Source: The Tennessee Tribune/Zenger News
Date: March 16, 2021
A call by the United Nations for Algeria’s government to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrest and sexual assault, has so far gone unanswered.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on March 5 urged Algeria to launch “a quick, impartial and rigorous investigation” into allegations of severe human rights abuses against pro-democracy demonstrators.
Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the office of the high commissioner, said there were “credible reports” of torture by security forces, and that the United Nations was very concerned about deteriorating conditions in the country.
Thousands of Algerians have been taking part in demonstrations, known as Hirak, calling for a change in government and an end to the military’s control of political affairs. The demonstrations, which began in February 2019, resumed earlier this year after a hiatus due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Algeria and the continued and growing repression of members of the pro-democracy Hirak movement,” Colville said.
He said hundreds of demonstrators have been prosecuted and at least 32 are currently detained. Some detainees were also arrested for posting messages on social media that criticized the government. Some have received long prison sentences for their part in pro-democracy activities.
PHOTO: A student protester who was beaten by police during a peaceful demonstration in March 2020 in Algiers.
The OHCHR said it was calling for an end to the violent repression, arrests and detentions. It also requested that Algeria give “immediate and unconditional release” to pro-democracy demonstrators and drop all charges against them.
Support for Algeria’s pro-democracy movement has come from the Algerian diaspora in France and Canada. Many in the diaspora have filed complaints and cases with the United Nations, denouncing the torture and human rights violations.
PHOTO: This image of Walid Nekkiche includes a statement about his claims of torture while in detention.
Among the cases brought to the attention of the OHCHR is that of Walid Nekkiche, a 25-year-old student who was allegedly raped with a broomstick by security forces while in custody. Nekkiche was released after charges of conspiracy against the state were dropped.
Another case before the OHCHR is that of activist Sami Darnouni, who has been in custody since December 2020. He was sentenced on March 2 to two years in prison on charges of undermining national security and incitement.
His lawyers deny the charges and say that Darnouni was “forced to confess under torture” during his interrogation at the Antar barracks. They said he was stripped, beaten and tortured with electric rods at the barracks in Ben Aknoun in Algiers, where he was transported after his arrest in Tipaza in northwest Algiers.
“The accusations against him are completely false and unjust,” said his lawyer, Haboul Abdellah. “There is no evidence of Mr. Darnouni’s involvement in any crime.”
When Darnouni’s trial began on Feb. 26, the prosecutor’s office of the Court of Tipaza requested that he be given a 10-year prison sentence.
The OHCHR has highlighted Darnouni’s case and that of at least 2,500 others who were arrested or detained during peaceful demonstrations as evidence of the use of excessive force by Algerian security forces.
Criminal proceedings initiated in 2019 and 2020 are continuing against activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists, bloggers and other citizens, the United Nations agency said.
The agency wants Algerian authorities to repeal the country’s laws under which protesters can be prosecuted for expressing negative opinions about the government or assembling peacefully to protest.
Meanwhile, harsh repression of Hirak demonstrations continues, with reports of elderly Algerians being beaten and of a 7-year-old child being picked up by police in the past week.
(Edited by Jewel Carmella Fraser and Judith Isacoff)
Source: The North Africa Post URL: [link] Date: March 8, 2021
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has officially called on the Algerian authorities to conduct “prompt and impartial investigations” into the allegations of torture and sexual abuse suffered by several inmates arrested during the Hirak who openly denounced the ill-treatment inflicted on them by the security services while in police custody.
Rupert Colville, Spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, officially called on the Algerian authorities to “prompt and impartial investigations” into the allegations of torture and sexual abuse made by several detainees in the country. Hirak who openly denounced the ill-treatment inflicted by the security services while in police custody.
In a statement posted Friday on the website of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Spokesman Rupert Colville said the UN body has instructed the Algerian regime to “conduct rapid, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention.”
