“UN rights panel concerned about secret detention in Algeria”

Algeria under the UN Commission

“UN rights panel concerned about secret detention in Algeria”

AFP, 2 november 2007

GENEVA – A leading UN human rights panel said Friday that it was concerned that Algeria was running « secret detention centres » and resorting to torture of domestic terror suspects.

The UN human rights committee said after a regular assessment of Algeria’s record that it was concerned about reports from non-governmental organisations on secret centres in Houch Chnou, Oued Namous, Reggane, El Harrach et Ouargla.

The panel of 18 legal experts called on Algeria to « ensure that all detention centres », including those run by the country’s intelligence and security services, are open to regular visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and independent national monitors.

In its concluding remarks, the Committee also underlined its concern about reports of torture under « the responsibility of the Algerian intelligence and security department, » which deals with counter-terrorism operations.

Violence in Algeria involving Islamist militants and security forces has left at least 35 people dead since the beginning of October, following an earlier spate of deadly militant bombings, according to official tallies and media reports.

The UN panel called on the Algerian government to tighten up the broad definition of crimes that might be construed as « terrorist or subversive acts », warning that the laws could be interpreted in a manner that would allow « repression of… fundamental rights. »

The experts also voiced concern about « pressure and intimidation » on Algerian media as well as the imprisonment of some journalists.

Discrimination against women was also « persistent… in fact as well as in law, » the committee said, calling for the abolition of polygamy and legal changes to make violence within marriage a criminal offence.