Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Algeria
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Publication Date||14 April 2004|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Algeria, 14 April 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48747c84155.html [accessed 7 December 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 families of the disappeared and their defenders
Harassment of Mohamed Smain17
On 20th February 2003, Mr. Mohamed Smain, Head of the Relizane Section of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH, Ligue algérienne de défense des droits de l'Homme), was notified that he was banned from leaving Algeria just as he was about to leave for Oran Sénia airport on his way to Europe. Mr. Smain was not given any reason for this ban.
For some time now Mohamed Smain has been victim of pestering and various types of pressure from the security services on account of his work with the families of missing persons in Relizane and Oran. On 24th February 2002, following a complaint lodged by a militiaman Mohamed Ferghane and eight members of his militia, he was specifically sentenced to one year imprisonment and a fine of 5 000 dinars and 30000 dinars in damages to be paid to nine plaintiffs for "defamation, calumny and declaration of imaginary crimes". This complaint was lodged following Mr. Smain's having informed the Algerian press on 3rd February 2001 of the exhumation by the gendarmerie of a mass grave, in the presence of Mr. Ferghane, with the intention of transferring the remains from the mass grave to an unknown destination. At the end of 2003, Mr. Smain's appeal to the Supreme Court is still pending.
In 2002, Mr. Smain was also threatened and intimidated on several occasions by Mr. Mabrouk Belala, head of the gendarmerie in the Relizane district. As of end 2003, Mr. Smain's complaint against the latter has not been pursued.
Acts of violence against families of the disappeared in Algiers18
On 9th July 2003, several relatives of disappeared persons were arrested in Oran during the weekly gathering of families, which bring together around in front of the law courts. Mrs. Boutaibi Setti, representative of the Committee SOS-disappeared persons, Oran district, roughly handled and forcibly bundled into a vehicle by an un-uniformed officer of the security services, after she had been interviewed by a journalist from the daily newspaper El Rai. Mrs. Bouguetaya Yakout (married name Acem) and her daughter, Mrs. Boussekak Yamina, married name Rached) and three other mothers of disappeared persons were also arrested. They were taken to the police station in the 2nd district of Oran, transferred to the central police station, then finally released around 7 p.m.. They were all accused of "disturbing peace" and fined 1 000 dinars by the Court in Oran, on 4th October 2003.
The names of these women were mentioned in an open letter addressed by the Association of Families of Disappeared Persons to the President of the National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. This letter mentioned the pressure being exerted on the families of disappeared persons, following their summon on 13th June by the intelligence and security services of the Oran District (Governorate).
Harassment of families of disappeared persons' defenders in Constantine19
Representatives of families of disappeared persons in Constantine continue to suffer from harassment. On 5th November 2003, Mrs. Naïma Saker, co-ordinator of families of disappeared persons in Constantine, was intimidated by two inspectors from the General Intelligence Services, who came to her house at 9.45 p.m., claiming that they were looking for a police report sent to Mrs. Saker in 1997, notifying her of her husband's arrest and transfer to the Intelligence and Security Department (DRS) in Constantine.
Furthermore, Mr. Sofiane Chouiter, lawyer representing the families, is still being followed after each weekly sit-in organised by relatives of the disappeared persons. He has also been subjected to pestering by the administration in November 2003, when his request to renew his passport was blocked in the Constantine District. He received confirmation of this blockage from the El Khroub police station. Mr. Chouiter was finally able to have his passport renewed in mid-December 2003.
Detention of Larbi Tahar20
On 4th October 2003, The President of the Labiodh Sidi Cheikh of the LADDH, Mr. Larbi Tahar received a summon from the investigating magistrate, informing him that he was accused of "riotous assembly and civil disobedience". This summon was subsequent to his participation in a peaceful assembly in support of the Independent National Union of Civil Servants on 29th September (SNAPAP), who were on hunger strike (see below).
At the end of his examination by the magistrate, on 5th October, Mr. Larbi Tahar was immediately committed and placed in detention in the prison at Labiodh Sidi Cheikh.
Five other participants – Larbi Mohamed, Larbi Bechir, Larbi Ahmed and Larbi Bechir, all members of Larbi Tahar's family, as well as Slamani Cheick – were also charged with the same indictment. They were arrested and placed in detention on the evening of the assembly.
On 3rd November, Mr. Tahar was beaten up by the prison director and his guards and lost three teeth as a result. Moreover he was forced to sleep on the floor, dressed in underwears, from 2nd to 4th November, and was deprived of salt and sugar through the entire period of detention, although he was a diabetic. The judge ordered that Mr. Tahar undergo two medical examinations, following which he received a medical certificate for 10 days, which shows the extent of damage he suffered. On 9th November, the LADDH lodged a complaint with the public prosecutor of the court in Saida against the director of the Labiodh Sidi Cheikh prison, following these acts of ill-treatment. As of end 2003, legal proceedings are in hand, however since the sick certificate did not exceed 14 days, the perpetrators of Mr. Tahar's ill treatment at most face a fine according to the law.
