liability of the public administration (art. 90/c), the regimes of the public domain (art. 90/m), nationalisation, expropriation, requisition and privatisation of nationalised or expropriated property (arts 90/d and 90/e), taxation (art. 90/f), bases of the systems of education, health and social welfare (art. 90/g), ownership of land (art. 90/j), lease and tenancy (art. 90/i) and protection of nature, the ecological equilibrium and the cultural heritage (art. 90/h).

The Assembly approves the national plan and budget (art. 88/d) and their reports (art. 88/e), authorises the PR to declare the 騁at-de-si鑒e, the state of emergency and war, as well as to make peace (arts 88/i and 88/j). Approves international treaties on matters of its exclusive powers and on the participation of Angola in international organisations (art. 88/k), defines the administrative division of the country (art. 88/g), ratifies law decrees of the Government (arts 88/l and 94コ) and approves motions of confidence or censure to the Government (art. 88/n). The NA has also powers to order the impeachment of the PR on grounds of crimes of corruption and treason (art. 88/m).

- Government

The Government leads the general policy of the country and heads the public administration (art. 105/1). The Government has also legislative powers (arts 112/d, 113コ and 111コ). It has a variable composition and answers for its actions to the PR and the NA (art. 105/2).

The Government is led and represented by the PM (arts 114/1 and 114/2/b), who co-ordinates the activities of the cabinet members (art. 114/2/a) in order to implement the government programme (art. 115コ).

Dr. Antonieta Coelho
JURIST Angola Correspondent

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Courts & Judgments

The Angolan Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary, where it functions, is not independent of the President and the MPLA, and political pressure from the presidency has affected the outcome of cases. In practice the Angolan judicial system lacks the means, experience, training, and political backing to assert its independence. The President has strong appointive powers, including the power to appoint Supreme Court justices without confirmation by the National Assembly.

The court system consists of the Supreme Court at the appellate level plus municipal and provincial courts of original jurisdiction under the nominal authority of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court serves as the appellate division for questions of law and fact. A Constitutional Court provided for in the 1991 Constitution still had not been established by the end of 2001; the Constitution provides for judicial review of constitutional issues by the Supreme Court until the Constitutional Court is established after a new constitution is promulgated. There are long delays for trials at the Supreme Court level.

The Constitution provides defendants with the presumption of innocence, the right to a defense, and the right to appeal. Legal reform in 1991 established the right to public trials, a system of bail, and recognized the accused's right to counsel; however, the Government does not respect these rights in practice. The lack of trained attorneys in remote parts of the country has forced defendants in such areas as Lunda Sul and Moxico to defend themselves during trials. Trials are open to the public; however, each court has the discretion to close proceedings arbitrarily. Defendants do not have the right to confront their accusers. Judges usually are lay persons, not licensed lawyers. The judge and two lay persons elected by the full court act as the jury. In January 2001 a domestic research institute conducted a survey with the Attorney General's office in which 65 percent of the survey population reported a lack of confidence in government institutions to protect their rights.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Human Rights

The Angolan Government's human rights record remained poor in 2001; although there were slight improvements in a few areas, serious problems remain. Citizens have no effective means to change their government. Members of the security forces committed extrajudicial killings, were responsible for disappearances, and tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused persons. Verification of these reports was extremely difficult, particularly those emanating from remote areas and those areas affected by active combat. The Government often failed to pay the salaries or to supply necessary provisions to the majority of its security forces, which contributed to the harassment and abuse of civilians as security forces tried to obtain supplies. The poor discipline and poor working conditions of the military made it the worst offender; police units generally had better discipline and a more effective chain of command. Other than those personnel assigned to elite units, the Government gives tacit permission for security personnel to supplement their income by the extortion of civilians. Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening. The Government routinely used arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. Although the Government made some efforts to discipline members of the security forces for abuses, the Government often did not prosecute nor punish those in the security forces who were responsible for abuses. Impunity was a serious problem. The judiciary is subject to executive influence, only functions in certain parts of the country, and does not ensure due process. The legal code and rules of procedure remain outdated. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights and forcibly recruited military-age males. The Government instituted and publicized a new conscription campaign to decrease the recruitment of juveniles. The Government at times restricted freedom of speech and of the press and intimidated journalists into practicing self-censorship; however, there was some increased freedom of public expression in most areas of the country. The Government restricted freedom of assembly. The Government restricted association and movement; however, it allowed some peaceful public protest and opposition party meetings. The Government restricted freedom of movement for some journalists. The number of persons internally displaced by the conflict increased, partly as a result of the Government's counter-insurgency policies in the country's interior. The Government continued to limit independent investigations of human rights abuses, although it allowed international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, to conduct research in the country. Violence and discrimination against women were common; adult and child prostitution was a problem; and children and persons with disabilities continued to suffer as a result of the ongoing conflict and poor economic conditions. The Government continues to dominate the labor movement and restricts workers' rights, although there were improvements in the independent labor sector. Forced labor, including forced child labor, is a problem in rebel-held areas. There were reports of trafficking in persons.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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Legal Profession

To becomes advocates (barristers and solicitors), law graduates are required to spend a training period working at a law firm approved by the Angolan Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados de Angola).

No lawyer can practice law in the country without being registered at the Association, which acts as a self-regulating body for the profession.

Dr. Antonieta Coelho
JURIST Angola Correspondent

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Law Schools

There are three law schools in the country at:

  • Universidade Agostinho Neto (state university created in the 1960s) which began the teaching of law in 1979. This is the only Faculty of Law where up to now law degrees are awarded, after the completion of a 5 years course. There are 3 different law degrees: the legal-civil, legal-political and legal-economic specializations (5th year).
  • Universidade Catlica de Angola (owned by the Roman Catholic Church) began teaching law in 1998.
  • Universidade Lusada de Angola (a joint venture between a Portuguese university, Universidade Lusada, and an Angolan firm, Saber, Lda), began teaching law in 2000.
These law schools do not offer post-graduate degrees.

Dr. Antonieta Coelho
JURIST Angola Correspondent

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Dr. Antonieta Coelho
Associate Professor of Natural Resources Law, Faculty of Law, University Agostinho Neto, Luanda.