Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Algeria

Harassment of the families of the disappeared and their defenders

Acquittal of Mr. Mouloud Arab1

On March 27, 2006, Mr. Mouloud Arab, the father of a disappeared person, charged with the "dissemination of subversive leaflets undermining national interest" (Article 96 of the Criminal Code), was acquitted by the Court of Sidi Ahmed.

Mr. Arab was arrested on September 14, 2005, during the weekly meeting of the NGO SOS-Disappeared (SOS – Disparu(e)s) in front of the National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and the Protection of Human Rights (Commission nationale consultative pour la promotion et la protection des droits de l'Homme – CNCPPDH) in Algiers. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Arab was distributing leaflets denouncing the situation of the families of disappeared. He was released a few hours later and summoned to appear before the examining magistrate on September 25, 2005. He was facing a sentence of six months' imprisonment.

Judicial harassment of Mr. Amine Sidhoum Abderrahman and Ms. Hassiba Boumerdassi2

On May 12, 2006, Mr. Amine Sidhoum Abderrahman, a lawyer and member of SOS-Disappeared, received threats from a representative of the Algerian delegation to the 39th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), held from May 11 to 25, 2006, a day before his scheduled statement before the Commission. This representative attempted to deter him from addressing the ACHPR and "reminded" him that he would be "liable to three to five years' imprisonment upon [his] return to Algeria" if he persisted in doing so. On May 13, 2006, Mr. Sidhoum thus decided not to present his oral statement to the Commission.

These threats notably referred to Article 46 of the Decree relating to the implementation of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation issued on February 27, 2006. Indeed, this decree provides for a prison sentence of three to five years and a 250,000 to 500,000 Algerian dinars fine (about 2,830 to 5,660 euros) for "anyone who, by speech, writing or any other act, uses or exploits the wounds of the national tragedy in order to harm the institutions of the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, to weaken the State, to undermine the honour of its agents who have served it with dignity, or to tarnish the image of Algeria internationally".

Furthermore, on August 23, 2006, Mr. Sidhoum was summoned by the examining magistrate of the Court of Sidi M'hamed who informed him that the Minister of Justice had lodged a complaint for "libel" against him. These charges followed the publication of an article in the daily newspaper El Chourouk on May 30, 2004. The author of this article had claimed that Mr. Sidhoum had denounced the detention of one of his clients who was being held for thirty months in Serkadji prison "as the result of an arbitrary decision by the Supreme Court". However, at the time of Mr. Sidhoum's alleged statements, no decision regarding the case had yet been handed down by the Supreme Court, which only delivered its judgment on April 28, 2005.

On September 18, 2006, Mr. Sidhoum appeared before the 8th Chamber of the Sidi M'hamed Court in Algiers to answer charges of "discrediting a court's decision" and "contempt of a State institution" (Articles 144bis, 144bis (1), 146 and 147 of the Criminal Code). The Court ordered his release on bail and upheld the charges, which carry a three-to-six-year prison sentence and a 2,500 to 5,000 euros fine.

On December 9, 2006, Mr. Sidhoum appeared once again before the examining magistrate, who allegedly referred the case to the Criminal Court. By the end of 2006, however, Mr. Sidhoum had not yet received notification to appear before the Court.

In a separate case, Mr. Sidhoum was summoned by the examining magistrate of the 1st Chamber of the Bab El Oued Court on charges of "passing an unauthorised item into a detention facility" under Article 16 of the Prison Security Act and Article 166 of the Prison Regulation and Reintegration of Prisoners Code (which provides for a six-month to three-year prison sentence and a 10,000 to 50,000 dinars fine – 110 to 150 euros). In particular, Mr. Sidhoum was accused of having given his business card to one of his clients in detention.

Likewise, on September 25, 2006, Ms. Hassiba Boumerdassi, a lawyer and a member of the Association of the Families of Disappeared Persons in Algeria (Collectif des familles de disparu(e)s en Algérie – CFDA), was summoned to appear before the Bab El Oued Court under the charges of "passing unauthorised items into a detention facility" after she handed to one of her clients the minutes of his court hearing – with the prison warden's authorisation.

These charges also fall under Article 166 of the Prison Regulation and Reintegration of Prisoners Code, Article 16 of the Prison Security Code, and Article 31 of the Law on Prison Regulation.

By the end of 2006, both lawyers were still awaiting the Court's decisions in their respective cases.

