New Penal Code makes history in João Lourenço’s era

  • Justice Palace
Luanda – The gazetting, on Wednesday, of the new Angolan Penal Code (CPA) and corresponding Criminal Procedure Code (CPP), represents a historical landmark in the new governance under President João Lourenço.

 

 

By Frederico Issuzo, ANGOP journalist

 

With this double reform, Angola marks the fall of two more symbols of the Portuguese colonialism, as the country celebrates one more anniversary of its national independence, proclaimed on 11 November 1975, by António Agostinho Neto.

 

The new laws come in replacement of the Portuguese Penal Code of 1886 and the also Portuguese Criminal Procedure Code, of February 1929, that was in force in the country since the colonial era.

 

According to the Gazette 179, of 11 November 2020, the two juridical instruments will come into force in 90 days time, that is, three months after its printing.

 

The CPP was approved on 22 July 2020, and the CPA on 4 November, following a review of its initial version, adopted in January 2019, by the Parliament.

 

This re-examination had been demanded by President João Lourenço, who then refrained from promulgating it, after he perceived that certain grave conducts were attracting too much soft sentences or even inferior to the ones contained in the previous law.

 

João Lourenço demanded more severe punishment for crimes “committed in the performance or to the damage of public duties", including those involving environment and property.

 

On the occasion, the Head of State invoked the need to send a "clear message " of the State’s commitment to the promotion of public probity and moralisation, prevention and combat against corruption and impunity.

 

Following its re-examination, the legislators aggravated the sentences for the crimes in respect, with highlight to embezzlement, for which the punishment has risen to about 19 years in prison, against the 16 years considered in terms of the previous Penal Code.

 

For environmental crimes, the highest sentence moves from three up to 12 years in jail, namely when involving the acquisition, alienation or transportation of legally protected fauna or flora.

 

Those found guilty of having created “danger of extinction” of animal or vegetal species, “eliminating specimens of the fauna or flora (…), destroying or deteriorating their natural habitat”, shall be sentenced to three to five years in prison.

 

On the other hand, pollution of water, soil or air is punished with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, against the five in the previous version, especially if it “endangers the life of a person or the physical integrity of property of others (… ) ”.

 

 

Among the crimes against property, the theft of something of "considerably high" value is now punishable with a maximum of eight years in prison, against the seven in the initial version and 12 in the previous law.

 

In the previous law, the most serious penalty for theft crimes corresponded to all things with value exceeding Akz 600,000.

 

The new text has resulted from the work initiated by the first Justice and Law Reform Commission (CRJD), created in 2009.

Its entry into force puts an end to the Portuguese Penal Code of 1886, which was once common in Portuguese-speaking Africa, to the five former Portuguese colonies, at least until recently.

 

 

 

Guinea-Bissau was the first to get rid of the colonial Code, with the approval of one of its own, in 1993, followed by Cabo Verde (2003), São Tomé and Príncipe (2012) and Mozambique (2014).

Modern code and most important law in the country

According to MP José Semedo, coordinator rapporteur of the law that approves the CPA and member of the National Assembly's Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, the new Penal Code is, “the most important law in the country”, only second to the Constitution.

 

Made for the first time “by Angolans, for Angolans and for Angola”, the new Penal Code already takes into account “what is most modern in terms of science of law and criminal policy”, in addition to respecting “in a full way the national identity ”.

 

The MP explains that the text reflects the “modus vivendi” of the Angolan people, since it preserves the social and cultural assumptions of the country, “without disregarding its universal character”.

 

It also enshrines “crimes that have a lot to do with our daily lives, such as abandoning a newborn, replacing or withholding a newborn, subtracting or refusing to surrender a child and disclosing false paternity, among others.

 

 

With the new law, the legislators also sought to prevent people from keeping large amounts of money, removed from the financial circuit, in warehouses, containers or other less appropriate places.

 

Greater security is guaranteed to the currency, as well as to personal savings and greater fluidity to the national financial system.

 

In general, it was intended to discipline and punish practices that are harmful to the financial market, seeking to prevent fraud in the transportation of money, illicit introduction of foreign currency into the national territory and illicit transfer of money abroad.

 

The new law clearly prohibits payment in cash outside the legal limit, the retention of large amounts outside the financial circuit and illegal currency trade, among other practices.

 

The introduction of criminal liability for legal persons, punishable with admonition, fine or dissolution, is also among the main innovations contained in the new Act.

 

There is also the possibility for natural persons to serve their imprisonment only on weekends, in the case of sentences not exceeding five months and not replaceable with a fine.

 

However, this requires a “consent from the convict”, according to the provisions of the new text.

 

In other words, contrary to the previous law, the CPA seeks to respond to the dictates of modern criminal policy that advises States to place men at the centre of its regulation.

 

The CPA pays special attention to crimes against people, chiefly those committed against life, physical and psychological integrity, sexual freedom, dignity and honour, with severe punishment for murder, offence, slavery and others.

 

It presents, in a detailed way, the crime of termination of pregnancy and expands the concepts of sexual offence, which are no longer limited to rape, as was the case in the previous law.

 

In this regard, sexual crime includes sexual harassment, fraud, abuse, aggression and harassment, as well as child pornography and sexual trafficking.

 

The concept of “sexual penetration” now includes anal or oral intercourse, as well as anal penetration “with any part of the body or objects used in circumstances of sexual involvement”.

 

It also introduces the crimes of “abandoning people”, “contagion of transmitted disease”, “refusal of assistance by health professionals” and “discrimination”, as well as computer crimes and “attack on freedom of the press”.

