Amnesty International writes to Algerian President about torture concerns


Public Statement

AI Index: MDE 28/009/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 102

Embargo Date: 24 April 2006 00:01 GMT

Algeria: Amnesty International writes to Algerian President about torture concerns

Amnesty International is calling on Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to take effective measures to end secret detention and torture of alleged terrorist suspects.

In a memorandum sent to the president, Amnesty International provides detailed information on the outcomes of its research into arrests and detentions of terrorist suspects over the past four years. It invites the Algerian authorities to provide information on any investigations that have been carried out into 12 specific cases of alleged secret detention and torture reported to it since 2002.

Amnesty International’s research has revealed that there continues to be a real risk of torture for anyone suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. A key role in the arrest and detention of terrorist suspects is played by Algeria’s military intelligence service, the Department for Information and Security (Département du renseignement et de la sécurité, DRS).

Wherever suspects are arrested or detained by the DRS, safeguards under Algerian and international law for the protection of detainees are routinely disregarded. Uncharged suspects are systematically held in secret places of detention, without any contact to the outside world, and there are persistent reports of torture and other ill-treatment. While detainees are held by the DRS, their families are not informed of their place of detention.

In some cases detainees are held in secret detention by the DRS for months before being brought before a judge. When brought before a judge for the first time, they are generally not assisted by a lawyer. Where detainees complain to the judicial authorities that they have been tortured while detained by the DRS, such complaints appear to be routinely dismissed without investigation.

Officers of the DRS are military personnel, but should operate under the authority of the general prosecutor if they arrest and detain suspects, according to Algerian law. In practice, however, no civilian institution exercises effective oversight over the practices of the DRS. Prosecutors do not enforce safeguards under Algerian law and are apparently not routinely informed of arrests carried out by the DRS.

Suspects detained by the DRS are held in military barracks, which are not officially recognized places of detention. Prosecutors appear not to use their prerogative to visit these barracks to ensure that detainees are being treated in accordance with the standards set out under Algerian law.

Amnesty International is urging the Algerian president to restrict the powers of the DRS and to ensure effective civilian oversight of all detentions in order to bring an end to the pattern of secret detentions and torture for which the DRS has been responsible. The DRS should not retain powers of arrest and detention; these should be limited to other law enforcement officers.

Amnesty International further calls on the Algerian president to:

enforce safeguards for detainees from secret detention and torture in Algerian and international law and to end the detention of suspects in unofficial places of detention;
ensure that all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment are investigated, in accordance with its international obligations, and the perpetrators brought to justice;
extend and invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit Algeria in the near future.

For a copy of the document, Algeria: Torture in the « War on Terror » – A memorandum to the Algerian President, please see: