Ver Angola

Politics

Francisca van Dunem: who is the Angolan minister at the center of the controversy in Portugal?

The Minister of Justice, Francisca van Dunem, is the first black woman to join a government in Portugal, holds the position for the second time since 2015 and after exercising for 36 years as a Public Prosecutor (MP).

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At the center of a controversy related to inaccuracies in the curricular information of the European attorney José Guerra, Francisca Van Dunem is heard this Thursday, at 17:00, in the Portuguese parliament "with an urgent character".

On Wednesday, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees, chaired by Social Democrat deputy Luís Marques Guedes, unanimously approved the PS, PSD, CDS-PP and BE requirements for this purpose, at a stage when the The ruler has been targeted by the opposition and several parties are demanding his resignation.

Prime Minister António Costa, however, maintains "total political trust" in the Minister of Justice and refuses to let her fall, following the controversy that has already cost the dismissal of the Director-General for Justice Policy, Miguel Romão, and motivated a criminal complaint from the Bar Association in the Public Prosecutor's Office against uncertainty and also a request for annulment of the process of choosing the prosecutor by one of the rejected candidates.

Born in Luanda, in 1955, Francisca Eugenia da Silva Dias van Dunem, 65, independent, made her debut in 2015 as holder of the portfolio of Justice of the XXI Constitutional Government, the first led by António Costa, secretary general of the PS.

Until that time, since 1979, she was a public prosecutor, having completed her law degree from the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon (UL) in 1977.

That same year, Brother José Van Dunem, a prominent leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and sister-in-law Sita Valles were arrested in Luanda and murdered without trial, following their involvement in the political-military events that remained for history as an alleged coup attempt led by Nito Alves.

At that time, the doctor Agostinho Neto, who studied at the universities of Coimbra and Lisbon, was president of Angola and top director of the MPLA.

Still in 1977, Francisca's parents left Angola for Portugal and took their orphaned grandson, João Ernesto Valles van Dunem, “Che”, who was only a few months old and whom the future Minister of Justice would help to create in Lisbon.

As a magistrate of the MP, calm, discreet and appeasing, Francisca van Dunem has always guided her work by restraining the public approach to matters under her responsibility, characteristics that she maintains as ruler.

The portal of the XXII Constitutional Government, the second headed by António Costa, highlights that the minister was a monitor of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedural Law at the Faculty of Law of UL, between 1977 and 1979.

On a service commission, van Dunem was also an adviser on the investigation and investigation of the High Authority against Corruption from 1985 to 1987.

According to the official biography, she took on the role of delegate of the MP in Lisbon in the Labor Court, in the Criminal Instruction Court and in the Department of Investigation and Penal Action (DIAP), in addition to being part of the attorney general's office between 1999 and 2001.

From 2001 to 2007, she was director of DIAP, having then taken office as district attorney general in Lisbon, from 2007 to 2015, the year in which she suspended these functions to join the Government as Minister of Justice.

She was also a member of the European Judicial Network in criminal matters, between 2003 and 2007, and representative of the Superior Council for the Public Prosecution in the Mission Unit for Criminal Reform.

Member of the 2009 Criminal Procedure Code review committee, Francisca van Dunem also represented Portugal in meetings and technical committees of international organizations, such as the European Committee for Criminal Problems, of the Council of Europe, and the European Observatory on Racist Phenomena and Xenophobes, from the European Union.

As part of the Superior Council of the Public Ministry, the jurist and magistrate was a representative of this body on the management board of the Center for Judicial Studies (CEJ).

Francisca van Dunem belongs to one of the most influential and historic families in Angola, who has several branches, descended from a Dutch merchant of Flemish origin, Baltasar Van Dunem.

Also linked to one of these branches is former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, baptized as José Eduardo van Dunem.

In turn, Francisca has as a baptism godfather his family member Fernando van Dunem, who was the ambassador of Angola to Portugal.