by Elise Swain
Source: The Intercept
Date: July 26, 2023
In emails obtained by The Intercept, the State Department made repeated assurances about Saeed Bakhouch’s “appropriate and humane treatment.”
When Saeed Bakhouch was repatriated to Algeria in late April from the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay after 21 years of detention without charge, his lawyer was assured by the State Department that he would be treated humanely. Still, his longtime lawyer, H. Candace Gorman, worried about her client’s upcoming release. Bakhouch’s mental health had deteriorated in the last five years; he had stopped meeting with her and retreated into himself. She feared that her client might be arrested after being returned to Algeria unless given real help and resources.
That’s exactly what happened. Almost immediately after Bakhouch landed in Algiers, he passed through the usual interrogation process for former Guantánamo detainees in Algeria. After a two-week period of detention and interrogation, he appeared before a judge in early May. The judge told Bakhouch that his story did not match the information the U.S. provided, Gorman explained to The Intercept.
“He was being stripped of all of his rights,” Gorman said. Bakhouch was sent into pretrial detention and, for nearly three months, he has been held under brutal conditions. His hair and beard were forcibly shaved; he has been physically assaulted; and he has been deprived of his Guantánamo-issued medications to treat his injured heel. Now, human rights groups are alleging that Bakhouch is facing severe abuses in detention.
As the Biden administration works to end America’s “forever wars” abroad, the State Department ramped up efforts to release the remaining 16 Guantánamo prisoners who were never charged with any crime and have been cleared to leave the prison. (In total, 30 detainees are still at Guantánamo.) Since Joe Biden assumed office, a slow but steady stream of these prisoners have quietly left the prison’s infamous gates. Like Bakhouch, they are all followed by a vexing question with few answers: Who, ultimately, is responsible for deciding what their freedom means?
Re-imprisoned in Algeria, Bakhouch is only the latest in a string of former Guantánamo detainees facing rights abuses after repatriation or placement in third countries. The question of responsibility over his well-being has pitted the State Department against human rights advocates who contend that his condition meets no viable definition of freedom.
“If anyone had ever given me any hint at the State Department that they have no authority once he steps off the plane, I would have put the brakes on because I know Saeed trusted that I wouldn’t let him go unless I was assured that he would be treated right,” Gorman told The Intercept. “And so the fact that they are now claiming that there’s nothing they can do and that this is a different country and we have no control over that — then why the fuck are you telling me you have their assurances.” (The State Department did not provide comment on this story by publication time.)
In June, the United Nations special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, published a detailed report on rights violations related to the U.S. detention at Guantánamo. Among other abuses, Ní Aoláin found that transfers of detainees to foreign countries had resulted in their own human rights violations. Among other complaints — torture, arbitrary detention, and disappearances, in some cases — she found in 30 percent of documented cases, the released detainees were not given proper legal status by the recipient countries.
“In these harmful transfers, facilitated and supported by the United States,” the U.N. report said, “there is a legal and moral obligation for the U.S. Government to use all of its diplomatic and legal resources to facilitate (re)transfer of these men, with meaningful assurance and support to other countries.”
As men continue to be released from the prison at Guantánamo, Ní Aoláin told The Intercept that she “continues to be deeply concerned about the robustness of the U.S. Government’s non-refoulement assessment and the protection of human rights for those who have been transferred from Guantanamo Bay to countries of nationality or third countries.”
Human rights Letter
In a desperate effort to draw attention to Bakhouch’s enduring incarceration, the Center for Constitutional Rights, or CCR, published an open letter with signatories from the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, and other nongovernmental groups, urgently pressuring the State Department to intervene. The letter, published Wednesday and shared exclusively in advance with The Intercept, alleges that the U.S. provided the Algerian government with harmful and unfounded allegations about Bakhouch’s past — information that led to his detention — and that Bakhouch is imprisoned under severe conditions which violate international law. (The Algerian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.)
“Despite being transferred out of Guantánamo on the basis that he no longer posed a significant risk to the United States,” the letter says, “Mr. Bakhouch was told by the Algerian lawyer assigned to represent him in trial that the United States provided the information to the Algerian government that led to them charging him with having sworn allegiance to Osama Bin Laden.”
“This allegation is woefully unfounded,” the letter continues, “and we are deeply troubled by the fact that Mr. Bakhouch is being detained on this basis and enduring abuse in Algerian custody, purportedly in part because of false or incomplete intelligence information from the United States.”
The CCR-led letter is addressed to Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, who heads the State Department office responsible for transferring men out of Guantánamo Bay. Kaidanow was appointed in August 2022 and has been repeatedly criticized in the past for failure to respond to botched resettlement deals. Most of the deals were not of her own making; she inherited a mess of released detainees in crisis — some have been re-incarcerated and tortured, forcibly repatriated, or denied legal asylum status.