On 24th November 2003, Mr. Tahar received a three months' suspended prison sentence from the court in El Bayadh, along with the five other participants.
Detention of Salah-Eddine Sidhoum21
Dr. Salah-Eddine Sidhoum, surgeon and human rights activist, gave himself up to the algerian legal authorities on 29th September 2003, after nine years underground. He then asked that the 1997 trial be revised, whereby he had been sentenced in absentia to 20 years' imprisonment for "belonging to armed groups" and "vindication of terrorism" (article 87 of the Criminal Code). After the public prosecutor informed him that a new hearing of his case would be organised a few weeks later, Dr. Sidhoum chose to be detained in the Serkadji prison, near Algiers, in the belief that his life was under less threat there than if he remained free.
Dr. Sidhoum, who was detained in extremely precarious conditions (damp dungeon, enlightened day and night and infested with vermin), went on hunger strike shortly after he was placed in detention. Despite the fact that the prison doctor requested that he be hospitalised after 10 days of hunger strike, this was refused by the prison director.
Dr. Sidhoum appeared before the criminal court in Algiers on 16th October 2003. The Observatory appointed an observer to attend the hearing, at the end of which Dr Sidhoum was acquitted of the charges brought against him and freed the very same day.
Dr. Sidhoum had been arrested by the police a first time in 1980 as a result of his outspoken opinions concerning the release of persons arrested during the Berber spring's demonstrations. Thereafter he had unceasingly continued to call for the attention of the international community regarding the practice of torture, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances; in particular, he had collected and distributed accounts given by victims, whom he was called upon to attend in his orthopaedic surgery service at the Selim Zmirli d'El Harrach Hospital. In 1994, he had gone underground for fear of reprisals following a break-in by three armed individuals in his own home.
Legal proceedings against Abderrahmane Khelil22
On 20th May 2002, Mr. Abderrahmane Khelil, Head of the Committee SOS-Disappeared Persons and member of the LADDH, was arrested following a visit he made to the University of Bouzaréah to enquire about the arrest of students during demonstrations on 18th May. He was detained in the El Harrache prison in extremely precarious conditions, and on 26th May, received a six months' suspended prison sentence "for encouraging unarmed assembly". Mr. Khelil appealed against this decision. As of end 2003, the proceedings are still outstanding.
Harassment of members of SNAPAP23
Members of the Independent National Union of Civil Servants (SNAPAP, Syndicat national autonome des personnels d'administration publique – trade union which is not recognised), are still the targets of acts of repression, as is the case of Mr. Rachid Malaoui, Secretary General, constantly subjected to acts of harassment of intimidation.
On 29th January 2003, several hundred delegates from the National Union of Local Authority workers, which is affiliated to the SNAPAP, organised a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Interior and of Local Authorities in Algiers to defend workers' rights; participants were dispersed following a baton charge by security agents.
Moreover, in October 2003, four nurses from the Labiodh Sidi Cheikh Hospital were transferred to an establishment located between 80 and 500 km far from their initial workplace. These transfers were ordered following their hunger strike to protest against the refusal from the authorities to allow a general assembly aiming at setting up a section of the SNAPAP.
Lastly, seven of the eight trade union board members of SNAPAP in Oran, who were arrested and suspended from their functions by an Order issued by the Wali (Governor) of Oran in March 2002, have still not been reintegrated in their jobs. Mrs. Rokia Djebbour, Mrs. Hakima Slimani, Mr. Mohamed Benaissa, Bouabdallah Bensakrane, Cheikh Hattab, Abdelkader Kourea, Youcef Charef and Djamel Djeffel were arrested following the hunger strike they started in protest against the closure of the SNAPAP office in Oran and on 21st October 2002 received a three month suspended prison sentence and 5 000 dinars fine – the eighth person was acquitted but was nevertheless transferred elsewhere.
On 21st January 2003, following appeal the sentence was commuted to a fine of 5 000 dinars. Their status of trade union representative was recognised but the administration maintained their suspension, which was notified to them by the security services. The seven trade unionists have submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court.
As of end 2003, the SNAPAP office in Oran remains closed.
[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.]
17. See Urgent Appeal DZA 001/0203/OBS 008.
18. See Urgent Appeal DZA 002/0703/OBS 064.01 and 064.02.
19. See Annual Report 2002.
20. See Urgent Appeal DZA 002/1003/OBS 050.
21. See Annual Report 2002, press releases of 30th September, 2nd October, 9th October, 16th October 2003, and mission report of legal observers, November 2003.
22. See Annual Report 2002.
23. See Annual Report 2002.