Algeria: Against Self-Amnesty – Yes to Justice, No to Impunity!

Algeria: Against Self-Amnesty – Yes to Justice, No to Impunity!

23 March 2006

On 27 February 2006, the Algerian regime passed a law implementing provisions of the “Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation” (adopted in September 2005 by a referendum whose results were rigged). On the pretence of ending the bloody period initiated by the coup of January 1992, the Algerian Regime grants impunity for murderers, be they members of armed groups claiming to act in the name of Islam or “the web of defence and security forces of the Republic”. It also creates a new prisonable offence: attributing any responsibility to those who organised violations of the law and order or covered up or justified the atrocities committed over the last fifteen years.

Parents of victims and families of the missing are compelled to remain silent as they are no longer able to lodge complaints for financial compensation, unless they are willing to “forget”, a shameful method in which outrage meets blindness. But how can the memory of the blood and horror that submerged Algerian society be erased? The second Algerian war – which brought to a climax the perverse and inhuman forms of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla developed during the independence war by colonial forces – left nearly 200,000 dead, 20,000 missing, and a very high number of wounded and displaced persons.

After imposing a deadly and particularly “dirty” war on the Algerian people, the generals responsible for the coup and who hold the real power in Algiers (President Abdelaziz Bouteflika being only their diplomatic representative) are eager to absolve themselves for crimes against humanity that were perpetrated under their authority and to erase those of their former adversaries. In direct violation of international commitments signed by Algeria and of fundamental principles of law, this policy of forced memory loss is in itself a manifest admission of responsibility.

This unacceptable machination, with the assent of many great Western democracies, is a great comfort to the regime in Algiers. Mainly motivated by economical considerations, the “terrorist threat” is put forward to justify the denial of universal human rights.
The self-proclaimed amnesty of warlords has already been attempted in other places, including Latin America, and ended in failure everywhere. For no one can have the power to erase history. There can be no peace or reconciliation without truth and justice. The Algerian people know its history and no ploy can erase imprescriptible crimes. Wanting to impose silence through threat is plainly illusory.

The freedom loving men and women throughout the world and signatories of this text reject this outdated law and give unconditional support to the Algerian society in its journey towards justice and freedom.

First signatories: Lahouari Addi (sociologist), Hocine Aït-Ahmed (President of the Front des Forces Socialistes), Omar Benderra (economist), Sihem Bensedrine (Conseil National pour les Libertés en Tunisie), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Nobel Peace Prize), François Gèze (editor), Burhan Ghalioun (sociologist), Ghazi Hidouci (economist), Gustave Massiah (President of CRID), Salima Mellah (Algeria-Watch), Werner Ruf (political scientist), Salah-Eddine Sidhoum (surgeon).

This petition will be sent at the end of April to a wide range of Algerian and international institutions.