United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Algeria, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4140.html [accessed 18 May 2013]
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
The 1989 Constitution was to have provided for Algeria's transition from a one-party Socialist state to a multiparty parliamentary system. However, political power remains in the hands of the military leadership and officials of the former ruling party. The experiment in democratization came to a halt in 1992 when the regime canceled the second round of legislative elections, which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), a party which seeks to transform Algeria into an Islamic state, was poised to win. Subsequently, the regime imposed a state of emergency, banned the FIS as a legal organization, jailed most of its leaders, and created a five-man High State Committee to serve as Algeria's collective presidency. In January 1994, the regime replaced the High State Committee with a former general, Liamine Zeroual, who assumed the presidency of a "transitional" government. President Zeroual, asserting that the country's crisis should be resolved through dialog, made some attempts to consult with legal political parties and opened informal contacts with imprisoned FIS leaders. However, the FIS and other major parties dismissed his overtures as disingenuous and demanded that the Government undertake certain actions, such as releasing FIS leaders, lifting the state of emergency, and giving the political parties a role in the transitional period leading to new elections. In a speech on November 1, Zeroual declared that dialog had failed and announced his intention to hold presidential elections in 1995. Also in November, the major opposition parties met in Rome to develop a common platform for renewed negotiations with the Government, which strongly protested that meeting. Armed Islamist groups steadily intensified their campaign to overthrow the Government. Guerrillas mounted daily attacks on security personnel and established strongholds in certain Algiers neighborhoods and other parts of the country. Militant Islamist groups with more radical agendas than the FIS have steadily become more active in the insurgency. A climate of fear and intimidation deepened as extremists assassinated dozens of political figures, journalists, academics, and thousands of other civilians, as well as over 78 foreigners. Reprisals by the regime's forces have grown bloodier. The Government estimated that 10,000 people had been killed by the end of 1993. The figure for 1994 has not been officially released but most sources estimate that it will be twice as high. The State's security apparatus includes the police, the gendarmerie, and the army, all of which are involved in efforts to repress the Islamist insurgency and combat terrorism. They were responsible for numerous human rights abuses. Civil strife has devastated the economy, aggravating the longstanding problems of unemployment, inflation, housing shortages, scarcity of foreign exchange, and the legacy of years of inefficient state planning. Economic pressures and an inability to make service payments on its foreign debt prompted the Government in April to sign an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and to begin implementing market reforms. Nonetheless, conditions for ordinary Algerians only worsened in 1994. Respect for human rights and the rule of law continued to deteriorate in an increasingly tense environment. Abuses by all sides multiplied. Using emergency law powers, the Government continued to detain, in many cases without due process, hundreds of people suspected of Islamist activities or sympathies. Special antiterrorist courts, created under the state of emergency, handed down death sentences in trials which were unfair according to international standards. There is convincing evidence that the security forces carried out hundreds of extrajudicial killings, mostly in retaliation for previous attacks by armed groups, and often tortured and otherwise abused detainees. The Government continued to restrict the freedoms of assembly, religion, and the press and to discriminate against women. Domestic violence against women remains a serious problem. Armed groups, many of which claim to have Islamist objectives, also committed escalating abuses and atrocities. Terrorists, often disguised in uniforms of the security forces, killed hundreds of civilians. Some armed groups carried out a campaign of violent intimidation aimed at closing down schools and other public institutions. As law and order broke down, anti-Islamist vigilante groups engaged in reprisal killings of Islamists and their sympathizers.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There is credible evidence that security forces committed politically motivated extrajucial killings. Despite President Zeroual's assurances to the contrary, there was no evidence that the authorities investigated such killings. The National Observatory for Human Rights (ONDH), a government body, maintained that it provided the Ministry of Justice with information on 12 cases of suspected extrajudicial killings. In September a group of Islamists sent an open letter to President Zeroual citing 36 cases of summary executions in 1994. The Government maintains that the security forces resort to lethal force only in the context of armed clashes with terrorists. Nonetheless, security forces are believed to have carried out hundreds of extrajudicial killings, mostly in retaliation for previous attacks by armed groups. Many victims were reportedly killed by security forces wearing civilian clothes or covering their heads with hoods. The security forces reportedly killed victims during curfew hours, at or near the victims' homes, or in the presence of the victims' family and friends. The bodies of some victims