Rupert Colville also demanded that the Algerian authorities “hold to account all those responsible” for these infamous practices of torture “and to ensure that the victims have access to reparations.”
“We urge the authorities to repeal the legal provisions and policies used to prosecute people who exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly,” said Rupert Colville.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also brought up the issue of prisoners of conscience. The UN body called for the release of all those imprisoned for their political opinions and activities in favor of Hirak.
“We urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily arrested or detained for allegedly supporting the Hirak and to drop all charges against them,” Rupert Colville stated.
The UN body also denounced the resort to excessive force by Algerian security forces to suppress the peaceful demonstrations.
“There have been numerous instances across the country where security forces have used unnecessary or excessive force and arbitrary arrests to suppress peaceful demonstrations,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said.
“These developments echoed what happened earlier in 2019 and 2020, during which a total of at least 2,500 people were arrested or detained in connection with their peaceful activism,” he said.
“Similarly, the criminal prosecution in 2019 and 2020 of activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens expressing dissent continued during the first two months of this year,” he added.
Since mid-February, thousands of Algerians have defied Covid-19 restrictions and took to the streets of Algiers and other cities across the country to commemorate the second anniversary of the Hirak movement and renew their demands for the end of the military junta rule and the establishment of a civilian democratic state.
Source: The North Africa Post
Date: February 14, 2021
Algerian NGOs have announced Saturday in Algiers the setting up of a committee to fight torture and violence suffered by prisoners of conscience, after accusations of rape shocked the public opinion.
The testimony in early February of Walid Nekiche, a 25-year-old pro-democracy activist, who claims to have been tortured and sexually assaulted by members of the security services, triggered indignation and forced the general prosecutor of the Court of Algiers to open an investigation.
In reaction, several associations decided to set up a “Committee to fight torture and inhuman prison conditions of detainees in Algeria”, so that “justice is rendered.”
The new body brings together the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), the National Coordination of Algerian Academics for Change and the Collective of lawyers for the defense of prisoners of conscience.
“By revealing in front of magistrates the abuse he was subjected to, Walid Nekkiche broke the omerta. He showed an exemplary courage,” said representatives of the anti-torture collective at a press conference in Algiers, reported AFP.
Walid Nekiche was arrested on November 26, 2019, for participation in an anti-regime demonstration, known as Hirak. The student, who was placed in pre-trial detention for 15 months, revealed during his trial on February 1 that he had been physically and verbally assaulted, tortured and raped during questioning carried out by elements of the Algerian security services, at the “Antar center”, a barracks on the outskirts of Algiers, notorious for such practices by the security services.
“They tortured me. They sexually assaulted me. They took away my dignity.” It was in these three sentences that Walid Nekiche broke the omerta in a court in eastern Algeria, bringing back to minds the specter of torture in the North African country.
“His rape is our rape, all of us as a people, civil society, activists. It must not go unpunished,” journalist Zoheïr Aberkane, member of the newly created committee, was quoted by AFP as saying.
“We have filed a complaint and we are asking the courts to intervene according to Algerian and international laws”, another member of the committee, lawyer Nacera Hadouche, said.
“The preliminary investigation by the prosecution must not be yet another subterfuge to calm anger and indignation” and “places of torture such as the ‘Antar barracks’ must be banned”, the committee demands.
According to the committee, “the conditions of arrest, incarceration and detention of detainees reported by lawyers confirm cases of ill-treatment, violence and torture in various police structures and security services, as well as in prisons.”
The case of Walid Nekiche was also referred to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by Riposte Internationale, a NGO for the defense of human rights.
Meanwhile, Communication Minister Ammar Belhimer continues to claim that “there are no prisoners of conscience in Algeria,” while the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD) affirms that more than 70 people have been arrested for participating in the Hirak movement and are currently in illegal pre-trial detention.
Walid Nekiche’s case broke out in a context of tension for the regime as the second anniversary of the “Hirak” is nearing. The Hirak for regime change started on February 22, 2019 and prompted two months later the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Date: February 14, 2021
Algerian rights organisations and lawyers have formed a new coalition demanding investigations into allegations of rape and torture of opposition supporters held in custody.