With only her office to appeal to for assistance, lawyers and human rights advocates are growing increasingly concerned that, irrespective of the deals’ authorship, the struggling former prisoners have no diplomatic support from the State Department.
Now, with Bakhouch’s immediate and brutal re-incarceration, Kaidanow appears to be helming her own botched deal.
State Department Assurances
Emails from Kaidanow and her staff at the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism to Gorman, which were obtained by The Intercept, show a pattern of vague reassurances, incompetence, and general disregard.
After Bakhouch’s release was approved but before he was transferred out of Guantánamo, he languished simply because the staffer who needed to sign his papers was unaware that was a part of their job responsibilities, Gorman learned from a phone call with Anand Prakash, a policy adviser to the Office of the Special Representative for Guantánamo Affairs. Prakash, she said, apparently found the mishap funny, leading Gorman to become more concerned that the State Department staff wasn’t taking her concerns for Bakhouch’s well-being seriously.
“With no family to help Mr. Bakhouch this will be a very difficult transition and I fear my client might become homeless — or worse — locked up,” Gorman wrote to Prakash. “Please let me know what you can about assistance that will be offered to Mr. Bakhouch.”
Prakash, who was unable to provide details of the diplomatic agreement with Algeria, replied, “I can assure you we will work to ensure that he is given appropriate and humane treatment upon return.”
On May 7, Gorman informed the State Department’s Guantánamo desk that her client had not been released as she had expected; instead, he had been re-imprisoned. “This is very distressing for us to hear – it’s not the outcome we expected when we repatriated Saeed to Algeria, and we are taking steps to find out exactly what happened,” Jessica Heinz, a staffer in the Guantánamo Affairs office, replied a day later. “I assure you we are looking into this and will take the steps necessary to ensure Saeed is in a good place post-release.”
As the month of May unfolded and Bakhouch sat in prison, Gorman repeatedly emailed asking for updates and more information — missives that went largely unanswered. By the end of the month, the veteran lawyer had received no updates or new information on the circumstances of her client’s imprisonment from Prakash or Heinz.
Fed up with the apparent inattention to the issue, Gorman eventually escalated and fired off a heated email to Kaidanow herself. Gorman pleaded for immediate help, pointing to Bakhouch’s severe mental health struggles with PTSD and depression. “I recognize your concern,” Kaidanow wrote back. “We and our colleagues in Algeria are doing everything we can to ascertain what the status of Mr. Bakhouch currently is and what his ultimate disposition will be. We take every precaution possible to ensure that detainees will be effectively rehabilitated once they are returned, but we cannot prevent the receiving country from acting according to their own laws and procedures.”
Bakhouch’s Mental Health
The letter from CCR to Kadainow raised the State Department failure to fully reckon with Bakhouch’s mental health issues. It was a point Gorman repeatedly emphasized prior to her client’s release from Guantánamo. The State Department staff writing the emails obtained by The Intercept at no point specifically acknowledge Gorman’s repeated concerns over Bakhouch’s mental well-being.
“Before his transfer, the State Department was made aware of a medical opinion about Mr. Bakhouch’s mental trauma and diagnosis of PTSD and depression related to his torture and detention, and that his U.S. attorney communicated concerns about his reintegration in Algeria to your office several times,” the letter says. “Unfortunately and alarmingly, these concerns seemed to have been disregarded at best and weaponized at worst now that Mr. Bakhouch is in custody in Algeria.”
Concerned that Bakhouch had no family support in Algeria, Gorman continually asked about adequate resources to make sure he did not become homeless after repatriation. In one email, Prakash suggested Gorman reach out to Reprieve and the International Committee of the Red Cross — two nongovernmental groups that work with former detainees and human rights issues — to help Bakhouch readjust to life in Algeria.
At one point before Bakhouch’s release to Algeria, Gorman requests information on what assistance the State Department planned to give her client. “Could you please tell me if our government has made any arrangements with the Algerian government to help settle Mr. Bakhouch when he arrives back in Algiers?” she asked.
“There’s not a whole lot I can share re the specifics of our bilateral arrangements,” Prakash wrote in an email, “but I can say we are working to ascertain what the host gov can provide after transfer, and I can assure you we will work to ensure that he is given appropriate and humane treatment upon return. As you likely know, our standard agreements include reference to humane treatment.”
In the emails reviewed by The Intercept, Kaidanow invokes her commitments to personally ensure that each transfer goes smoothly with a focus on “reintegration and rehabilitation.”