were reportedly discovered clothed in pajamas, indicating that they had been killed after they were taken from their homes. Security forces allegedly killed other persons after they were taken into police custody. Security forces were implicated in the deaths of nine students and their teacher from the El Oued area--Dahab Omar, Derouiche Abdel Bassat, Rahal Abderrazak, Mahadda Salah, Aouniet Abdelkader, Djerad Abdelkader, Arhouma Saad, Maatallah Abdelbaki, Nazli Abdelkamel, and Kouider Messaoud, who were arrested on March 12. The police maintained that the men were arrested to verify their military service status. On April 13, the police informed a relative of one detainee that the 10 men had been released on April 8, but that they were immediately killed by unknown "terrorists" after release. The Government has not provided an adequate explanation of the deaths. On March 19, the body of Kouider Melal was found in the street near his home in El Ataf, Ouedfoda, alongside the bodies of three men from the same district. Melal had been previously seen in police custody 2 weeks before his death. In addition to reports of extrajudicial killings outside detention facilities, Islamists and human rights activists accused the security forces of causing the unlawful deaths of many detainees who succumbed to torture while in custody. Armed groups, most notably the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), killed hundreds of persons, including members of the security forces and ordinary citizens. Terrorists attacked civilians whom they regarded as instruments of the State or whose lifestyles they considered in conflict with Islamic values. Victims included politicians, teachers, tax collectors, hairdressers and beauticians, entertainers, veterans of the war of independence, government-appointed Islamic preachers, lawyers and magistrates who work with the Special Courts, women who refused to veil themselves, industrialists, journalists and intellectuals, and foreigners. Many victims had their throats cut or their bodies were mutilated after death. Often the victims' severed heads would be discovered in one location and the bodies in another. According to a February press account, suspected terrorists kidnapped and killed a 14-year-old boy from Medea, purportedly because he had befriended several police officers. His body was found hanging from a street sign. His head was found in a nearby town. Armed groups killed at least 18 Algerian journalists and 10 lawyers. On November 30, gunmen forced two reporters from their homes and shot and decapitated them. One of the victims worked for the state television company, the other for a state-owned newspaper. Throughout the year, the GIA issued death threats to journalists, foreigners, and others. Many journalists fled abroad because of threats to their lives. In October independent newspapers suspended publication for 3 days to protest the killings of journalists. Armed groups killed the national secretary for the country's major labor union, the Union Generale des Travailleurs Algeriens (UGTA); the president and vice president of Islah Wa El-Irchad, the largest private charitable organization; the rector of the Houari Boumediene University of Science and Technology; the president of the Algerian League for Human Rights; the chaiman of the Agronomy Institute at the University of Blida; a professor of economics at the University of Oran; the director of the School of Fine Arts in Algeria; a famous playwright/actor; the director of the National Institute of Islamic Studies in Batna; a popular singer; a leading sports personality; and the husband of the Government's former spokeswoman. In October 1993, the GIA announced that foreign residents should depart Algeria or face death. Since then, terrorist groups have killed at least 90 foreigners, including more than 78 in 1994. Foreign victims included members of the clergy, businesspeople, diplomats, and longtime residents of Algeria. Victims were citizens of a number of European and other foreign countries, although French citizens were the primary targets. In addition to targeted killings, terrorist groups also resorted to indiscriminate violence. In June two grenades were thrown at demonstrators at an Algiers march organized by the Movement for Berber Culture, an anti-Islamist group. The grenades and the return fire from the police wounded 64 persons; 2 died later. Armed Islamist groups used car bombs on numerous occasions, killing many passersby. In July, five French Embassy personnel were killed by terrorists attempting to place a car bomb inside an Embassy residential compound. Armed anti-Islamist groups, such as the Organization of Young Free Algerians (OJAL)---widely suspected as a front for elements of the regime's security forces---carried out reprisals against terrorist groups. Such groups are reportedly active in the Berber region of Kabylie. In March anti-Islamists likely killed two veiled high school students at a bus stop in an Algiers suburb. The killings may have been in reprisal for the killing a month earlier of a 17-year-old high school girl who declined to wear a head scarf. In April the OJAL issued a threat to kill 20 women wearing a head scarf or 20 bearded men for every woman killed by Islamic terrorists for not wearing a head scarf. There were many reports of reprisals by vigilante groups for the deaths of military personnel. Vigilantes may have killed 9 persons whose bodies were found on a street near an Algiers bread shop on April 12. The killings may have been committed in revenge for the murder a day earlier of an army colonel near the same bread shop. In September an anti-Islamist group killed as many as 90 people in Annaba, apparently in retaliation for the earlier terrorist murder of a gendarmerie captain and his daughter. The Government has failed to condemn the violence by anti-Islamist groups.
