When the Human Rights Committee’s observations are described by the Algerian authorities as “a great fable, and can be considered as buffoonery”

When the Human Rights Committee’s observations are described by the Algerian authorities as “a great fable, and can be considered as buffoonery”

Alkarama for Human Rights, 18 November 2008

At the end of the examination of Algeria’s third periodic report during the 91st session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee held in Geneva from 15 October to 2 November 2007, the Committee asked the Algerian authorities to provide information in connection with some of its recommendations within one year.

Within the framework of its activities regarding the follow-up of the concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee, Alkarama has made a submission to the UN body in order to draw its attention to the shortcomings and failures of the Algerian state regarding the follow-up of the recommendations made by the Human Rights Committee.

In particular, the Committee requested that its concluding observations be made public and disseminated as soon as possible throughout Algeria. To Alkarama’s knowledge, the Algerian authorities have taken no action to inform the Algerian public opinion of the existence of these observations.

The UN body also made a series of recommendations about the need for the judiciary and correction authorities to control secret detention centres. However, their existence is not officially recognized by the authorities, despite their existence being confirmed by numerous testimonies from victims and their lawyers.

Like Me Farouk Ksentini, president of the National Advisory Commission for Promotion of Human Rights (CNCPPDH), various officials have categorically denied the existence of secret detention centres and the torture that is performed there under the control of the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS). Mr Ksentini described the information reported by the United Nations Committee on Human Rights as “a great fable, and can be considered as buffoonery”, not hesitating to say that the UN body “had, in the past, taken up the cause of terrorism against Algeria.” (1)

Persons suspected of terrorist activities continue to be « taken care of » by the DRS and held in premises to which civilian judicial authorities do not have access. Alkarama has submitted to the Committee concrete examples of persons in custody, in some cases for months, in the centre called « Antar », controlled by the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS) located in the residential district of Hydra in Algiers. To justify incommunicado detention in DRS premises, the victims are sentenced to an administrative decision of house arrest, prepared after the fact by the Ministry of Interior to justify their incommunicado detention.

The Committee had also recommended that the Algerian State conduct investigations into allegations of torture. In reality, the authorities are not taking the necessary steps to eradicate the practise of torture. The problem as a whole remains as long as those responsible for torture are not tried and convicted. However, the justice system, the only civil body able to deal with impunity does not fulfil its role. There are never any investigations when victims complain of having suffered torture.

Another set of recommendations were made by the Committee concerning measures taken by the Algerian government with regards to the file concerning the enforced disappearances of people abducted by security forces, which concerns, as recognized by Ksentini, 6 146 persons. However, during the past year, no progress has been achieved: none of the Human Rights Committee’s recommendations on this issue have been taken into account. The Ad Hoc Committee on the Disappeared, chaired by Mr. Farouk Ksentini, has still not released its report submitted to the President of the Republic on 31 March 2005. No list of names of those missing has been published, no case has officially been clarified, no investigation commenced, no complaints have been accepted and no one responsibile for kidnapping has been tried and punished. Mr Farouk Ksentini, however, stated that the file of missing “is closed (..), and compensation for the dependents of the victims was a final step.”(2)

On a previous occasion, he explained that “enforced disappearances have existed, they were an epiphenomena – I consider that these were excesses caused in the 90s by a break in the chain of command.” He added: “the blows from terrorism were such that the army was not prepared to intervene to counter it, there were state agents who went overboard, some took the opportunity to (re)act unlawfully, but this was not organized by the state.”(3)

Remarks by various representatives of the State show their lack of seriousness in fulfilling their obligations to which AlgeriaAlgeria does not intend to invite the Special Rapporteur against Torture. As for the Algerian government’s representative to the UN, Mr Idriss Jazairi, he attacks with a violence that is rare for him all those who criticize the legislation implementing the Charter for Peace and Reconciliation, including the Human Rights Committee. He claims that the criticism from NGOs only benefits the “merchants of death, devotees of crime, the virtuosos of subversion; in sum, the sponsors of terrorism and those who feed off the tragedy of others.”(4) subscribes. The Minister of Justice, during the Human Rights Council Universal Period Review process, made clear that

1. Le Quotidien d’Oran, 4 November 2007.
2. Le Quotidien d’Oran, 8 March 2008.
3. Le Quotidien d’Oran, 31 December 2007.
4. Liberté, 12 June 2008.