by Eric Goldstein
Source: Human Rights Watch
Date: May 26, 2022
Efforts to Crush Domestic Protests Reaches Algerians Abroad
Compared to the most brazen practitioners of pursuing political opponents abroad – Saudi Arabia, for example, dismembering journalist Jamal Khashoggi – Algeria has garnered little attention.
But activists within Algeria’s diaspora are fearful, after several cases that seem to complement government efforts to crush the three-year-old peaceful protest movement known as the “Hirak.”
On March 24, Spain issued an expulsion order against former army corporal Mohamed Benhalima and flew him the same day to Algeria, which had reportedly issued an international arrest warrant for him. Benhalima had fled to Spain in 2019 fearing reprisals, he said, after participating in Hirak street protests. In Europe, Benhalima maintained a YouTube channel denouncing military officials.
Spain twice rejected Benhalima’s asylum application before sending him to Algeria, despite the UN Refugee Agency’s urging Spain to take into account the credible risk of torture and Algeria’s criminalization of peaceful opposition. Benhalima’s lawyer in Spain has appealed his expulsion.
After getting him back, Algerian authorities promptly jailed Benhalima and tried him for publishing “false information” that harms “territorial integrity” – charges that authorities have used to imprison many of the hundreds of Hirak activists currently or formerly imprisoned.
A court had already sentenced Benhalima to 10 years in prison in absentia for these offenses. Another court reportedly sentenced him to death in absentia, for espionage and desertion.
Slimane Bouhafs had been a UN-recognized refugee in Tunisia. He had left Algeria after serving 18 months of a prison term for “insulting Islam.” Bouhafs, a convert to Christianity, advocates for the rights of Algeria’s Kabyle (Berber) population. On August 25, 2021, witnesses reported seeing men in plainclothes abduct him from his home in Tunis. Four days later he surfaced in police custody in Algiers.
Neither Tunisian nor Algerian authorities have claimed responsibility for Bouhafs’ transfer to Algeria. A promise by Tunisian President Kais Saied to investigate the case went nowhere. Algerian authorities, meanwhile, claim that they arrested him inside Algeria. Bouhafs is in jail, awaiting trial on terrorism-related charges.
Algeria in 2021 broadened the definition of terrorism in penal code article 87bis to include “attempting to gain power or change the system of government through non-constitutional means,” an expansive definition authorities use to prosecute nonviolent opponents, most recently the pro-Hirak journalist Ihsane El Kadi.
This year, at least three Algerian-Canadian binationals were arbitrarily prevented from flying back to Canada and interrogated about their Hirak links. Two of the three were allowed to depart, three months after their initial attempts.
The message is clear: Algerians who speak out need to look out, no matter where they live.
by: Press Release
Source: Amnesty International
Date: March 15, 2022
Responding to the news that the Spanish authorities are planning to deport Mohamed Benhlima, an Algerian asylum-seeker, whistleblower and anti-corruption activist, Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“The Spanish authorities are deeply aware of the grim fate that awaits Mohamed Benhlima if they deport him. Over the last two years, the Algerian authorities have stepped up their brazen prosecution of activists as they seek to crush all forms of dissent.
“The international community has a moral responsibility to stand up for those who expose human rights violations and raise their voice against corruption. Spain must immediately quash its plans to deport Mohamed Benhlima and respect the principle of non-refoulement.
“Under international law, nobody should be returned to a country where they would be in danger of suffering torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Deporting Mohamed Benhlima would represent a serious violation of Spain’s obligations under international human rights law.”
Mohamed Benhlima is an Algerian citizen and a former military official turned whistleblower who exposed corruption among Algeria’s high-ranking military officials in 2019.
He fled to Spain in September 2019 after being informed that his name was on a list of wanted military officials after he participated in the Hirak protest movement. He has since sought asylum in both Spain and France.
On 7 January 2021, he was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for sharing videos online that exposed corruption within the military.
Amnesty International has documented the use of torture and other ill-treatment by Algerian security forces in at least four cases of activists arrested over the past three years for their participation in the Hirak.