The ONDH claimed it had documented 116 cases of disappearances believed to have been caused by security force personnel. Each of these cases was submitted to the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Interior. In some cases, the Government responded to the ONDH queries but did not respond in others. Armed Islamic groups also kidnaped civilians. Sometimes the bodies were found later, but often the victims disappeared and their families have no information on their whereabouts.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Knowledgeable sources, including Amnesty International (AI) and all three major Algerian human rights organizations---ONDH, LADH, and LADDH---reported that the security forces frequently used torture on detainees, especially suspected Islamists, to extract confessions or to obtain knowledge about the activities of terrorist groups. The Government denies that torture is a matter of policy or accepted practice, but it states that "excesses" may be committed by individual security officials. The Government has failed to condemn publicly the use of torture or to investigate allegations seriously. This creates a climate of impunity which encourages the continued use of torture. The ONDH maintains that some alleged torture victims decline to press charges for fear of reprisal by the security forces. ONDH claimed that it submitted several torture cases to the Ministry of Justice but did not receive any indication that the allegations were investigated. In a statement published in the London newspaper Al-Hayat on September 28, the FIS cited three alleged cases of torture by policy. It reported a claim by Professor M. Moulay, who had headed a FIS delegation which negotiated with the army early in the crisis, of having been tortured in the Chatou Neuf police center during a 30-day detention. It stated that the Algiers police tortured Dr. Lamdjadani, a Health Ministry official, during a 60-day detention. Lastly, it cited the death in custody of Professor Bouchlagum, whose family had been informed that he was transferred to the Chatou Neuf station but then discovered that his body was in a morgue in Algiers. A commonly reported torture method is the use of the "chiffon," a cloth stuffed into the victims mouth and saturated with dirty water. Other torture techniques reportedly include electric shocks, beatings, the pulling out fingernails, burning with cigarettes or a blowtorch, and the insertion of objects into the anus. The Government does not permit independent monitoring of prisons or detention centers by such humanitarian organizations as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), although it did allow representatives of AI to visit the country in 1994.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. It stipulates that incommunicado detention in criminal cases prior to arraignment may not exceed 48 hours, after which the suspect must be charged or released. However, under the state of emergency, the security forces have arrested and detained thousands of persons. According to the Antiterrorist Decree of 1992, the police may not hold a detainee in prearraignment detention for more than 12 days and detainees must be informed of charges against them. In practice, the security forces routinely exceed the lawful detention limit. When making arrests, the security forces do not obtain warrants and allegedly often refuse to identify themselves or to provide detainees' relatives and lawyers with information about their whereabouts or well-being. In September security forces arrested Farid Khellil, the son of a defense lawyer, for subversive activities. The Bar Association accused the Government of holding the son as a hostage to intimidate his father. The police granted a provisional release to Khellil after 6 weeks without charging him with any specific wrongdoing. Under the state of emergency, the Minister of Interior is authorized to detain suspects in special camps administered by the army. The Government stated that it intends to close these camps. By year's end, some 350 to 600 detainees were held without charge at a camp in Ain M'guel. Exile is not a legal form of punishment and is not known to be practiced.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judiciary is composed of the civil courts, which try misdemeanors and felonies; the military courts, which in the past had tried civilians for terrorism offenses; and three Special Courts established in 1992 to try terrorism cases. The President appoints civilian judges on recommendations from the Higher Magistrate's Council, composed of the President, the Minister of Justice, and various members of the judiciary. Defendants are granted due process in the civilian courts. They have the right to legal counsel, are entitled to be advised of the charges against them, have the right to confront their accusers, may appeal the verdict, and trials are public. Islamic Shari'a law provides much of the basis for civil court rulings in social matters involving family and personal status. The law requires that the Government provide lawyers for the indigent. Under the state of emergency, military courts are authorized to try civilian defendants accused of terrorism. Although there were no known military trials of civilians during the