In a report to the Committee Against Torture, Alkarama denounces the persistence of torture

In a report to the Committee Against Torture, Alkarama denounces the persistence of torture

Alkarama for Human Rights, April 19, 2008

Alkarama submitted a report on the occasion of the periodic review of Algeria by the Committee Against Torture (CAT) of the United Nations during its 40th session from 28 April to 16 May 2008.
The Algerian periodic report was submitted in January 2006, which is six years late. In accordance with its commitments, Algeria should have provided its third report in 2000 and its fourth in 2004. The latest review by the Committee dates back to 1996.

The CAT experts will meet on 2 May 2008 from 10h to 13h to discuss the responses of the Algerian authorities to the questions that the Committee has asked as a result of its examination of the algerian periodic report.

On 30 April 2008, at 17h, there will be a meeting between CAT experts and NGOs representatives who will be able on this occasion to express their concerns with regard to violations of human rights in general and the practice of torture in particular.

Alkarama submitted to the CAT a report in which it referred to the persistence of torture until today. As part of the « fight against terrorism », members of the security services arrest suspects whom they usually hand over to the intelligence services (Department of Intelligence and Security, DRS) who then detain them in their barracks. These centres are not under the control of Justice. The detainees are usually tortured.

The Algerian authorities categorically deny these allegations of secret detention as well as practice of torture by their agents. Yet many testimonies collected by lawyers and organizations defending human rights unquestionably establish that persons suspected of terrorist activities or support for the latter and placed in police custody are not systematically subject to control of the law. They often disappear for a few days, weeks or months. One person at least has recently died under torture.

Algeria has also undergone torture as collective punishment in 2001 during the riots that shook Kabylia for months, T’kout in 2004 and in the El Harrach prison in 2008. In Kabylia, more than 100 people were summarily executed and dozens were tortured. With the exception of a policeman, no official has been punished.

Complaints for torture have almost never been formally investigated. But since February 2006, impunity is built into legislation: The Algerian government has promulgated an ordinance called « Peace and National Reconciliation Charter » which in Article 45 nullifies any victim’s complaint against members of the security services. This is not only a general amnesty for past crimes but also a blank cheque for the future.

Alkarama recalls that during the meeting of the Committee on Human Rights in October 2007, Sir Nigel Rodley, has described the violations committed in Algeria as « crimes against humanity for which it is difficult not to imagine that they were the consequence of systematic practice. »

The Committee had recommended to the authorities « to ensure that all places of detention be placed under the control of the prison administration and civil prosecutors » to « ensure that all allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are the subject of investigations by an independent authority and that those responsible for such acts are prosecuted and punished it consistently. « 

The UN body also called for the amendment of article 45 « to clarify that crimes such as torture, murder and kidnapping are excluded from the scope of that provision. Furthermore, the State party should ensure the public that the Article 45 does not apply to statements or prosecution for torture, extrajudicial executions and disappearances. « 

Alkarama called on the CAT to remind the Algerian State about its international obligations to respect human rights and to abide by the conventions and treaties to which it has subscribed in 1989 and to stop violating their basic principles by tolerating crimes committed by its agents.