Plight of jailed algerian surgeon worries rights groups


Financial Times Information, Panafrican News Agency (PANA), Daily Newswire, October 9, 2003

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – Several international and local human rights groups Thursday mounted pressure on the Algerian government by expressing « serious concerns » about the wellbeing of Algerian surgeon Salah Eddine Sidhoum, who was detained at the Serkadji prison since 29 September 2003.

In a statement to journalists, the International Human Rights Federation (FIDH), the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights activists, expressed worries that officials at Serkadji prison refused to hospitalise Dr Sidhoum, « who has been on hunger strike for ten days. » Sidhoum, also a human rights activist, who decided to surrender to the Algerian authorities after spending nine years in hiding, « is currently detained in terrible conditions that forced him to go on hunger strike, » the statement lamented.

Along with the association of Sidhoum’s lawyers, the Observatory « has relentlessly alerted Algerian authorities to the situation of this prisoner of conscience detained in a humid cell lit day and night and filled with vermin, » the statement reads.

Appalled by the human rights advocate’s state of health, which « keeps deteriorating as the hunger strike continues, » the Observatory expressed indignation at refusals by officials at Serkadji prison to transfer him to hospital for appropriate treatment, though the prison’s doctor already recommended that on 7 October. »

It urged the senior Algerian judicial authorities to take urgent action by halting « the inhuman conditions of detention to which Salah Eddine Sidhoum is submitted, and make sure he receives the urgent and necessary health care required by his extremely alarming physical state. »