Algeria-Watch: Mrs Tigha’s Harassment by the Algerian Secret Service
Algeria-Watch, 23 February 2004
Mrs Fouzia Tigha, née Mendil, mother of two children, is the wife of Mr Abdelkader Tigha, former member of the secret service of the Algerian armed forces, better known as the « Military Security », which became the Department of Investigation and Security (DRS) in September 1990. Between 1993 and 1997, Mr Tigha was an officer in the Research Unit of the Territorial Centre for Research and Investigation (CTRI) based at Blida, a city located around 40 kilometres south-west of Algiers.
The CTRI at Blida
The CTRI at Blida is the Centre of the first Algerian military region of the Counter-espionage Management Unit (DCE), the main department of the DRS. This Unit had been directed since September 1990 by General Smaïl Lamari, also known as « Smaïn ». The investigations carried out by international human rights organisations, together with the assistance of victims and with evidence from dissident army and DRS officers, has led to the conclusion that the CTRI of Blida has been, unto this day, one of the main centres for repression used by the Algerian army during the « dirty war », which was sparked off in January 1992. Led by Colonel M’Henna Djebbar from July 1990 until October 2003, this important torture centre was the theatre for thousands of summary executions of civilians accused of Islamism (some of whom count as « disappeared »). It was also one of the main centres which controlled the armed Islamic groups created or manipulated by the DRS since 1992. These groups were responsible most notably for the mass massacres in Algeria in the autumn of 1997.
A very detailed report which collects all the available information on the CTRI of Blida (and on other torture and execution centres of the DRS) was published in October 2003 by Algeria-Watch, entitled « Algeria, the Death Machine ». (1)
Abdelkader Tigha’s Long Journey
By the end of 1999, as a result of serious differences of opinion with his superiors, which made him fear for his life, Mr Tigha decided to desert the army and flee Algeria. After an eventful journey, he arrived in Bangkok, Thailand in January 2000. He remained in detention there until September 2003. During his detention, Mr Tigha made clear his willingness to act as a witness of his country’s secret service’s very serious violations of human rights that he had witnessed. Many international press articles have presented his revelations (2). One of the most important articles was published by the French daily Libération and concerned the direct involvement of the heads of the DRS in kidnapping and killing, in the spring of 1996, of seven French monks from a monastery in Tibéhirine (3).
Despite many pleas, Mr Tigha was not able to obtain the protection of the High Commission for Refugees of the United Nations (UNHCR) and in the summer of 2003 it became apparent that his life was being directly threatened by the Algerian secret services. With the support of some international human rights organisations, anxious to ensure the security of such a valuable witness of the violations of human rights in Algeria, Mr Tigha was able to leave Thailand in September 2003 and travel to Jordan. In this country the same threats were repeated and on the 3 rd December 2003, Tigha had to leave the country for Holland. Since then he has been in detention, awaiting a response for his plea for political asylum.
The filing of complaint against X in Paris for the assassination of the monks of Tibéhirine and its consequences for Mrs Tigha
On the 9 th December 2003, a complaint was registered against X under civil law proceedings and was presented to the Chief Prosecutor in Paris by the members of the family of one of the monks of Tibéhirine assassinated in May 1996, Christophe Lebreton, together with Father Armand Veilleux, The Procurator General of the Cistercien Order , with the intention of shedding light on the drama. The lawyer Patrick Baudouin, former president of the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) and one of the advisers of Abdelkader Tigha in his struggle to obtain protection under political asylum, had been selected by the Lebreton family and Mr Veilleux to defend the interests they shared.
In the text of the formal complaint, available on Algeria-Watch’s website (4), Baudoin is largely supported by the witness statement of Mr Tigha.
According to information obtained by Algeria-Watch, by the Justitia Universalis (an organisation that is particularly engaged in the fight against the impunity of human-rights abusers in Algeria) and by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (REMDH), since January 2004 the wife of Mr Tigha, who continued to live in Blida with their two children in the Frantz Fanon neighbourhood in the vicinity of the CTRI, was subject to some odd events that worried her, and was more recently the victim of more open threats that led her to fear her life.
