Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2002 - Algeria
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Publication Date||26 March 2003|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2002 - Algeria, 26 March 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48747c671d.html [accessed 27 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||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.|
Harassment of members of families of the disappeared and their defenders16
Harassment of Mr. Mohamed Smain17
Mr. Mohamed Smain, Head of the Relizane Section of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (Ligue algérienne de défense des droits de l'Homme – LADDH) appeared before the Relizane Court on 5th January 2002. He was charged with "libel, defamatory accusations and declaration of imaginary crimes" after a complaint had been lodged by Mohamed Fergane, a member of the militia and former mayor of Relizane, together with eight former members of his so-called "legitimate defence" militia. He was sentenced to two months in prison, a fine of 5,000 dinars (3,800 euros) and 10,000 dinars damages to be paid to each of the nine plaintiffs. The complaint was filed after Mr. Smain had notified the Algerian press (3rd February 2001) that, in the presence of Mr. Fergane, the gendarmerie had exhumed a mass grave in order to transfer the bones to an unknown location.
The hearing to which the Observatory sent an observer lasted for five hours, under strict surveillance of the military security officers and the police. Many witnesses and victims spoke for the first time about the serious human rights violations committed by Mohamed Fergan and his militia since 1993.
Despite many irregularities clearly observed during the trial, on 24 February 2002, the Relizane Court of Appeals increased the sentence to one year in prison, a fine of 5,000 dinars, and damages amounting to 30,000 dinars for each of the nine plaintiffs.
Mr. Smain appealed to the Supreme Court but by end 2002 the case still had not been examined.
Mr. Smain was also subjected to acts of intimidation by the Chief Officer of the Gendarmerie of the Relizane wilaya (district), Mr. Mabrouk Belala, who repeatedly threatened Mr. Smain. By end 2002 nothing had been done about the complaint filed by LADDH against Mr. Belala.
The identification papers and driver's license that were confiscated from Mr. Smain in February 2001 when he was arrested at the Algiers airport18 have been returned, and the February 2001 decision to place him under judicial control was terminated in June 2002.
Arrest and detention of Mr. Abderrahmane Khelil19
On 14th March 2002, Mr. Abderrahmane Khelil, head of the Comité SOS-Disparus (Committee SOS-Disappeared) and member of LADDH, together with Messrs. Othmane and Mahrez Allil, members of the same committee, were arrested and taken to the 8th district police stations in Algiers during the violent dispersal of a gathering of dozens of people (family members of disappeared persons, political officials, citizens) who were preparing a demonstration, in response to a call from the Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS). Mr. Khelil was singled out by police officers who interrogated him and informed him that he was violating rules on unlawful assembly adopted by virtue of the February 1992 law on the state of emergency. He was transferred to the Cavaignac police station and then to the Algiers Central Police Station. At the end of the afternoon he was released, together with all the other people who had been detained.
On 18th March 2002, Mr. Khelil was arrested in front of the UN Representative's office in the Hydra district of Algiers where he was participating in a gathering of the families of the disappeared. This coincided with the opening of the 58th session of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. Mr. Khelil was taken by car to the Hydra Police Station, interrogated, and then released. The gathering of families of the disappeared was violently dispersed by the police forces. Some women were taken to the Hydra Police Station to have their ID cards photocopied and were then sent on their way.
On 18th March 2002, the police arrested students at the Bouzareah University in Algiers for protesting against a visit by President Bouteflika. The next day, near the university, when Mr. Khelil, mandated by LADDH, was enquiring about the students' arrest, he, in turn was arrested. On 20th May, the Public Prosecutor of Bir Mourad in Algiers issued a committal order against him on the basis of a report from the Daira (Sub-District) Security forces mentioning that Mr. Khelil had gone to the university with the intention of stirring up "an unarmed riot" (Article 100 of the Penal Code). Pending his hearing, he was incarcerated at the El Harrache prison in very harsh conditions (a 60m2 cell with 102 inmates, no access to water, no possibility to see his relatives, ordered about by earlier arrivals who were condemned for blood crime. On 26th March 2002, he was put on trial and given a suspended prison sentence of six months. The Observatory sent an observer to his trial. He was released the day after the hearing. Mr. Khelil appealed the decision but, by end 2002, the case was still pending.
Acts of violence against the families of the disappeared in Algiers20
At 9 a.m. on 5th November 2002, some thirty members of families of the disappeared gathered in front of the Commission nationale consultative de promotion et de protection des droits de l'Homme (CNCPPH – National advisory commission for the promotion and protection of human rights) and headed to the Presidency of the Republic. Witnesses reported that the families were held back by security forces and that certain people were jostled and beaten. Security forces encircled the district.
