Angola: Sarah Wykes, human rights defender (1)

Re: Sarah Wykes, human rights defender

To: José Eduardo dos Santos, President of the Republic, and others

From: Diana Davidson CM,Llb,Bed(elem), Member(retired) of the Law Society of British Columbia & the Law Society of the Yukon Territories

Date: 2007-03-13

I write to Your Honour regarding the plight of Sarah Wykes, a visitor to your country from Britain. She had been granted a visa to permit her to enter Angola. The purpose of her trip was known that is to meet with groups and individuals to discuss the use of oil revenues in Angola, a topic of great international interest.

On February 18th 2007 she was arrested in Cabinda. Later she was released but her passport was not returned to her and she was advised that charges were being laid against her although she has not been formally charged.

This is a dreadful situation and impacts on the reputation of Angola. I write to ask you to direct the return of her passport and the removal of threats of charges so that she can continue her meetings without interference. I also ask you to instigate an investigation into why this happened in order to ensure that those responsible acquire a more nuanced sense of their responsibilities and a greatly increased respect for the rights of Human Rights Workers: both those resident in Angola and those from other countries granted visas to visit your country. They should also be encouraged to realize that their actions resulted in a very serious injustice to Miss Sarah Wykes which has eroded Angola’s reputation as a safe place for Human Rights Workers.

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) of which I am a member is an organization composed of lawyers and retired Canadian Judges who are concerned about the safety of human rights defenders, lawyers and Judges around the world, in all countries and under all forms of government.

In particular LRWC together with such affiliated NGOs as Amnesty International is concerned that all nations abide by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the General Assembly on December 9th 1998. LRWC has consultative status with the United Nations and so has an ever greater responsibility to bring to the attention of the Governors of a country when a breach of Human Rights has occurred.

I am sending each of the Ministers of Government listed below a separate copy of this letter. I look forward to hearing further from you regarding this matter.

In the meantime I wish you well and thank-you for your kind attention to this matter.