Victory for civil society as Angolan court strikes down NGO law, says AI

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

An Angolan court’s ruling to strike down legislation intended to monitor non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in that country is a victory for civil society, Amnesty International said.

The Angolan Constitutional Tribunal declared unconstitutional the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Presidential Decree – a piece of legislation that sought to monitor the registration and financial support of NGOs.

“The court’s judgment is a positive step forward that gives Angolan authorities a second chance to go back and work together with local NGOs to build a safe and enabling environment for civil society,” Amnesty International Southern Africa regional director Deprose Muchena said.

“From the beginning, Amnesty International and others have stated plainly that this legislation was designed to stifle the vital work of human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Angola.

“Angolan authorities must see NGOs as partners working in the public interest, not as enemies of the state,” Muchena said.

The NGO Presidential Decree was enacted in March 2015. In declaring it unconstitutional in a court judgment dated July 11, but only made public on Friday, the court stated the procedure for its approval should have been done through the National Assembly.

The decree empowered the public prosecutor’s office to suspend the activities of national and international NGOs on suspicion of “money laundering or illegal or harmful acts against Angola’s sovereignty and integrity”. However, there were widespread fears that these offences would be interpreted over-broadly in practice, resulting in a crackdown on civil society.

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