The gathering was a reaction to a statement made by Mr. Ksentini, President of CNCPPH, to the newspaper Echourouk El Yaoumi on 3rd November 2002 concerning the way to solve the problem of the disappeared. He advocated winding up the case by giving a million dinars and a death certificate to the family of each disappeared person. On 5th September, the families of the disappeared and their representatives from Algiers, Constantine, Oran, Sétif, Relizane and Mostaganem had met with Mr. Ksentini and gave him a note on the basic principles for a joint approach to settling the case by using a process bringing out the truth about the disappeared and a rehabilitation policy.
Repression of families of the disappeared in Constantine21
Meetings of the families of the disappeared in Constantine still provokes retaliation. On 17th October 2002, the usual sit-in was dispersed by a ruthless police attack. Many people were wounded. Mrs. Naïma Saker, co-ordinator of the Constantine families of the disappeared was held responsible for the meeting and received threats. That very evening, three men dressed in plain clothes beat up one of her sons.
Mr. Sofiane Chouiter, the families' lawyer, is often trailed after a sit-in.
Detention of Mr. Larbi Tahar22
On 17th November, the police arrested and detained Mr. Larbi Tahar, a member of the Labiod Sid Echikh Section of LADDH, El Bayadh County. The population had selected him, together with eight other people, including representatives of associations, to go to the Daira that day to meet with the Deputy Prefect and complain about the labourers' working conditions. The Deputy Prefect's refusal to receive the group angered the local population. The eight representatives were arrested, insulted, ill treated and tortured. No charges were held against them and, a few hours later, these were released. On the other hand, Mr. Tahar was arrested that evening and was placed under a committal order. Judicial proceedings were instituted against him.
On 23rd March 2002, the El Bayadh Court sentenced Mr. Larbi Tahar to six months in prison for "stirring up an unarmed riot, resisting the forces of order and deteriorating private property" (Articles 100, 183, 184 and 407 of the Penal Code). On 30th April, at the trial in the Appeals Court, Mr. Tahar's sentence was increased to seven months in prison, and a fine of 5,000 dinars. The Observatory representative sent to monitor the proceedings of the trial noted various irregularities and violations of the law and the procedures.23
While still in custody, and after being put in a cell on death row with people involved in cases of terrorism, Mr. Tahar went on a hunger strike to protest against his extremely harsh conditions of detention. He had to be hospitalised in El Bayadh and then at the Saida Hospital on 29th March. His family was not allowed to visit him in the hospital. Upon leaving the hospital, he was sent back to prison. He was finally released in September 2002 after serving his sentence.
Harassment of Mr. Mahmoud Khelili24
In September 2002, Mr. Mahmoud Khelili, lawyer and President of the National Union of Algerian Lawyers received death threats on his home telephone. These threats were connected to his work as the lawyer of the Director of Social Actions of the Oran Prefecture in a serious affair that involved the responsibility of the armed forces and senior civil servants in international drug trafficking. On 2 September 2002, his son also received a death threat for his father, on his cell phone.
Mr. Khelili is being harassed because of his commitment to human rights; he remains under surveillance and his telephone is still tapped.
Harassment of Mr. Salah-Eddine Sidhoum25
On 16th December 2002, two plainclothes agents brought a summons to the home of Dr. Salah-Eddine Sidhoum, a surgeon and human rights defender. His aunt was home and said that the doctor had moved eight years ago. They told her that if the doctor was not there, his wife had to present herself, that afternoon, at the headquarters of the El Madania mobile unit of the judicial police which is infamously known as a place of torture, whereas Mrs. Sidhoum's home falls within the precinct of the El Mouradia police. She decided not to go to the El Madania police station. This summons was part of the harassment that the Sidhoum family has been subjected to since January 2002 when Dr. Sidhoum published a file on human rights violations by the Algerian Government, with emphasis on forced disappearances and torture.
Since December 1994, when three armed individuals came to his home to kill him, fear of reprisal for his work on human rights has made Dr. Sidhoum live underground.
He has already been arrested twice, once in 1980 after standing up for the liberation of people arrested during the springtime Berber demonstrations and then again in June 1992, after the 11th January coup d'État, for having denounced violations committed by the gendarmes. In 1997 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in absentia, in application of Article 87 of the Penal Code which includes "belonging to an armed group and acts of terrorism".
[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]
16. See Report of Judicial Observation Missions: "Instrumentalisation de la justice: les victimes et leurs défenseurs sur le banc des accusés", 5 July 2002.
17. See Annual Report 2001 and press releases of 5 January and 25 February 2002.
18. See Annual Report 2001.
19. See Urgent Appeals DZA 001/0302/OBS 018, 018.01 and 018.02.
20. See Urgent Appeal DZA 004/1102/OBS 064.
21. See Annual Report 2001.
22. See Urgent Appeals DZA 002/0402/OBS 026 and 026.01.
23. Report of international judicial observation mission, 5 July 2002: Instrumentalisation de la justice: les victimes and leurs défenseurs sur le banc des accusés.
24. See Annual Report 2001 and Urgent Appeal DZA 002/0902/OBS 059.
25. See Urgent Appeal DZA 005/1202/OBS 072.