In early January, a French journalist who claimed he was from the Figaro Magazine , Didier Contant, approached her. He was accompanied by another journalist, an Algerian called Mr Achouri. They told her that they were writing an investigative piece on the monks assassinated in 1996, but interrogated her mostly about the alleged involvement of her husband in the traffic of drugs and cars (during the time he was at the CTRI) and on the alleged illegal profiteering of his family. Mrs Tigha denied these allegations vehemently (Mrs Tigha and her husband’s brothers all live in very modest circumstances), but she was left unsettled by the interview. The same questions were asked by the two journalists to the other members of the Tigha family.
On the 16 th February 2004, we learnt that Didier Contant was found dead in Paris, having jumped from the seventh floor of an apartment block. According to France-Soir , in an article entitled « The ex-chief editor of Gamma is victim of a fall: he was investigating the GIA », published on the 17 th February, he had recently declared to his friends « I have the feeling that I have walked into the deep end. »
On the 10 th February 2004, Mrs Tigha found twenty-six photos of burnt destroyed houses and of lit candles in her apartment, which appeared to be a less-than veiled threat. Furthermore, she was informed by some relatives linked to the CTRI that she was being followed, that her telephone was being tapped and that the DRS had invested a lot of money to eliminate her husband or to « get » him out of Holland and to bring him to Algeria.
In the apartment block where Mrs Tigha lived, there were only families of the CTRI agents, and her neighbours placed her and her children in virtual quarantine.
From the 18 th February 2004 to this day, Mrs Tigha has been harassed night and day with telephone calls, by anonymous people with obscene proposals, including threats to rape her as well as her children.
Finally, on the 20 th February 2004, the Algerian daily newspaper El-Watan published an article signed by « Salima Tlemçani » entitled « French journalist Didier Contant pushed to suicide – Victim of a « who killed who ». This article, garnished with lies and slander, placed serious doubts on the lawyer Baudoin, the Canal Plus journalist Jean-Baptiste Rivoire and the board of Figaro-Magazine , and made clear that the testimonial of Tigha about the assassination of the monks was not credible. These allegations were then taken up the next day in a different form by another Algerian daily newspaper L’Expression , and subsequently on the 23 rd February 2004 by the daily Le Matin.
Algeria-Watch strongly denounces the threats against Mrs Tigha, the objective of which is evidently to put pressure upon her husband so that he does not present his witness statement within the judicial process. This was initiated by the French judiciary on the 10 th February 2004, following the presentation of the formal complaint presented by Baudouin, in order to reveal the truth about the murdered monks of Tibéhirine.
Algeria-Watch demands that the French and Dutch governments take all possible measures necessary:
On the one hand, to obtain from the Algerian government an agreement that they will cease immediately the activities of their secret services against Mrs Tigha;
And on the other hand, to guarantee the safety of Mr Tigha in Holland and that of all his family in Algeria, in order that he may be able to give his witness statement with impunity unto the Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, in charge of the trial looking at the complaint of the Lebreton family.
Finally, Algeria-Watch denounces the slanderous press campaign that has been carried out, in the great tradition of the DRS, against those who try and struggle to reveal the truth about the violations of human rights in Algeria, and in particular the monks’ assassination.
1- Salah-Eddine Sidhoum and Algeria-Watch , Algérie : la machine de mort , <www.algeria-watch.org/fr/mrv/mrvtort/machine_mort/machine_mort. htm>, October 2003.
2- In particular, see the long article published in September 2001 by the Paris practice Nord-Sud Export entitled « Algérie : les révélations d’un déserteur de la SM », Nord-Sud Export , n° 427, 21 September 2001. This article can be found at the internet site www.algeria-watch.org (<www.algeria-watch.org/farticle/transfuges_generaux/tigha_deserteur. htm>).
3- Arnaud Dubus , « Les sept moines de Tibéhirine enlevés sur ordre d’Alger », Libération , 23 December 2002.
4- At the address <http://www.algeria-watch.de/fr/article/just/moines/plainte_texte.htm>.