Sufyian Barhoumi, another former Guantánamo detainee who was repatriated to Algeria in early April 2022, said those words mean “nothing at all.” Barhoumi and his lawyer, CCR’s Shayana Kadidal, said they have not been contacted by either the U.S. or Algerian governments. Barhoumi said nongovernmental organizations too, including the ICRC and Reprieve, had been unable to offer him assistance.
“In the course of Reprieve’s Life After Guantánamo work,” Reprieve’s U.S. joint executive director Maya Foa wrote to The Intercept, “we have consistently seen how hard it is for men subjected to this appalling mistreatment over many years to escape further persecution — whether repatriated or transferred to host countries. For many men, the abuse follows them forever; the stain of Guantánamo does not disappear once they are transferred.” (The ICRC did not meet the deadline to comment prior to publication.)
“Arbitrarily detaining so many men without trial has indelibly stained the USA’s reputation as a country founded on the rule of law,” Foa said. “Rehabilitation, reintegration, and reparation for all the men is the direct responsibility of the U.S. Government.” (Reprieve U.S. is a signatory on the letter sent Wednesday to Kaidanow.)
With no income or resources, Barhoumi said he feels stuck and alone: “I just need to start my life.”
State Shirking Responsibility
Gorman has continued to try to spur the State Department into action on Bakhouch’s behalf. Nearly two full months after Bakhouch was imprisoned in Algeria, Kadainow finally replied with specifics, saying she had “a chance” to speak with relevant diplomatic colleagues.
“Our Ambassador in Algiers was informed that Mr. Bakhouch is being charged under Algerian law for membership/affiliation with a foreign terrorist organization, which is a serious crime under Algerian law,” Kaidanow wrote. “He is currently under pre-trial detention while his case is under review by the Court d’Instruction, which will ultimately decide whether to bring him to trial or dismiss the charges and release him. The information regarding his case is still sealed.”
Kaidanow added, “We continue to assert our interest in his humane treatment and legal rights in a variety of high-level settings.”
The U.S. — and Kaidanow’s — position seems clear: Algeria is responsible for what they now intend to do with their citizen. The U.S. has no further responsibility beyond asking them to honor their commitment to human rights.
For CCR, the lack of direct intervention is unacceptable, but there is little to do but continue to advocate for more care.
“Closing Guantanamo is not just about policy, it’s about people — the people who’ve been detained and tortured by the United States, and the obligations that the U.S. government has to them because of this,” said Aliya Hussain, CCR’s advocacy program manager. “These international law obligations continue even after the men are transferred to other countries, and they are unequivocal, which the Special Rapporteur makes clear in her recent report.”
If the State Department doesn’t follow up and enforce diplomatic assurances, the assurances are worthless, Hussain explained. “How they respond to Mr. Bakhouch’s situation in Algeria will signal how much oversight and advocacy they are willing and committed to undertaking to ensure the success of future transfers.”
Source: North Africa Post
Date: March 21, 2023
The US State Department exposed the degradation of human rights of the military regime in Algiers which has deployed brutal tactics to silence dissent including pretrial detention, torture, cham terrorism charges and free speech muzzeling.
The State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released this March, starts by questioning the atmosphere of elections which was marred by restrictions on civil liberties and “lack of transparency in vote counting procedures,” underlining the very low turnout that brought puppet civilian president Tebboune to power despite popular protests for a clean break with military rule.
Cases of torture abound in the “new Algeria” of General Chengriha as the report cites many cases including that of activist Mohamed Benhalima who was tortured, beaten up, and sexually abused by authorities during his imprisonment. Yet, there has been no official investigation into these degrading treatments.
Benhalima had denounced corruption in the military at the beginning of 2019 while living in exile in Spain following his participation in the Hirak protest movement.
The rise in cases of disappearances and arbitrary detentions was also highlighted by the US State Department which mentions the ordeal of activist Abdelhamid Bouziza who was kidnapped from his home in Tlemcen on October 19.
“Authorities did not address his detention until November 8, when they announced he was being held in Hay El Darwich prison in Blida on terrorism charges.”
The use of terrorism charges has been tailored to silence peaceful dissidents as “authorities cited broad provisions under the penal code, including membership in a terrorist organization, to arrest or punish critics including journalists and human rights defenders.”
In February the Middle East Institute reported that 59 detainees were being held under expanded terrorism-related charges under the penal code that the NGO reported were being imposed on “peaceful political activists.”
Prominent human rights activists estimate the number of political prisoners in Algeria to be higher than 300 including journalists, lawyers, opposition figures and Hirak protesters.