year, such trials took place in 1993. The 1992 Antiterrorist Decree established three Special Courts, each composed of three civilian judges, to try persons accused of terrorist offenses. Since February 1993, these courts have tried more than 10,000 persons, of whom 1,100 were sentenced to death, 6,500 imprisoned, and 2,500 acquitted. Executions were suspended in 1993, although 26 persons condemned by the Special Courts were executed before the suspension order. Defendants in the Special Courts do not receive due process. The charge of terrorism is defined so vaguely that it often includes the non-violent exercise of speech. The judges do not reveal their identities nor exercise independence from executive authority. They often restrict the number of observers at the trials and fail to order investigations of torture, even after defendants have appeared in court with marks and bruises. Judges allow the introduction of confessions allegedly extracted by torture and may suspend defense lawyers who use "obstructive methods" for 1 year. Defense lawyers must receive authorization to represent their clients in the Special Courts. State prosecutors have arbitrarily transferred to the Special Courts cases already assigned to the regular courts. Although defendants may appeal verdicts handed down by the Special Courts, the Supreme Court has rejected most appeals without consideration and has not overturned any death sentence. The Government announced in December that , as part of its review of the Penal Code, it was considering closing the Special Courts and tranferring jurisdiction for cases involving acts of terrorism to the regular court system. Between 350 and 600 detainees at the Ain M'guel detention camp may be considered political prisoners. Most were arrested in 1992 for alleged "subversive" activities.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Although the Constitution provides for the inviolability of the home, the state of emergency authorizes regional governors to issue exceptional search warrants at any time. Security forces often enter residences illegally. The Government fails to ensure that the police adhere to lawful procedures for entering houses or monitoring correspondence. In addition, there were increasingly frequent incidents of entry into private homes by armed opposition elements, either to kidnap residents or to steal weapons or valuables.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The state of emergency and the Antiterrorist Decree of December 1992 gave the regime broad authority to restrict this freedom and to take legal action against anyone whose speech is considered a threat to the State or public order. Fear of arrest deters many journalists from reporting on internal security developments or the Islamist movement. In June an interministerial directive required newspapers to submit for review all news reports on the internal security situation. The editor of El Moudjahid El Ousboui, an Arabic-language weekly, was arrested and detained for 1 week in October for publishing an article "Breaching National Security."Shortly after the Minister of Communications warned editors in November to respect "professional ethics," the regime suspended several newspapers. Editors were not given specific reasons for the closures, beyond vague accusations of undermining public order or publishing subversive information. The FLN newspaper El Hiwar was suspended for 6 months, the French-language El Oumma and the Arabic weekly El Wadj El Akhar for a month, and El Watan for 2 weeks. The Government suspended Le Libre indefinitely and placed the editor and two staff members under judicial control. On December 18, the regime shut down L'Opinion for 40 days for publishing a draft electoral law. The Government further controls the press through its effective monopoly on newsprint, printing presses, and the distribution network. Several newspapers ceased appearing for financial reasons, which they blamed on the government monopolies. The Government continues to curtail the public expression of views supportive of the FIS. Two FIS publications banned in 1992 remain suspended. However, communiques and bulletins from various Islamist organizations, such as the GIA or AIS (Islamic Salvation Army), circulated clandestinely, and some mosques periodically transmitted pro-FIS messages. The Algerian press reported FIS-related news only after the Government releases news items (as in a series of letters from FIS leaders to the regime); when the news protrayed the authorities gaining the upper hand (as in the deaths of GIA leaders); or, in selected cases, when the news had already appeared in print abroad. The press continued to report opinions contrary to those of the Government, including criticism of the Government's political, economic, and social policies. Commentary on the institution of the military was usually self-censored, but at least one leading French language newspaper carried several strongly worded editorials without reprisal. Radio and television remained under government control, with coverage biased in favor of the government's policies. During attempts at a political dialogue in the fall, the legal opposition political parties were invited to present their views on television. Many expressed harsh criticism