IRISH TIMES – Thursday, October 30, 1997

Algerians tortured by security forces

IRISH TIMESThursday, October 30, 1997

From Lara Marlowe, in Paris Defectors from the Algerian army and police have described in horrific detail to The Irish Times how security forces routinely torture prisoners. In interviews conducted recently in London, where two former police inspectors and a army deserter are asylum-seekers, all three gave harrowing accounts of government atrocities – and two accused their former institutions of « eliminating » soldiers and policemen suspected of disloyalty.

This is the first time that former members of the Algerian security forces have given such a complete picture of the terror within the regime.

The world they recount is a Hieronymous Bosch-like hell, where soldiers and policemen use drugs before going out on killing missions, and full-time torturers attack their victims with electric drills and sodomise them with bottles.

Dalila, a former police intelligence officer, said police executed prisoners suspected of belonging to Islamist groups every night.

Insp Abdessalam, who managed the armoury at the Dar El Baida police station, described how Europe and the US are equipping the security forces in Algeria’s dirty war.

In torture chambers at the Blida army barracks and in the garages of Algiers police stations, the security forces have forfeited their claim to moral superiority over the Islamic fundamentalist rebels they have been fighting since early 1992.

Reda, a conscript who fled Algeria only six weeks ago, described an army so venal that it forces the families of those who die under torture to buy back their bodies for burial.

The same defector provided circumstantial evidence that the military may have participated in at least one massacre of civilians last June. His conscript unit waited several kilometres away while career soldiers entered a village in the middle of the night, Reda said. The following morning, he learned that 28 villagers had been decapitated.

In Algiers, human rights lawyers are amassing evidence in the cases of thousands of « disappeared » civilians, many of whom appear to have no connection with the Islamists.

In one instance, two sisters who worked as court clerks were kidnapped last April because one was assigned to a case that was embarrassing to the government. The wife of a fundamentalist activist told how she lived with her husband in hiding for 3 1/2 years, until he disappeared last spring. Meanwhile, seven more civilians and two members of the security forces were yesterday reported dead in continuing violence. Six farm workers had their throats slashed in Hennaya, near Tlemcen in western Algeria – a region the authorities claim to be safe.

A bar-restaurant owner was killed in Boumerdes, just east of the capital, and a soldier and pro-government militiaman were shot dead in an ambush in Jijel province in eastern Algeria. The Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) is strong in the Jijel region, and the ambush strengthened fears that an October 1st ceasefire declared by the AIS is breaking down.

Also yesterday, the Algerian Chief of Staff, Lieut-Col Mohamed Lamari, confirmed in an interview with the army magazine El Djeich that he has sacked Gen Said Bey, the former commander of the Algiers and Blida provinces. The army’s reputation was nearly destroyed by its failure to intervene in four massacres of hundreds of civilians in the Algiers area – all within sight of army barracks – since July. Col Lamari acknowledged that there had been « a certain breakdown » in security, but denied « rumours of dissension » within the military.

 

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