The Algerian regime has also silenced the press sending influential journalists such as Kadi Ihssane to jail for expressing views that criticized the regime.
Besides cracking down on free speech at home, Algeria has imposed a blackout on the situation in the country preventing foreign journalists from freely reporting and rejecting visits by UN human rights delegations.
The US State department report also deplores the violations affecting refugees and vulnerable groups.
“Black Algerians and sub-Saharan African migrants were discriminated against and subject to racism,” the report said.
Date: March 14, 2023
ARTICLE 19, together with 16 other human rights organisations, have written a joint letter to the government of Tunisia regarding the case of Algerian human rights defender Zakaria (‘Zaki’) Hannache. Algerian authorities have called for Hannache, who is currently in exile Tunisia, to be extradited to Algeria. The organisations urge the government not to comply with this request, and remind Tunisian authorities that he is entitled to protection as a refugee. The United Nations Committee against Torture has also appealed to the government not to extradite Hannache. If he is returned to Algeria, he is likely to face persecution and ill treatment.
The full letter follows.
To the government of Tunisia,
We, the undersigned human rights organisations, write to express our deep concern about the current situation of Zakaria (‘Zaki’) Hannache, an Algerian human rights defender, whose extradition has been recently requested by the Algerian authorities. We hereby wish to remind you that he enjoys international protection as a refugee and that the UN Committee against Torture asked you, as recently as 6 March 2023, not to extradite him to Algeria.
Since 2019, Hannache has been documenting and publishing information on the arrests and prosecutions of prisoners of conscience in Algeria, particularly in relation to the peaceful protest movement known as Hirak.
Following his arrest in February 2022, he faced several charges linked to his activism. After being detained for 6 weeks in Algeria, he was provisionally released on bail in March 2022. In the following months, Hannache was subject to acts of intimidation and pressure, prompting him to travel to Tunisia, where he sought medical support in August 2022.
On 9 November, 2022, Hannache learned that he had been summoned to a hearing in the court of Sidi M’hamed in Algiers, scheduled for 13 November. This prompted him to apply for asylum with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the next day. He learned that Tunisian police, specifically the anti-terrorist brigade, had inquired about him in at least two locations in Tunis during the week of 15 November. He was granted refugee status by the UNHCR on 18 November, 2022.
Tunisia has previously cooperated with Algeria in its efforts to forcibly return exiled peaceful opponents and human rights defenders. This was apparently the case for Slimane Bouhafs, a UNHCR-recognised refugee, and Christian Amazigh activist who was abducted and forcibly returned from Tunis on 25 August 2021.
Fearing a repetition of the dangerous precedent set by the extrajudicial return of Slimane Bouhafs, MENA Rights Group and a Tunis-based human rights researcher submitted a request for interim measures on behalf of Zaki Hannache before the UN Committee against Torture, which were transmitted to your government on 5 December 2022.
On 2 March 2023, Hannache learned that the court of Sidi M’hamed had sentenced him in absentia to 3 years in prison. Neither he nor his lawyers were aware of the trial’s occurrence. One of his lawyers coincidentally discovered the decision while dealing with a separate case in court. Another of his lawyers confirmed that an international arrest warrant and an extradition request were sent by Algeria the same day. In light of this new development, the Committee against Torture sent you a follow-up communication on 6 March, 2023, asking you not to extradite Hannache.
The undersigned organisations recall that as a refugee, Hannache is protected from refoulement by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention that your country has ratified as well as under the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. As a State party to the 1984 Convention against Torture, Tunisia is bound not to expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. As such, we call on your government to respect Hannache’s international protection and to inform the Committee against Torture of your willingness not to extradite him while his case is under review.
– Amnesty International Tunisia
– ARTICLE 19
– Cairo Institute For Human Rights (CIHRS)
– Centre Justitia pour la protection juridique des droits de l’Homme en Algérie
– EuroMed Rights
– FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
– Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux FTDES
– Human Rights Foundation (HRF)
– Human Rights Watch (HRW)
– HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
– International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
– Ligue Algérienne de défense des droits humains – LADDH ALGÉRIE
– MENA Rights Group
– Minority Rights Group
– Terre d’Asile Tunisie
– World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Algeria: UN expert says crackdown on civil society and human rights defenders must end
by Press Release
Source: United Nations Human Rights Office of The High Commissioner
Date: February 22, 2023
GENEVA (22 February 2023) – A UN expert today expressed concern over an escalating crackdown against civil society by Algerian authorities after the dissolutions of la Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (LADDH) and le Rassemblement Actions Jeunesse (RAJ), two of the most important human rights associations in Algeria.