of the Government. Because of the widespread accessibility of satellite dish antennas, millions of citizens have access to European broadcasts. A brutal terrorist campaign against journalists and academics seriously constrained freedom of speech and press. Assailants murdered 18 journalists in 1994. In January the GIA issued a specific threat against all journalists and in August stated that it had a list of journalists to kill. Newspapers estimated that 200 journalists had relocated abroad. Terrorism targeting intellectuals and university educators prompted many to flee to neighboring countries. Gunman killed the rector of the Houari Boumediene University of Science and Technology on May 31, the Director of the Institute of Agronomy at the University of Blida on August 6, and a Professor of Economics at the University of Oran on September 26. As a consequence, few academic seminars and colloquia took place in 1994. Terrorists also targeted primary and secondary schools. The Minister of Education stated that 610 schools had been burned between June and October.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Using emergency laws, the Government sharply curtails freedom of assembly, although the 1989 Constitution provides for the rights of assembly and association. Citizens and organizations must obtain a permit from the local governor's office before staging demonstrations. Such permits are generally granted, after referral to the Ministry of Interior, for demonstrations against Islamist terrorism or in favor of the Government. The regime does not require legal opposition parties to obtain permits to hold internal meetings. The regime allowed Berber organizations to hold demonstrations as long as they took place in the Berber Kabylie region. However, it denied permission for 2 rallies sponsored by the The Berber Rights Movement (MCB) in the Algiers area. Nevertheless, the MCB demonstrated repeatedly in Kabylie for the teaching of the Berber language in the primary and secondary schools. The Ministry of Interior must approve all nongovernmental associations. The Government regards all associations as illegal unless they are licensed. It may deny a license to or disolve any group regarded as a threat to the existing political order. In 1992 the regime dissolved the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) as a political party as well as Islamic social and charitable groups associated with the FIS. Membership in the FIS is illegal. However, the Government itself has continued to meet periodically with detained FIS leaders Abbasi Medani and Ali Belhadj. According to a 1989 law, all citizens may join political organizations, except judges, army and security service personnel, and members of the Constitutional Council. Most political groups, except the FIS which was banned in March 1992, operate openly. There were over 55 parties, including some centrist Islamic parties such as Hamas, active in 1994. Other associations include specialized groups such as human rights and womens' rights groups, social welfare groups, and regionally based cultural organizations.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution declares Islam as the state religion but prohibits discrimination based on religious belief. The Government permits the small Christian and Jewish populations (numbering approximately 1,000 and 200, respectively) to practice their faiths without interference. However, communiques signed by the Armed Islamic Group declared that the intention to eliminate "Jews, Christians, and polytheists from Islam's land in Algeria." The Christian community, composed mostly of foreigners, curtailed its activities and evacuated some church workers because of death threats from terrorists (see Section 1.a.). Conversions from Islam to Christianity are rare. Because of legal problems and social stigma, Muslim converts to Christianity practice their new faith clandestinely. The Ministry of Religious Affairs appoints Islamic preachers in both state and private mosques. The Ministry of Religious Affairs proposes themes for and monitors sermons.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law provides for freedom of domestic and foreign travel and freedom to emigrate. The Government generally respects these provisions, although it imposes some restrictions on men of military age. Under the state of emergency, the Minister of Interior and the provincial governors may deny residency in certain districts to persons regarded as threats to public order. A curfew originally imposed in 1992 prohibits people from traveling in Algiers and the surrounding provinces between 11:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. Police checkpoints in the cities and countryside routinely stop vehicles to inspect identification papers and search for evidence of terrorist activity. The Constitution provides for the right of political asylum, and the Government has granted asylum in a few cases. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that approximately 165,000 Sahrawis, or natives of the Sahara desert, live in camps in southwestern Algeria. The Government granted permission to the ICRC to visit camps holding Saharawi refugees and Moroccan prisoners of war. (See the report on human rights in Western Sahara for fuller treatment of these issues.) The Government tolerates and provides basic support for an estimated 50,000 displaced Tuaregs from Mali and Niger in settlements in southern Algeria.