Conviction of Mrs. Zohra Bourefis3

On November 19, 2006, Mrs. Zohra Bourefis, the mother and wife of disappeared individuals and a member of the CFDA branch in Jijel, was fined 100 dinars (about 1.50 euros) by the Court of Taher. The conviction was based on Article 1 of Presidential Decree No. 86237 of September 16, 1986, which provides that "any person offering housing to a foreigner must notify the Algerian authorities".

Indeed, from February 7 to 9, 2006, Mrs. Zohra Bourefis and her family had welcomed in their home a French programme officer commissioned by CFDA to conduct an investigation into several disappearance cases in the region.

On February 12, 2006, one of Mrs. Zohra Bourefis' sons was summoned to the Emir Abdelkader police station and questioned on the identity of their guest and the purpose of his stay.

On February 14, 2006, another of her sons was called in for questioning by the Command of the Jijel Military Zone, where he was told that it was forbidden to invite "foreigners" to stay in one's home.

Mrs. Zohra Bourefis appealed the verdict against her.

Legal proceedings and acts of harassment against LADDH members4

Continued harassment of Mr. Mohamed Smaïn

By the end of 2006, the case of Mr. Mohamed Smaïn, head of the Relizane branch of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (Ligue algérienne de défense des droits de l'Homme – LADDH), remained pending before the Supreme Court after he appealed his sentencing to one year imprisonment and a 5,000 dinars (54 euros) fine and 30,000 dinars (320 euros) in damages, to each of the plaintiffs, on February 24, 2002.

Mr. Smaïn was convicted on the grounds of a complaint lodged by Mr. Mohamed Fergane, former head of the Relizane militia, and eight other militiamen, for "defamation, slanderous denunciation and reporting fictitious crimes", after Mr. Smaïn had informed the Algerian press of a mass grave exhumation undertaken by the police authorities.

Moreover, his local council card (fiche municipale) acknowledging his involvement in the fight for the liberation of Algeria had not yet been returned by late 2006, although his ID documents and driver's license, which had been confiscated at the same time in 2005, were duly returned in 2006.

Ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Ghoul Hafnaoui

By the end of 2006, four appeals lodged by Mr. Ghoul Hafnaoui, a journalist and head of the LADDH section in Djelfa, challenging several decisions sentencing him to a total of eleven months in prison and a 2,262,000 dinars (24,330 euros) fine and damages, remained pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals. These convictions ensued from various complaints for "defamation", "insulting State authorities" and "illegal removal of a document from a detention facility", initiated by the Djelfa wali (prefect) and his supporters.

Legal proceedings against Mr. Tahar Larbi

As of the end of 2006, the appeal filed by Mr. Tahar Larbi, president of the LADDH section in Labiodh Sidi Cheikh, and five of his family members, against their three-month suspended prison sentence handed down on November 24, 2003, remained pending. Mr. Larbi and his relatives had been convicted following their involvement in a peaceful gathering in support of the Independent National Union of Civil Servants (Syndicat national autonome des personnels d'administration publique – SNAPAP) in September 2003.

Moreover, in late 2006, a complaint for ill-treatment lodged by LADDH in November 2003 regarding acts of violence committed against Mr. Larbi during his detention had still not been pursued by the authorities.

Ongoing harassment of SNAPAP members5

By the end of 2006, Mr. Rachid Malaoui, SNAPAP secretary general, who was sentenced in absentia in November 2004 to a one-month suspended prison sentence and a 5,000 dinars fine (53 euros) by the Algiers Court of First Instance on charges of "defamation", had still not received notification of the judgment and was thus unable to appeal the verdict. Mr. Malaoui was convicted on the basis of a complaint lodged by the secretary general of the Algerian General Workers' Union (Union générale des travailleurs algériens – UGTA, a pro-governmental union) in connection with facts dating back to 2001. At that time, Mr. Malaoui had publicly condemned the takeover of the labour scene by UGTA and had denounced the repeated attacks against independent trade unions.

In addition, in December 2003 and May 2004, former SNAPAP members, backed by the Ministry of Labour, held a congress aimed at establishing another union bearing the same name. The independent SNAPAP lodged a complaint for "usurpation" and "defamation" with the Algiers Court of First Instance in June 2004. A hearing scheduled for February 9, 2005 was postponed sine die and no further date had been fixed as of the end of 2006.

1. See Annual Report 2005.

2. See Urgent Appeals DZA 001/0506/OBS 063, 063.1 and 063.2.

3. See CFDA.

4. See Annual Report 2005.

5. Idem.


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