“Acts of intimidation, silencing and repression against the human rights movement must end,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. “The decision to dissolve such respected human rights associations demonstrates an alarming crackdown on civil society organisations and seriously undermines the space for human rights defenders to carry out their legitimate human rights activities, and to freely associate and express themselves. The decisions to dissolve those two renowned human rights organisations must be reversed,” she said.
The UN expert said the procedure against LADDH did not respect the principles of the right to a fair trial. The association was not informed of the case brought against it by the Ministry of Interior in May 2022, the trial date at the Administrative Court in June 2022 nor the decision of dissolution. “LADDH was not provided the opportunity to consider the charges brought against it and to present a defence,” Lawlor said.
RAJ was also subject to a dissolution decision by the Administrative Court in October 2021. The UN expert awaits the outcome of their appeal hearing, which will take place on 23 February 2023 at the State Council.
“We have been sharing strong concerns over numerous provisions of the Algerian law on associations (12/06), which contradict international human rights law,” the Special Rapporteur said.
The dissolutions take place in a climate where human rights defenders do not feel safe to carry out their work and exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Several members of LADDH have allegedly faced obstacles to and retaliation for their cooperation with the United Nations, particularly when actively participating in Algeria’s Universal Periodic Review in 2022, the UN expert said.
“I look forward to upcoming country visits by relevant mandate holders in 2023 to engage in meaningful conversations about protecting civic space with Algerian authorities,” Lawlor said.
*The expert: Ms. Mary Lawlor (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
The statement is endorsed byMr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.
The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter UN_SPExperts
Source: Agence France Presse
Date: January 27, 2023
Three rights groups on Friday denounced what they called a deteriorating situation in Algeria, describing the government's actions as "more concerning than ever".
The Human Rights League (LDH), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) highlighted what they said was a constant attack on freedoms since 2019.
That was the year the Hirak protests unseated longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
"The deterioration of the human rights situation in Algeria is more concerning than ever," said the statement.
There has been a "permanent deterioration and clear violations of fundamental rights and freedoms" since the protests that started in June 2019, the statement added.
The situation had only worsened since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, they said, accusing the authorities of trying to crack down on the Hirak movement.
The statement referred to the closure last Sunday of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) and the arrest and imprisonment of prominent journalist Ihsane El Kadi as recent examples of the crackdown.
The three groups called on the Algerian authorities to respect human rights as set out in the international treaties it has signed.
The Hirak protests continued for months, demanding the dismantling of the political system and its representatives, who have been in power for several decades.
Rights groups say hundreds of people have been arrested in relation to the movement.
Date: January 10, 2023
The trials of 54 individuals who were sentenced to death over the events that happened in the Kabylie region, in the northeast of Algeria in August 2021, including the lynching of an activist, were marred by fair trial violations and torture claims, while at least six were prosecuted due to their political affiliations, Amnesty International said today.
Of the 54, who were sentenced to death in mass proceedings in November 2022, five were convicted in their absence, one of whom was a woman. According to the decision from the chamber of accusation of the Court of Algiers, reviewed by Amnesty International, at least six were prosecuted due to their association with the Movement for the self determination of Kabylie (MAK), a political group labelled as a “terrorist” organization by the Algerian authorities in June 2021. Five told the court they were subjected to torture or ill-treatment while in detention.
“By resorting to the death penalty in mass proceedings following unfair trials, the Algerian authorities not only reveal their utter disregard for human life, but also send a chilling message about how justice is delivered in Algeria today,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Meting out the death penalty is never justifiable, no matter what offense was committed. These callous death sentences and convictions must be urgently overturned. All allegations of torture or other ill-treatment must also be promptly investigated, and retrials ordered for all those convicted in their absence or prosecuted over their political affiliations.”
Rampant fair trial violations
The 54 individuals were convicted and sentenced to death on various charges — including murder, terrorism and setting fires — over the lynching of activist Djamel Ben Smail in Tizi Ouzou, a wilaya in the east of Algeria, on 11 August 2021, the lighting of fires the same month in Kabylie in northeast Algeria, which resulted in the deaths of at least 90 people as well as their membership in MAK. They were also accused of “torture and incitement to torture”, “violently assaulting law enforcement officers” and “dissemination of hate speech and discrimination”.
At least 62 others faced similar charges in the trial bringing the total number of prosecutions in this case to 116. On 24 November 2022, the judge acquitted 17 defendants, yet 28 were sentenced to between two and 10 years in prison. Their lawyers have appealed the verdict.
In at least two cases the court did not notify the defendants of the charges or the time and place of the trial, violating international fair trial standards.
Other fair trial violations include nine witnesses being absent in the trial that took place behind closed doors between 15 and 24 November, in which the families of victims of the events of August 2021 were not present.
