Annual Report: Algeria 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Algeria 2011

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Head of state: Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Head of government: Ahmed Ouyahiya
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 35.4 million
Life expectancy: 72.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 35/31 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 72.6 per cent

Human rights defenders and others were banned from holding some meetings and demonstrations. People suspected of security-related offences were arrested and detained incommunicado. Women victims of gender-based violence were not provided with redress. Foreign nationals were arrested and expelled without recourse to appeal. Christians were prosecuted for practising their faith without permission, and others faced trial for offending Islamic tenets. No executions were carried out, but over 130 people were sentenced to death. The authorities failed to take any steps to combat impunity for enforced disappearances and other serious past human rights abuses.

Background

The government maintained the state of emergency in force since 1992.

At least 45 civilians and some 100 members of the military and security forces were killed in continuing political violence, mainly in bomb attacks by armed groups, particularly Al-Qa'ida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb. Over 200 alleged members of Islamist armed groups were reported to have been killed by security forces in skirmishes or search operations, often in unclear circumstances, prompting fears that some may have been extrajudicially executed.

Strikes, riots and demonstrations by people demanding jobs, housing and better salaries punctuated the year. Some protesters were arrested and prosecuted.

The government said it had invited seven UN Special Rapporteurs to visit Algeria but it did not extend invitations to the Special Rapporteur on torture or the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, despite their long-pending requests to carry out investigative visits.

Freedom of expression, association and assembly

The authorities banned some meetings and demonstrations by human rights defenders, journalists and families of victims of enforced disappearance.

  • In March, the authorities stopped the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights from using its intended venue to hold its annual conference, forcing the organization to change venue at short notice.
  • The authorities banned a protest by journalists and others calling for more press freedom, scheduled for 3 May in Algiers, and briefly detained four of the organizers.
  • From August, the authorities prevented relatives of victims of enforced disappearance from holding public protests in front of the National Advisory Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH) without giving an official reason, and police used violence to disperse protesters who sought to defy the ban.

Journalists and human rights defenders faced defamation or other criminal charges apparently for criticizing state officials or institutions, or alleging corruption.

  • Belhamideche Belkacem, director of the daily Réflexion, and two other men were sentenced to six months' imprisonment on 13 May after being convicted of defaming the Mayor of Ain-Boudinar in an article about alleged corruption published in the newspaper in June 2009. All three remained at liberty awaiting the outcome of an appeal.
  • Anti-corruption activist and journalist Djilali Hadjadj was arrested on 5 September at Constantine airport on the basis that he had previously been convicted in his absence of forgery. He was retried on 13 September in Algiers. He was convicted and sentenced to a suspended six-month prison term and fined, then released.

Counter-terror and security

Officers of the Department of Information and Security (DRS), military intelligence, continued to arrest security suspects and detain them incommunicado, in some cases for more than the 12 days permitted by law, at unrecognized detention centres where they were at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. Impunity for torturing or otherwise abusing security suspects remained entrenched.