The National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), the National Co-ordination of Algerian Academics for Change and the Collective of Lawyers for the Defence of Prisoners of Conscience announced the committee on Saturday after Walid Nekkiche claimed he was beaten and raped by security forces earlier this month.
The 25-year-old student was detained in November during a march by students as part of the anti-government protest movement known as the Hirak, which marks its second anniversary on February 22.
The CNLD estimates that more than 70 people are currently imprisoned in Algeria in connection with the protests.
“If today we ask for a trial, it is a fair trial: the torturers have not been directly condemned, we have filed a complaint, we have told the justice system to intervene according to domestic and international laws,” Algerian lawyer Nacera Hadouche said.
Journalist Zoheir Aberkane said: “What shocked us is that when Walid Nekkiche is abused, we are all abused, as a people, as civil society, as activists, as citizens, etc. And that, in my opinion, should not go unpunished.”
(c) Copyright Morningstar Online. All rights reserved.
Algerian NGOs create committee to protect prisoners after rape claims
by Afia Owusu
Source: Ghana Crusader
Date: February 15, 2021
Rights groups in Algeria have created a new committee to fight against abuse of prisoners after claims by 25-year-old protester Walid Nekkiche who was beaten and raped by security forces while in custody.
The committee says it will fight against what they call out as torture and inhuman prison conditions.
“What shocked us is that when Walid Nekkiche is abused, we are all abused, as a people, as civil society, as activists, as citizens, etc. And that, in my opinion, should not go unpunished,” said Algerian journalist Zoheir Aberkane.
The committee is made up of the National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), the National Coordination of Algerian Academics for Change and the Collective of lawyers for the defense of prisoner of conscience.
The CNLD estimates more than 70 people are currently imprisoned in Algeria in connection with the Hirak protests or for individual freedoms.
“If today we ask for a trial, it is a fair trial: the torturers have not been directly condemned, we have filed a complaint, we have told the justice system to intervene according to domestic and international laws,” said Algerian lawyer Nacéra Hadouche.
Nekkiche, a student, was arrested in November during a march by students of the anti-government Hirak protest movement.
The second anniversary of the Hirak is on February 22.
The movement forced the resignation of President Bouteflika but they still protest against the government to this day.
Date: February 7, 2021
The testimony of a young Algerian democracy student who claims to have been tortured by members of the security services sparked indignation in Algeria for several days.
“I lived through hell,” said 25-year-old Walid Nekkiche, who was recently released after more than a year in prison in the French-language daily Liberté. “I went through a lot during those fourteen months in prison, and especially the six days I spent in the Ben Aknoun barracks,” known as the Antar Center in Algiers, testifies to the student at the Higher Institute of Sciences of the Sea and Regional Planning (Ismal).
“There was a lot of pressure on me. After this long and excruciating passage in this eerie place, I was introduced to the examining magistrate of the court of Bab El-Oued (north of Algiers) before I was imprisoned in El Harrach prison.” he added.
Sentenced to six months in prison
The young man was released Wednesday after being sentenced to six months in prison for “distributing and possessing leaflets in order to harm the interest of the country”. The prosecutor of the Dar El Beida court in Algiers on Monday requested a life sentence against the student, who was charged with “conspiracy against the state”, “attacking the integrity of the national territory” and “inciting the population to take up arms” very much serious charges under Algerian law.
Tizi Ouzou, a native of Kabylia, was accused of belonging to the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia, an illegal separatist organization, according to Algerian media. “Fortunately, I did not collapse because I was confident that the lawyers were determined and well equipped to bring the false charges against me. I had to hold on for my parents,” said Walid. Nekkiche from Liberty.
I was attacked sexually, physically and verbally
During the trial on Monday, the student said he was “sexually, physically and verbally assaulted by security services during his interrogation.”