Electrocution and rape threats in custody
According to one lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous citing the sensitivity of the issue, at least five of those convicted told the judge that their statements were extracted under duress. Defendant Mohamed Laaskri said that law enforcement officers electrocuted him, attempted to waterboard him, and threatened him with rape while he was in custody. The judge responded by saying that it was the responsibility of the defendant to file a complaint before the prosecutor.
Two lawyers also said that at least four defendants sentenced to death in their absence were not in Algeria when the alleged crimes took place. Aksel Bellabbaci, a top executive of MAK who lives in France, said he has not visited Algeria since August 2019. During interrogation, several detainees said Bellabbaci is a contact person for the organization, yet the prosecution could not prove his involvement in the lynching.
Mourad Itim, who lives and works in Canada as the manager of webcast TV Taqvaylit TV, having formerly worked as a coordinator for MAK in North America, said he has not visited Algeria since 2016. He believes his conviction stems from his efforts to peacefully exercise his right to freedom of expression by covering the events of August 2021.
“It is absolutely disgraceful that the Algerian authorities are using the lynching incident as a tool to prosecute state critics and members of the MAK political group. This wilful repression is a grave violation not only of the rights to freedom of expression and association, but also the right to life,” said Amna Guellali.
Since April 2021, the Algerian authorities have extensively resorted to using Article 87 bis of the country’s Penal Code to prosecute activists, human rights defenders and journalists over “crimes” related to “terrorism”.
Algeria has not carried out any executions since 1993. The country, however, is yet to abolish the death penalty or sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
Another December 10th. Another International Human Rights Day. Another cruel irony that on this day, 20 years ago Mohamed Harkat's human rights nightmare began.[/p]
20 years of fighting deportation to torture: Justice for Mohamed Harkat Now!
ICLMG 10/12/2022 - December 10, 2022 - ironically Human Rights Day - marks the 20th "anniversary" of the arrest of Mohamed Harkat under Canada's rights-violating security certificate regime.
For Mr. Harkat, it's been two decades of fighting deportation to torture, 16 years of harassment and intrusive surveillance, arbitrary detention, solitary confinement, secret trials, PTSD: enough is enough! We call for justice for Moe Harkat now!
Source: North Africa Post
Date: November 21, 2022
Few days after Le Monde, the New York Times and the Economist wrote about Algeria’s grave human rights violations, Newslook- a US based outlet- drew another portrait of a state ruled by a ruthless regime that has turned the country into a “giant prison”.
“Algeria is a police state, freedom of expression is under constant violation, and communication networks are under the supervision of specialized agencies. Not to forget the prosecutions, arrests, and extortion of girls and young men after hacking their pages and accounts,” Algerian opposition figure and writer Anwar Malik wrote on Newslook.
He said the Algerian regime’s tactics to silence peaceful dissent have moved from torture, rape and harassment to branding protesters and opposition activists as “terrorists”.
“Everyone who opposes the authority is accused of terrorism and is exploited in issuing harsh sentences on people who wrote leaflets calling for change or refused Military intervention in the political and media scene,” he said.
“Plans to assassinate and kidnap political activists and media professionals through cells affiliated with intelligence, even reached the limit of cooperation with mafia networks, including those affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, to carry out killings or kidnappings of Algerians in Turkey and Europe,” he said.
The writer deplores the obsession of the Algerian regime with Morocco and denounces the connivance of Algerian generals with the Polisario separatist militias.
The Tindouf camps have “become a scene of human rights crimes, where there are significant violations by a parallel authority represented by the Polisario, which practices torture, tyranny, and corruption and has secret cells outside the authority of the Algerian state,” he said.
Malik’s article came in a spate of recent op-eds in prestigious international media known for their unbiased reporting at a time where the regime imposes a media-blackout. The Economist has pointed that AFP had to close its Algiers bureau, while no major French newspaper has a correspondent there.
Meanwhile, The Economist described the Algerian medias as “pathetically sycophant,” pointing to the full control imposed by the regime on editorial lines.
Few weeks ago, a journalist wanted to do his job by investigating the reasons why tons of Algerian dates have been returned by France. He ended up in prison like at least 300 other people jailed for expressing their opinions or hopes for political change.
During the UPR, the Algerian minister had faced human rights activists including representatives of the MAK demanding an end to Algeria’s violations of key rights.
The Algerian military regime can no longer cover the sun with a finger. The reputation of Algeria as a closed country turning its back to investors, tourists and journalists will only worsen the country’s perception.