In a similar case, Spanish authorities extradited on 20 August 2021 former military official and asylum-seeker Mohmed Abdellah, who had sought refuge in Spain in November 2018 after he had publicly accused the Algerian military of corruption. Upon his extradition to Algeria, Mohmed Abdellah was taken directly to the “Antar” high security centre in Algiers. He remains in detention to date. During a court hearing on 2 January 2022, he publicly stated that he was subject to torture and ill-treatment in detention.
Algerian police said Monday that they had arrested 27 people suspected of belonging to a separatist group that Algiers considers a "terrorist" organization.
The individuals were arrested over the previous 48 hours in a case involving "undermining national unity, harming public order and inciting a gathering", on suspicion of belonging to the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK), authorities said in a statement.
It said 25 people were arrested in Kherrata, which last week saw clashes between protesters and police after a march in support of prisoners of conscience was banned.
AFP quoted the statement as saying that security forces were wounded during the clashes in the town, which is located in the traditionally restive northeastern Kabylie region.
Two other people were arrested in an area around 60 kilometers away, according to the statement.
Items including "military clothing, bladed weapons" and MAK material were found in the individuals' homes, it added.
The suspects were trying to "sow strife and fear among citizens and re-activate sleeper cells of this terrorist organization, on the order of foreign parties", the statement said.
Algeria's Human Rights League (LADDH) on Sunday had called for the release of more than 20 people who it said had been arrested.
Separately, the LADDH said that authorities had arrested "journalist and human rights defender Hassan Bouras" on Monday and searched his home in northwestern El Bayadh.
It said it did not know the reason for Bouras's arrest.
Bouras, who is also a LADDH member, had been sentenced to a year in prison in 2016 for "insulting a judge, a public forces member and a government body".
Rights group Amnesty International at the time called Bouras a "prisoner of conscience" and said he had been sentenced "for a video denouncing corruption of local officials in the city of El Bayadh".
According to prisoners' rights group CNLD, around 200 people are in jail in connection with the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement that has shaken the country sporadically since 2019, or over individual freedoms.
by Jasper Hamann
Source: Morocco World News
Date: June 12, 2021
Upcoming changes in the Algerian penal code will allow its regime to charge journalists and critics as terrorists.
Rabat - Algeria is expanding its Terrorism Act to the extent that it will be able to prosecute its critics and journalists on terrorism charges. An update was published on June 10 that indicates that Algeria’s unpopular regime is broadening the definition of terrorism to include charges commonly levied against journalists, anti-establishment protesters, and even online critics.
Ahead of a weekend of legislative elections, the move appears to constitute another increase in repressive measures by Algeria's ruling elite in the face of domestic opposition and calls for structural reform.
The revisions to the penal code were initiated by the country’s embattled leadership and was discussed and adopted in one session of the country’s Council of Ministers on May 30. Officials in Algiers have indicated that the revised penal code intends to strengthen efforts to combat terrorism, by estbalishing a list of “terrorist people and organizations.”
How the upcoming terrorist “black list”would help combat terrorism, few could explain.
A closer examination of the changes made to the penal code reveals a broad expansion of what the state considers terrorism. While the broadening of the term is indeed likely to lead to increased arrests on terrorism charges, the penal code revisions have no provisions that would actually arrest more extremists.
Instead, the new penal code now considers "any act aimed at the security of the state, national unity and the stability and normal functioning of institutions,” as a terrorist act.
This expansion is likely to concern journalist, Hirak protesters and government critics, as the terms defined as “terrorism” are the exact charges commonly used to arrest whomever the regime considers to be a critic.
The new penal code furthermore acts as an active deterrent to political change in Algeria. Algiers will now consider any action “to work or incite, by any means whatsoever, to gain power or to change the system of governance by non-constitutional means" as an act of terrorism.
The vast broadening of Algeria’s penal code is likely to result in its new “black list” being leveraged as a tool to scare critics and reporters into silence, in fear of being listed as a terrorist. Furthermore it will allow the regular prosecution of the country’s journalists to now be done under the guise of “combatting terrorism.”
Several of the charges described as terrorist acts have before been used to silence and imprison government critics, from established journalists such as Khaled Drareni (who was arrested again this week) to every-day citizens voicing their frustrations on social media.
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.”
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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.
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.