The discovery of this abuse sparked outrage and received extensive commentary on some media and social networks, with calls for an investigation increasing. Authorities have not commented.
“We asked for an independent investigation and a judicial investigation to be opened to determine who was responsible,” said Said Salhi, vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.
The request follows “serious statements” made by Walid Nekkiche during his trial in which he alleged “he was tortured in police custody,” Salhi said. According to him, the student’s attorney filed a complaint in July but “there was no follow-up”.
In a joint statement, the National Committee for the Liberation of Prisoners (CNLD) and the National Coordination of Algerian Academics for Change condemned “torture” and “normalization of violence, which in Algeria are reaching alarming proportions”.
Walid Nekkiche was arrested on November 26, 2019 in Algiers during a weekly march by students of the anti-regime protest movement “Hirak”, born in February 2019.
His co-defendant Kamel Bensaad (43) was acquitted. According to the CNLD, around 80 people are currently detained in Algeria in connection with the “Hirak” protests and / or individual freedoms. In at least 90% of cases, law enforcement is based on publications on social networks that are critical of the authorities.
by Press Release
Source: Amnesty International
Date: January 22, 2019
Algeria’s Court of Appeal must end the ordeal of the journalist, Adlène Mellah, who was jailed simply for covering a peaceful public gathering last month, said Amnesty International today ahead of his appeal hearing on 23 January.
Adlène Mellah, director of news websites Algerie direct and Dzair Press has been held in solitary confinement since he was jailed in El Harrach prison on 11 December 2018.
"It is outrageous that a journalist has been imprisoned simply for carrying out his work and exercising his rights to freedom of expression. The authorities must overturn Adlène Mellah’s conviction and drop all the charges against him in this case immediately," said Heba Morayef, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“Adlène Mellah’s case sends an alarming message about the state of media freedom in Algeria today. Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work free from harassment or intimidation, without fear of being arrested by the authorities.”
Adlène was arrested while covering a protest of 200 people in Algiers on 9 December. The demonstration was held in solidarity with the imprisoned singer, Rada Hmimid, known by the stage name Reda City 16. On 25 December, the court of Bab El Oued sentenced Adlène to a year in jail and a 100,000 dinar (around US$843) fine on charges of "rebellion" and "non-armed gathering".
A lawyer present at the trial told Amnesty International that the prosecution’s only evidence against Adlène was his presence at the protest.
In a video of the protest, a police officer is seen telling Adlène to leave the protest. Shortly afterwards, he grabs Adlène by his arm, pushes him and says that public gatherings are illegal. Algerian authorities maintain a de facto ban on protests in Algiers under an unpublished decree from 2001.
Adlène was arrested along with two protesters, Abdelaziz Laadjal and Abdelhafid Benekrouche, who were released later that day. Adlène has been detained since.
In a court session on 18 December, the group of more than 20 lawyers who represent Adlène decided to withdraw and leave the courtroom as a sign of protest against what they said was the "deliberate intention" of the judge to hold an unfair trial.
Prolonged solitary confinement amounting to torture
by Hassan Masiky
Source: Morocco World News
Date: January 16, 2019
Algeria’s intelligence agencies are unhappy with the activities of the US ambassador in Algiers, and they used a pro-military website to convey that displeasure.
Washington D.C. – In an article published on January 15, the Francophone website Algerie Patriotique accused American Ambassador to Algeria John Desrocher of “plotting” with opposition parties to destabilize the current regime and “turn Algeria into a new Syria.”
The article went on to question the real motives behind the American diplomat’s extensive travels around the country and the purpose of his invitations for young Algerians to “undergo” American NGO training on democracy.
The pro-establishment website indicated that the ambassador held secret meetings with opposition groups to encourage them “to carry out actions of subversion.” It suggests that Washington’s top diplomat’s actions and activities are suspect and amount to “political activism” against the Algerian state.