Deeply concerned about the actions of the Algerian regime, which continues its systematic repression of human rights activists and its destabilizing policy throughout the region, the MEPs are multiplying their warnings about the serial violations by Algiers of its association agreement with the European Union. Faced with this situation, many MEPs from different groups in the European Parliament have repeatedly questioned the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen. The repetitive, systematic and obstinate nature of Algerian actions requires, according to them, an “urgent and firm” intervention of the European Union as the provisions of the EU-Algeria Association Agreement, signed in April 2002 and entered into force in September 2005, are widely flouted. They cite, for example, Article 2 of the agreement which states that “respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights inspire the national and international policies of the Parties and constitute an essential element of the agreement. The MEPs protest, among other things, against the situation of at least 266 activists of the Hirak movement, who “are still languishing in Algerian jails solely for having exercised their right to freedom of expression.”
The MEPs noted in a recent letter to the head of European diplomacy that the Algerian authorities “have violently repressed the demonstrations of the Hirak movement.” Several activists and journalists have been arrested “arbitrarily” for peacefully expressing their opinions. Some arrests have resulted in long prison sentences based on the “ambiguous” provisions of the Algerian penal code, MEPs said, also mentioning numerous cases of torture in detention. Respect for the principles of the rule of law, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and women’s rights must be “a cornerstone of the EU’s external action,” they insisted. In the European Parliament, the belligerent actions of Algiers, in a context of war in Europe, also raise a “deep concern”. The MEPs denounce in particular the “crazy” race of the Algerian regime to the armament and its “double standards”.
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Algeria: Spain forsakes international obligations in appalling refoulement of Algerian whistleblower
Aithor: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Source: IFEX: The Global Network Defending and Promoting Free Expression
URL: Algeria: Spain forsakes international obligations in appalling refoulement of Algerian whistleblower
Date: March 29, 2022
Rights groups condemn Spain's deportation of Algerian activist Mohamed Benhalima who faces a high risk of torture, arbitrary detention and unfair trial in Algeria.
The undersigned organisations strongly condemn the deportation by Spain of Algerian activist Mohamed Benhalima, in the evening of 24 March 2022, despite the risks of torture and serious human rights violations he faces in Algeria, and therefore in blatant violation of Spain’s international obligations on non-refoulement. The authorities had been made aware, through civil society and legal appeals, that Mr Benhalima faces a high risk of torture, arbitrary detention and unfair trial in Algeria, where such violations are increasingly common against prisoners of opinion and peaceful activists.
Mohamed Benhalima is an Algerian citizen and a former army corporal, who became a whistleblower to expose corruption among Algeria’s high-ranking military officials in 2019. He left Algeria after receiving information that his name was on a list of wanted military officials at risk of detention by the Algerian army for their participation in the Hirak, a mass pro-democracy protest movement.
He sought asylum in Spain on 18 February 2020 and again on 18 March 2022 Spain refused him asylum both times. On 14 March 2022, authorities opened an administrative file of expulsion for infringement of Art. 54.1.a. of Immigration Law 4/2000, alleging that Mr. Benhalima took part in “activities contrary to public security or which may be harmful for Spanish relationships with foreign states”.
Spanish authorities justified the opening of an expulsion file based on Mr. Benhalima’s alleged association with political opposition group Rachad, which was listed as a terrorist group by Algeria on 6 February 2022 . Spanish authorities claimed that Rachad’s objective was to infiltrate radical youth into Algerian society to protest against the Algerian government, and concluded that the activist was member of a terrorist group.
Spanish authorities did not provide any proof of use of violence, advocacy of hatred, or any other action taken by the activist that could be considered as “terrorism” in accordance with the definition proposed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism . Authorities also do not appear to have considered a context in which Algerian authorities have been increasingly levelling bogus terrorism and national security charges against peaceful activists, human rights defenders and journalists since April 2021. On 27 December 2021, UN Special Procedures warned  that the definition of terrorism in the Algerian Penal Code was too imprecise and undermined human rights. They stated that the procedure for registration on the national terrorist list did not comply with international human rights standards and expressed concern that it could give rise to abuse.
On 24 March around 7pm, Mr. Benhalima’s lawyers were notified of the resolution of expulsion and promptly filed a request for an interim suspensive measure at the National Court of Spain, which was rejected; however, it was revealed later that the activist was already being escorted on a plane to Algeria at the time.
On 21 March 2022, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) submitted a non-public report to the Spanish government stating that Mr. Benhalima’s asylum request should be studied thoroughly in a regular procedure and not rejected expediently, arguing that the risk of torture was credible and that Algeria’s criminalisation of peaceful opposition was internationally recognised.
