Mr Moussa Bourefis meets the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances

Mr Moussa Bourefis meets the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances

Alkarama for Human Rights, 03 December 2008

On 28 November 2008, Moussa Bourefis, the son and brother of two persons disappeared in Algeria, met with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances at Palais Wilson in Geneva, alongside representatives from Alkarama and Algeria Watch.

Moussa Bourefis, a member of the organising committee of the Association of Families of the Disappeared in Jijel, informed the Working Group of some of the specifics of the issue of enforced disappearance in the Jijel region.

He estimates that the number of those disappeared in the Jijel region during the 90s is around one thousand. Nevertheless, numerous cases have not been able to be put on record because of the fears of the families due to geographical isolation and the strong presence of the military in the region.

The Association of the Families of the Disappeared in the Jijel has several hundreds of files, and plans to submit information – on those cases that have not yet been submitted – to the Working Group.

The UN experts were very interested by Mr Bourefis’ explanations regarding the application of the law for so-called ‘national reconciliation’. This law does not plan for any penal prosecution against agents of the State responsible for enforced disappearances, and the compensations planned for families have the aim of closing this file in a definite way.

He explains that the compensations planned by the law are in reality often presented as a social aide in order to push families with little economic resources to undertake the necessary steps, and attempt to break their resistance.

According to him, numerous families in the Jijel region were summoned and threatened with reprisals if they did not declare, at the level of the tribunals, that their loved one had been arrested by an armed group whose identity was unknown, or by a terrorist group. However, in most cases, the families know that it is agents of the state who are responsible for the kidnapping. Very often, they know their names.

Nonetheless, numerous families have had their file refused, or were confronted with false affirmations on the record of the disappearance, established by the very service responsible for the disappearance. Certain families have not obtained this record, necessary to continue their efforts.

Mr Bourefis explained that the situation for families of the disappeared has not changed. How can one speak of reconciliation when they don’t have access to truth and justice? How can one accept that those responsible for the disappearances, are not only not investigated, but benefit from promotions?

The President of the UN Working Group insisted on the fact that the so-called law of ‘national reconciliation’ contradicts international law and the fact of having accepted compensation from the State does not mean that the case is closed at the level of the Working Group. He also recalled that the Working Group has an urgent procedure to protect families in case of intimidation.

Mr Bourefis seized this occasion to announce that the children of the disappeared planned to create an association to continue and support the mothers and wives’ battle for Truth and Justice.