Furthermore, Algerie Patriotique accused, in the same article, Ambassador William J. Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former US deputy secretary of state under President Obama, of conspiring with the Moroccan monarchy to subvert Algeria.
However, the more troubling element in this hard-to-fact-check article is Algerie Patriotique’s comparison of Ambassador Desrocher to his predecessor, “the unmistakable Robert Ford who, in the 1990s, had turned his office of adviser to the US embassy in El-Biar into a headquarters for extremists of the FIS and the armed arm, the GIA,” according to the website.
It is startling to see a pro-government media site accuse past and current American diplomats stationed in Algeria of associating with terrorist groups and plotting to change the government by force. Algerie Patriotique would never have published such an account without the direction and approval of top intelligence officers.
In fact, Algeria’s notorious Military Intelligence manufactures these “type” of stories and feeds them to their social media mouthpieces. The hope is to cast doubt about the allegiance and patriotism of opposition groups fighting for democracy and human rights.
In provoking Ambassador Desrocher, the Algerian government tries to portray the opposition as agents of the American government leading some activists to distance themselves from the work of Western NGOs.
While Algeria is not innately anti-American, it is suspicious of the work of US pro-democracy organizations. The government fears that democracy-building activities are a threat to its rule.
For some independent political observers, Ambassador Desrocher is collateral damage in the larger smear campaign directed by the military to de-legitimize members of a coalition of independent organizations fighting to stop a fifth term for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Nevertheless, accusations of “acts of subversion” against US diplomats are serious and a breach in protocol. Since Algerie Patriotique conveys the position of the powerful military establishment that controls the country, the Algerian government must give some clarifications regarding the publication of such false allegations.
Algerian Politician Warns of Unprecedented Crisis in Algeria
by Tarek Bassa Source: Morocco World News URL: [link] Date: January 13, 2019
Rabat – Abderrazak Makri, the leader of Algeria’s Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) political party, warned of an unprecedented crisis that Algeria may experience beginning in late 2019.
Starting from late 2019 until 2022, “we will experience unprecedented lean years. They will be difficult for Algeria and the ordinary citizen will feel the burden more than others,” Makri wrote on his Facebook page on January 11.
The politician, who is pleading for the postponement of the Algerian presidential election of April 2019, lamented that “the struggle for power and money dominates the political scene” in Algeria.
Few Algerians, according to Makri, “are worried about the economic and social risks that will make Algeria very vulnerable to regional and international threats in the short term.”
Makri warned at the end of his post, “I fear that when all Algerians recognize those who warn and advise from those who deceit and betray, it will be too late.”
A few days before Makri’s warning, a former Algerian prime minister, Ahmed Benbitour, said that Algeria is going through a deep political crisis due to the “autocratic and paternalistic” regime.
Benbitour, who is also an economist, stressed that there should be mobilization to make the current regime relinquish its hold on power and the country’s resources, to help save from political failure and economic crisis.
For Benbitour, Algeria’s “responsible elites” have to assess the situation, inform the population of the dire state of the country, and force a “peaceful” regime change.
“Our country is governed by an authoritarian, paternalistic, and patrimonialist regime that thrives on rent-seeking and economic predation,” Benbitour said Monday in Algiers at a conference on “the Mission of Elites in Saving the Country.”
“A regime change is the key to solving all of our other governance-linked issues,” he added.
Liberté, Egalité, Absurdity: French anti-terror laws are robbing people of their freedom
by Eda Seyhan
Date: November 22, 2018
“We are only an hour from the sea, but I can’t take my children to the beach,” Kamel Daoudi tells me. It is the school holidays and Kamel’s wife and three young children have made the long journey across the country to visit him in an isolated town in western France, a town he cannot leave without facing arrest.
A decade ago, Kamel – a 44-year-old man originally from Algeria - was subjected to an assigned residence order, which effectively put him under indefinite house arrest. Under the measure, he is confined to a town chosen for him by the government. After being moved six times, he is now in Saint-Jean-d'Angély, separated from his family by more than 400km. He lives in a non-descript highway motel approved by the local authority, and must report to the local police station three times a day. At night, he is not allowed to leave his motel due to a curfew.
