The National Institution for Human Rights (CNCPPDH) in the hot seat

The National Institution for Human Rights (CNCPPDH) in the hot seat

Alkarama, 15 May 2009

Algeria’s national institution for human rights is about to lose its International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions (ICC) accreditation. This accreditation of great importance as it allows members to act at various levels of the United Nations.

In April 2000, The National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH) put forward its first application for accreditation as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRIs) with the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC). This was despite the fact that it did not yet legally exist – the founding treaty was enacted in March 2001.

The ICC granted accreditation only after an examination of the NHRI’s respect for the « Paris Principles », which provide a framework for their actions. One of those rules states that the national institution shall be based on a constitutional or statutory text and not on an act of executive power, as has occurred in Algeria. [1] Another principle outlines the necessary interaction « with the international system of human rights, in particular the Council of Human Rights and its mechanisms (Special Procedure mandate holders) and the treaty bodies. « [2]

In addition to this, there is an obligation to make the opinions and recommendations of the NHRI public through the media, and to develop relationships with non-governmental organizations.

This accreditation is of great significance for NHRIs because it allows them to act at various levels of the UN: they can « participate in the sessions of the Human Rights Council and interact with its various mechanisms », participate « in the work of the Human Rights Council and address the Committee on all items on the agenda as independent entities « ; » play an essential role in all phases of the UPR, from the submission of documents to following up on recommendations through to participation in the Review »; « submit written statements and disseminate literature with the symbol assigned to them by the United Nations » . [3] They are also able to directly deal with the treaty bodies and special procedures of the United Nations.

In 2003, the Algerian National Commission finally received an « A » accreditation status after the reservations expressed by the ICC at the lack of an annual report and the prerogatives of government representatives in the Commission were lifted. The « A » status grants the right to vote in the ICC and to participate in the Human Rights Council.

Five years later, in January 2008, as per the rules, the Algerian National Commission reiterated its request for re-accreditation. In April 2008, the ICC’s Sub-Committee on Accreditation informed the Algerian National Commission of its intention to rescind its status and give it a « B » status for non-compliance with the « Paris Principles ». Within one year – while temporarily retaining its « A » status – the Commission had to address the following shortcomings: the failure to provide an annual report, having only compiled a list of its activities from 2002 to 2004, the fact that it is not established by a constitutional or statutory text, the lack of transparency of its appointment process, and, finally, the failure to cooperate sufficiently with the human rights organs of the United Nations.

Alkarama forwards its observations on Accreditation to the Sub-Committee

On 5 February 2009, Alkarama presented its comments on the nature and action of the CNCPPDH to the ICC’s Sub-Committee on Accreditation by expanding on the following points:

1. Because of its creation by an act of the executive powers, the CNCPPDH cannot operate in a sustainable and independent manner, in accordance with the Paris Principles.

2. The President and members of the Commission are appointed for a renewable term of four (04) year by presidential decree. Decree 01-299 of 10 October 2001 outlines procedures for the appointment of the President and other members of the CNCPPDH according to their institutional affiliation (public, unions, associations etc.). However, their membership within the Commission is not specified. The second mandate of the Commission was also enacted in the same manner by the executive, through Presidential Decree No. 06-444 on 10 December 2006.

The process used to nominate members of the Commission is neither public nor transparent. The selection procedure is not known and vacancies are not advertised.

It should be noted that during the 14-month interval between the end of the first term on 9 October 2005 and the beginning of the second, on 10 December 2006, the CNCPPDH continued to operate in practice and enjoy ICC accreditation without legally existing!

3. In practice, it has been noted that the CNCPPDH’s collaboration with international human rights protection systems is totally inadequate. It does not provide its own documentation and does not independently contribute to the process of reviewing the periodic reports on Algeria by Human Rights Committees (2007) and against torture (2008). It has never published Observations by Human Rights Committees and does not follow the recommendations of treaty bodies at the national level.

The President of the National Commission, Mr Farouk Ksentini, never misses an opportunity to discredit the work of UN agencies; for example, he dismissed the information submitted by the Human Rights Committee as « complete fables which come close to buffoonery . « [4] Worse, he constantly seeks to undermine these institutions, which are composed, let us not forget, of independent experts ; when commenting on the UN’s position at the time of the major massacres in the 90s, he alleged that the Committee « had in the past taken up the cause of terrorism against Algeria. » [5]

Moreover, the CNCPPDH has forsaken its duty by failing to recommend that the government allow the entry of the Special Rapporteurs on torture and summary executions, who have unsuccessfully sought permission to visit Algeria for over a decade. On this issue, Mr Ksentini said: « How can they ask us when we will allow the UN Committee delegates to visit Algeria? Algeria is not some hamlet that anyone can enter at any moment. « [6]

4. The CNCPPDH’s only method of public engagement is through statements made by its spokesman, Farouk Ksentini. It does not have own means of dissemination except for its rudimentary website, established in 2007. It does not publish press releases or written statements and does not publish studies within its field of competence.

According to its statutes, however, the Commission should publish an annual report. It has failed to produce even a single edition in seven years.

5. The Commission maintains no relations with Algeria’s independent human rights NGOs. It does not organise exchanges, meetings or seminars.

6. None of the Committee on Human Rights’ recommendations on the tragedy of enforced disappearances have been taken into account or popularized by the Commission. The « ad hoc instrument » on disappearances, chaired by Mr Farouk Ksentini, has not yet publicly released the report it submitted to the President of the Republic on 31 March 2005. No list of names of the missing has been published, as has been officially requested of Algeria.

7. The Commission’s President, Mr Ksentini, has called for a general amnesty, but fails to mention that the enactment of a law granting amnesty for acts that are considered crimes against humanity under international law would be a violation of the fundamental principles formulated by the treaties to which Algeria is a party.

The CNCPPDH in Algeria is seen as a state institution

The Sub-Committee on Accreditation included important observations made by Alkarama in the note it sent to the ICC. [7] It seems that changes are planned as a result of remarks made by the Subcommittee. According to the Algerian press [8] a new law will change the legal status of the Commission. The president of this institution as well as the other members will be elected; currently they are all appointed by the Presidency of the Republic.

The process announced by the Algerian press involves the adoption of a new law by Parliament and its publication in the Official Journal. The participation of civil society, which is concerned first and foremost, has of course never been discussed. Will this process, which remains opaque in terms of the application procedure, be completed before the end of May, when a decision is expected from the ICF?

It is feared that this law, written merely as an emergency reaction to the recommendations, would only serve to legalize a de facto situation if it were enacted. Could the ITC consider renewing the CNCPPDH’S accreditation when the most fundamental principles governing any national institution are not respected? This would undoubtedly constitute a dangerous precedent that could discredit the international of human rights protection system.

It is therefore unlikely that the ICC would take the risk of maintaining the status of the CNCPPDH, since the latter is perceived by Algerian public opinion particularly in general and civil society as purely a state tool used to lend credence to official theories rather than represent the interests of Algerian human rights.

Quite apart from this point, it is significant that banned and repressed events that present a challenge by citizens to government policy on issues related to human rights, such as the manifestations by mothers of the disappeared, are conducted each week in Algiers outside the headquarters of the CNCPPDH, which symbolizes the state in the eyes of victims and the public.

[1] Presidential Decree No. 01-71 of 25 March 2001 which establishes the Commission and defines its mandate and mission.

[2] Paris Principles, # annex

[3] 20Report% 20 -% 20F.pdf

[4] Farouk Ksentini: There are no secret prisons in Algeria, by Djamel B., Le Quotidien d’Oran, November 4th 2007.

[5] Idem.