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Government's cancellation of electoral process in 1992 effectively denied citizens the right to change their government. Power remains in the hands of the military leadership and former ruling party officials. Despite President Zeroual's halting attempts to consult with legal political parties and informal contacts with imprisoned FIS leaders, there is no democratic process. In a national speech on November 1, Zeroual declared that the political dialog had failed and announced his intention to hold presidential elections in 1995 regardless. The FIS as well as the other major opposition parties dismissed this promise of elections. Few women are active in government, a reflection of strong social pressures against women participating in politics. One woman served in the Cabinet until her resignation in October, one woman served as governor of the province of Annaba, and fewer than 1 percent of the candidates for Assembly seats in the 1991 election were women. The Berbers, an important indigenous minority group, participate freely and actively in the political process. Berbers hold influential positions in the Government and the army. The Tuaregs, a people of Berber origin, do not play as important a role in the national political process, due in large part to their small numbers, estimated in the tens of thousands, and their nomadic existence. Systemic or government-sanctioned barriers to political participation, however, do not exist against any minority group.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Two human rights groups are active: the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) and the Algerian League of Human Rights (LADH). Terrorists assassinated the head of LADH on June 18 near his office in downtown Algiers (see Section 1.a.). A governmental body, the National Observatory of Human Rights (ONDH), established in 1992, is charged with reporting human rights developments to the President. In 1994 the ONDH submitted its first annual report to the Government and to international human rights groups, but the Government did not make it public. In December the head of the LADDH gave a presentation on human rights abuses at an internationally publicized meeting of Algerian political parties in Rome. Two representatives from Amnesty International (AI) visited Algeria in August. Security elements guarded them closely, ostensibly for their own protection. Government representatives accused AI of having preconceived ideas and lacking evidence to support allegations of official abuses of human rights.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
Although the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on birth, race, sex, belief, or any other personal or social condition. However, women continue to face legal and social discrimination.
Some aspects of the law and many traditional practices discriminate against women. The Family Code, based on Islamic law, or Shari'a, regards women as minors under the legal guardianship of a husband or father. Women do not have full legal responsibility for their children because the father must sign all formal documents. A woman's testimony in a court of law does not equal a man's. Women are nonetheless allowed to work, own businesses, and enter into contracts. The Code confirms the Islamic practice allowing a man to marry four wives---a rare occurrence. However, a wife may sue for divorce if her husband does not inform her of his intent to marry another wife. Under the Code, women need their husband's or father's permission to obtain a passport or travel abroad. Only males are able to confer citizenship on their children. The Code prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, although men are legally free to marry non-Muslims. In cases of divorce, the Code awards guardianship of the children to the father, even though the mother is usually expected to care for them until a son is 13 and a daughter is married. Women constitute about 10 percent of the work force and pursue opportunities in government, medicine, law, education, the media, and even in the armed forces. Nonetheless, social pressure against women pursuing a career is strong. In 1994 Islamists increased their pressure on women to adopt Islamic fundamentalist views and norms. In March terrorist groups posted notices threatening to kill any woman who does not cover her head with a scarf. In one case, terrorists killed a 17-year-old woman, reportedly because she declined to adopt Islamic dress (see Section 1.a.). Also in March, suspected terrorists killed a woman in Saoula, reportedly because she refused to give up her job outside the home. Women's rights advocates assert that spousal violence is common, although there are no reliable studies on the problem. Nonetheless, the central hospital in Algiers reported that in 1991 and 1992, it treated more than 4,600 cases of abused women. Battered women may file criminal charges or sue for divorce, but women's rights advocates maintain that legal actions are rare because the courts are generally lenient with abusive husbands.