Kamel’s days are rigidly organised around his journeys to the police station and his curfew – he risks prison if he slips up. “I feel like the main character in the film Groundhog Day, reliving the same day over and over again,” he tells me. “Even prison is less severe than this.” And he should know.
In 2005, Kamel was convicted for a terrorism offence and sentenced to imprisonment. During his prosecution, he was stripped of his French nationality. He spent six years in prison but, despite having served his sentence, he was not allowed to walk free upon release. Instead, the French authorities ordered him to leave the country. However, due to the fact that he would face torture and ill-treatment in Algeria, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that France could not send him there.
French law allows the government to impose assigned residence orders on foreign nationals who, like Kamel, cannot return to their country of nationality. And so began an ordeal that has left him languishing in a legal limbo that has rendered a normal life impossible.
Kamel is not alone in this injustice. While administrative control measures have long been used in cases of foreign nationals like Kamel, such measures have only recently become a key tool in France’s counter-terrorism arsenal. At first only available as an exceptional measure under the state of emergency, counter-terrorism control orders were brought into the ordinary legal system in October 2017.
The Minister of Interior may impose such orders: “for the sole purpose of preventing the commission of terrorist acts.” Individuals are targeted on the basis of broad and vague criteria. The person subject to the order typically does not know the evidence against them unless they appeal the order. Even if they do appeal, they do not get access to the full case against them and face further obstacles to justice.
The measures themselves confine a person to a specific town, require them to report daily to the police and, in some cases, prevent them from contacting certain individuals or visiting certain locations. Should they violate any of these conditions, they risk prison.
These measures are inherently unjust. Pre-emptive justice – penalising someone for what they might do, and not what they have done – is not justice at all.
If the authorities suspect someone of wrongdoing, they should investigate and, if there is enough evidence, prosecute them.
By concentrating power in the hands of the government - completely outside of the normal criminal justice system - administrative control measures are open to abuse and discriminatory application, including toward Muslims. By bypassing the courts, administrative measures deny people the chance to prove their innocence and permit the government to penalise individuals without having to prove their guilt.
The increased use of administrative measures in the counter-terrorism context goes beyond France and has seen an alarming increase in recent years.
Last year, the Dutch parliament passed a law allowing the government to impose control orders for national security reasons on any person they claim “can be associated with terrorist activities” or the support thereof. A bill currently going through the Swiss parliament empowers police to impose restrictions, like bans on contact with certain individuals, on “potentially dangerous persons” without having to charge them with any crime.
This law mirrors a similar expansion of powers of the German federal criminal police in May 2017. The vague nature of these preventative measures, which rely on presumptions of “dangerousness” and potential threats rather than hard evidence, coupled with persistent stereotyping of Muslims across Europe, opens the door to discrimination and abuse.
Disturbingly, these administrative orders are just part of a wider raft of anti-terror laws introduced across Europe in recent years that have had a corrosive effect on the rule of law and have undermined freedoms that we have long taken for granted.
Back in Saint-Jean-d'Angély, crammed into his motel room with his wife and children, I ask Kamel what he would do if the administrative order on him was lifted. “I’d live a normal life,” he tells me. “We made a promise with my wife that we’d go travelling, as a family. I’d arrange my days around the desires and education of my children. I’d try and make up for all the years that I’ve lost.”
Eda Seyhan is a counter-terrorism campaigner in Europe for Amnesty International
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.
Here is the contact information for Sophie Harkat.
Email Sophie: [email]
* * * * * *
Our Legal Team:
Barbara Jackman, Lead Public Counsel for Mohamed Harkat
Jackman, Nazami & Associates
Barristers and Solicitors
596 St. Clair Avenue West
Tel.: (416) 653-9964
* * * * * *
Christian Legeais, spokesperson and bilingual media contact: