The Angolan diamond mining industry has been at the centre of major human right abuses over the years. In 2011, Rafael Marques, a human rights activist, published a book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola which recorded over 500 instances of crimes committed by the military generals, also partial owners of mining companies in the diamond-rich areas. Marques filed crime against humanity charges against 7 military officials and as a result he was counter-sued by them for 24 criminal defamation charges that could lead to a nine-year prison sentence with a fine up to GPB 800,000.
Initially, in 2012, the generals and directors of private security firms filed charges against Marques and his publisher in Portugal for libel and defamation. However, the Portuguese Public Prosecution Officer dismissed the case in 2013 by citing lack of evidence. Marques’s trial was supposed to start in December 2014 but due to constant delay, the court hearing was finally scheduled for March 2015. The judge decided to hold the trial behind closed doors with the press and public excluded.
More than 30 worldwide human rights groups and anti-corruption NGOs including Amnesty International, Transparency International, Index on Censorship, Committee to protect Journalists, Freedom House and others launched a global movement to protest against the irregularities of Rafael Marques’ trial. The UN Special Rapporteur and Special Rapporteur to the African Commission on Human Rights & Peoples’ Rights further pressurised the government to conduct a free and fair trial.
Two main stakeholders – The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) and Brian Leber, CEO of Leber Jeweler – took the lead in connecting CSOs with the advocacy action taken by business. BHRRC approached major diamond companies to advocate for Marques and co-ordinated with other international CSOs for his release. Brian Leber who had known Marques for 10 years helped draft the legal petitions. Tiffany & Co. and Leber Jeweler launched a public statement to condemn Marques’s biased trial and strongly voiced their desire to create a global diamond supply chain, free from human rights abuses. This was followed by another similar letter by Brilliant Earth. The movement saw industry-wide support from a number of jeweller organisations as well such as National Jeweller USA and Jeweler's Circular Keystone.
In May 2015, these efforts led to the withdrawal of the criminal defamation charges against Marques. He struck a negotiation with the generals that allowed him to carry out his work under the watchful eye of the government on the condition of not republishing the book. Unfortunately, in less than a week, the public prosecutor announced that Marque’s statement was an admission of guilt that would be punished with a suspended statement. Thereafter, he has been handed down a six-month prison sentence suspended over two years, due to which his trial continues till date.