On 27 March, Benhalima appeared in a video broadcasted on Ennahar TV, in which he “confesses” to the crimes of conspiracy against the state and states that he was not treated badly in custody. However, the undersigned organisations call into question the reliability of such statements which might be the result of duress. In addition, Benhalima had himself released a video from the retention centre in Valencia, before his deportation to Algeria, in which he warns that such videos would not be genuine and would show that he “was subjected to severe torture at the hands of intelligence services.”
In January and March 2021, in Algeria, Mohamed Benhalima was sentenced in absentia to a total of 20 years in prison for charges including “participation in a terrorist group” (Article 87bis 3 of the Penal Code) and “publishing fake news undermining national unity” (Art.196 bis) among other charges. The overly broad formulation of both articles has been used by Algeria repeatedly to criminalise people who have expressed any form of dissent. In one of the two verdicts, issued on 9 March 2021, the judge sentenced Benhalima to 10 years in prison for his online publications, including videos exposing corruption in the army, a form of expression which is protected under the right to freedom of expression.
Spanish authorities additionally motivated the expulsion based on Mr. Benhalima’s close relationship with Mohamed Abdellah, another Algerian whistleblower and former member of the military, who also sought refuge in Spain in April 2019 and was forcibly returned on 21 August 2021 using Art. 54.1.a. of Law 4/2000, in similar circumstances and for the same motives.
Mohamed Abdellah, currently detained in the military prison of Blida, stated in court on 2 January 2022 that he had been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment upon his return to Algeria, including physical abuse and prolonged solitary confinement in a cell with no light, according to a witness who attended the hearing. He was also deprived of access to a lawyer.
Despite the strong similarities between both cases providing a compelling precedent about the actual risk of torture and other ill-treatment of activists and whistleblowers in Algeria, notably former members of the military, the Spanish government showed its determination to forcibly return someone where their physical and psychological integrity was not guaranteed. In doing so, Spain flouted critical international law obligations that forbid governments to return individuals to a country where they would be in danger of suffering torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The government’s decision to expel Mr. Benhalima and the decision of the National Court not to apply a suspensive measure are in contravention of Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) ratified by Spain in 1987, which provides for an absolute protection against refoulement of persons in danger of being tortured or otherwise ill-treated in a State to which they are to be expelled, returned or extradited. According to the UN Committee against Torture, nobody can be excluded from this protection even if they are deemed to pose a threat to national security and are not eligible for asylum . The Committee has shown that once a person alludes to a risk of torture, a State party can no longer cite domestic concerns as grounds for failing in this obligation , and that such considerations emphasise the importance of appropriate review mechanisms . The Committee further explained that diplomatic assurances could not be used as a justification for failing to apply the principle of non-refoulement .
Similarly, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has been interpreted by the European Court on Human Rights as providing an effective means of protection against all forms of return to places where there are substantial grounds to believe that the person would be subjected to torture, or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment . For the Court, this obligation prevails over any obligation to return, expel or extradite arising from other international or bilateral commitments . Article 3 is further listed in Article 15(2) of the ECHR as a non-derogable provision, which leaves no scope for limitations under any circumstances, whether they be safety, public order or other grounds .
 Algerian Official Gazette, n°11 of 27 February 2022.
 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, 22 December 2010, A/HRC/16/51 [link]
 OL DZA 12/2021.
 See example Human Rights Committee, Khan v Canada, N°15/1994 (n 1); VXN and HN v Sweden, N°130/1999 and 131/1999
(n° 49) para 14.3; Dadar v Canada, N° 258/2004, UN Doc CAT/C/35/D/258/2004, 23 November 2005,
paras 4.4, 8.8.
 UN Committee Against torture, Adel Tebourski v France, No 300/2006 (n°49) para 8.3.
 UN Committee Against Torture, Agiza v Sweden, N°233/2003, UN Doc CAT/C/34/D/233/2003, 20 May 2005, para 13.8
 UN Committee against torture, Abichou v Germany, N°430/2010, UN Doc CAT/C/50/D/430/2010, 21 May 2013, para 11.5
 UNHCR Manual on Refugee Protection and the ECHR Part 2.1 – Fact Sheet on Article 3.
 Ibid, para. 2.5.
 European Court of Human Rights, Ireland v. United Kingdom, Judgement of 18 January 1978, Series A, No. 25, para. 162 and 163.
Click on the photo of Mohamed to see all items related to him. JUNE 2017: Mohamed Harkat once again faces deportation to his native Algeria after the Supreme Court of Canada declared the federal government’s security certificate regime constitutional.
This fight is not over. The Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee will re-double its efforts to see that justice is done for Mohamed Harkat and that the odious security certificate system of injustice is abolished once and for all.