The Government is committed in principle to protecting children's human rights. Nonetheless, legal experts maintain that the Penal and Family Codes do not offer sufficient protection for children. Many hospitals treat dozens of cases of child abuse every year, but many cases are unreported. Laws against child abuse have not led to notable prosecutions against offenders.
The Berbers were the original inhabitants of Algeria, and many citizens claim to be of mixed Berber and Arab ancestry. The Berbers have sought to maintain their own cultural identity and language in the face of the Government's emphasis on the development of an Arab identity. Amazight, a Berber language, is taught at Tizi Ouzou University, but the Government does not permit its instruction in the primary and secondary schools. In September and October, Berbers in the Kabylie area shut down the public school system. The strike continued through the end of December. In response, the Government has established a committee to consider the issue.
People with Disabilities
The Government does not mandate accessibility to buildings or government services for people with disabilities. In 1994 the Government established a monthly stipend, albeit meager, for people with disabilities. The ONDH is charged with developing programs to provide unspecified "help" for people with disabilities, but the project has not been given a high priority. The Government also provides limited financial support to several nongovernmental organizations that assist people with diabilities.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Workers have the right to establish trade unions of their choice. About two-thirds of the labor force belong to unions. Workers are not required to obtain government approval to establish a union. Nonetheless, the Government limits some union activities. For example, the Government dissolved the SIT, an Islamist union which was affiliated with the banned FIS. The law prohibits unions from associating with political parties, although some unions, such as the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), maintain party ties. The law also prohibits unions from receiving funds from foreign sources. The courts are empowered to dissolve unions that engage in illegal activities. Under the state of emergency, the Government is empowered to require workers in both the public and private sectors to stay at their jobs in the event of an unauthorized or illegal strike. According to the 1990 Law on Industrial Relations, workers may strike only after 14 days of mandatory conciliation, mediation, or arbitration. This law states that arbitration decisions are binding on both parties. If no agreement is reached in arbitration, the workers may legally strike after they vote by secret ballot to do so. A minimum level of public services must be maintained during public sector service strikes. There were numerous local strikes, including work stoppages by public-sector workers; most ended quickly following mediation efforts involving government officials and labor unions. The Government did not invoke the state of emergency to block strikes, nor did it prosecute workers involved in the stoppages. Unions may form and join federations or confederations and affiliate with international bodies. Several unions, pursued international contacts. The UGTA, for example, has contacts with French unions and the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law provides for collective bargaining for all unions. The Government permits this right to be practiced. The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers and provides mechanisms for resolving trade union complaints of antiunion practices by employers. It further permits all unions to recruit members at the workplace.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is incompatible with the Constitution's provisions on individual rights. The Penal Code prohibits compulsory labor and the Government effectively enforces the ban.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The minimum age for employment is 16 years. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor enforce the minimum employment age by periodic or unannounced inspection visits to public sector enterprises, but do not effectively enforce it in the agricultural or private sectors. Many children are driven by economic necessity into informal employment, such as street vending.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law defines the overall framework for acceptable conditions of work, but leaves specific agreements on wages, hours, and conditions of employment to the discretion of employers in consultation with employees. The Government fixes by decree a guaranteed monthly minimum wage for all sectors. After consultations with the UGTA, the Government in 1994 raised the minimum wage to about $100 (from 3,500 dinars to 4,000 dinars). It met with the UGTA in October to negotiate pay raises for 1995. Ministry of Labor inspectors are responsible for ensuring compliance with the minimum wage regulations, although they enforce these provisions inconsistently. Algeria has a 44-hour workweek and well developed occupation and health regulations codified in a January 1991 decree. However, government inspectors do not enforce these regulations effectively.