 

 

The latter punishes illegal impediment or disturbance to broadcasting of journalistic content in periodicals or radio-television programmes, or the seizure or damage of material necessary for the exercise of journalistic activity.

 

 

By Frederico Issuzo, ANGOP journalist

 

With this double reform, Angola marks the fall of two more symbols of the Portuguese colonialism, as the country celebrates one more anniversary of its national independence, proclaimed on 11 November 1975, by António Agostinho Neto.

 

The new laws come in replacement of the Portuguese Penal Code of 1886 and the also Portuguese Criminal Procedure Code, of February 1929, that was in force in the country since the colonial era.

 

According to the Gazette 179, of 11 November 2020, the two juridical instruments will come into force in 90 days time, that is, three months after its printing.

 

The CPP was approved on 22 July 2020, and the CPA on 4 November, following a review of its initial version, adopted in January 2019, by the Parliament.

 

This re-examination had been demanded by President João Lourenço, who then refrained from promulgating it, after he perceived that certain grave conducts were attracting too much soft sentences or even inferior to the ones contained in the previous law.

 

João Lourenço demanded more severe punishment for crimes “committed in the performance or to the damage of public duties", including those involving environment and property.

 

On the occasion, the Head of State invoked the need to send a "clear message " of the State’s commitment to the promotion of public probity and moralisation, prevention and combat against corruption and impunity.

 

Following its re-examination, the legislators aggravated the sentences for the crimes in respect, with highlight to embezzlement, for which the punishment has risen to about 19 years in prison, against the 16 years considered in terms of the previous Penal Code.

 

For environmental crimes, the highest sentence moves from three up to 12 years in jail, namely when involving the acquisition, alienation or transportation of legally protected fauna or flora.

 

Those found guilty of having created “danger of extinction” of animal or vegetal species, “eliminating specimens of the fauna or flora (…), destroying or deteriorating their natural habitat”, shall be sentenced to three to five years in prison.

 

On the other hand, pollution of water, soil or air is punished with a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, against the five in the previous version, especially if it “endangers the life of a person or the physical integrity of property of others (… ) ”.

 

 

Among the crimes against property, the theft of something of "considerably high" value is now punishable with a maximum of eight years in prison, against the seven in the initial version and 12 in the previous law.

 

In the previous law, the most serious penalty for theft crimes corresponded to all things with value exceeding Akz 600,000.

 

The new text has resulted from the work initiated by the first Justice and Law Reform Commission (CRJD), created in 2009.

Its entry into force puts an end to the Portuguese Penal Code of 1886, which was once common in Portuguese-speaking Africa, to the five former Portuguese colonies, at least until recently.

 

 

 

Guinea-Bissau was the first to get rid of the colonial Code, with the approval of one of its own, in 1993, followed by Cabo Verde (2003), São Tomé and Príncipe (2012) and Mozambique (2014).

Modern code and most important law in the country

According to MP José Semedo, coordinator rapporteur of the law that approves the CPA and member of the National Assembly's Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, the new Penal Code is, “the most important law in the country”, only second to the Constitution.

 

Made for the first time “by Angolans, for Angolans and for Angola”, the new Penal Code already takes into account “what is most modern in terms of science of law and criminal policy”, in addition to respecting “in a full way the national identity ”.

 

The MP explains that the text reflects the “modus vivendi” of the Angolan people, since it preserves the social and cultural assumptions of the country, “without disregarding its universal character”.

 

It also enshrines “crimes that have a lot to do with our daily lives, such as abandoning a newborn, replacing or withholding a newborn, subtracting or refusing to surrender a child and disclosing false paternity, among others.

 

 

With the new law, the legislators also sought to prevent people from keeping large amounts of money, removed from the financial circuit, in warehouses, containers or other less appropriate places.

 

Greater security is guaranteed to the currency, as well as to personal savings and greater fluidity to the national financial system.

 

In general, it was intended to discipline and punish practices that are harmful to the financial market, seeking to prevent fraud in the transportation of money, illicit introduction of foreign currency into the national territory and illicit transfer of money abroad.

 

The new law clearly prohibits payment in cash outside the legal limit, the retention of large amounts outside the financial circuit and illegal currency trade, among other practices.

 

The introduction of criminal liability for legal persons, punishable with admonition, fine or dissolution, is also among the main innovations contained in the new Act.

 

There is also the possibility for natural persons to serve their imprisonment only on weekends, in the case of sentences not exceeding five months and not replaceable with a fine.

 

However, this requires a “consent from the convict”, according to the provisions of the new text.

 

In other words, contrary to the previous law, the CPA seeks to respond to the dictates of modern criminal policy that advises States to place men at the centre of its regulation.

 

The CPA pays special attention to crimes against people, chiefly those committed against life, physical and psychological integrity, sexual freedom, dignity and honour, with severe punishment for murder, offence, slavery and others.

 

It presents, in a detailed way, the crime of termination of pregnancy and expands the concepts of sexual offence, which are no longer limited to rape, as was the case in the previous law.

 

In this regard, sexual crime includes sexual harassment, fraud, abuse, aggression and harassment, as well as child pornography and sexual trafficking.

 

The concept of “sexual penetration” now includes anal or oral intercourse, as well as anal penetration “with any part of the body or objects used in circumstances of sexual involvement”.

 

It also introduces the crimes of “abandoning people”, “contagion of transmitted disease”, “refusal of assistance by health professionals” and “discrimination”, as well as computer crimes and “attack on freedom of the press”.

 

 

The latter punishes illegal impediment or disturbance to broadcasting of journalistic content in periodicals or radio-television programmes, or the seizure or damage of material necessary for the exercise of journalistic activity.