Annual Report: Algeria 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Algeria 2013

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  • Abdelkader Kherba, a member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) and the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC), was fined and received a suspended prison sentence of one year in May after a court convicted him of “direct incitement to a gathering” for joining and filming a sit-in protest by judicial clerks. He was held in custody from 19 April to 3 May. He was again arrested, detained and prosecuted after attempting to film a demonstration against water cuts at Ksar El Boukhari, Médéa, in August. Charged with insulting and committing violence against an official, he was acquitted and released on 11 September.
  • Yacine Zaïd, a trade union activist and president of the LADDH’s Laghouat branch, was arrested and beaten by police in October. He received a suspended six-month prison term and was fined for “violence against a state agent”. The court ignored his allegation of assault by police despite medical evidence.
  • Yacine Zaïd and three other human rights defenders who participated in a sit-in outside the court trying Abdelkader Kherba in April were charged with “inciting a non-armed gathering”, which carries a punishment of up to one year’s imprisonment. On 25 September, the court declared it was unable to try them; however, the charges were still pending at the end of the year.

>Counter-terror and security

Armed groups, including Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), carried out bombing and other attacks, mostly against military targets. The authorities reported killings of members of armed groups by the security forces but disclosed few details, prompting fears that some may have been extrajudicially executed. At least four civilians were reportedly killed by bombs or security forces’ gunfire. The Department of Information and Security (DRS) retained wide powers of arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention of terrorism suspects, facilitating torture and other ill-treatment.

  • Abdelhakim Chenoui and Malik Medjnoun, who were jailed for 12 years in 2011 for the murder of Kabyle singer Lounès Matoub, were released in March and May 2012 respectively. Both had been detained continuously from 1999 until their trial in 2011. Abdelhakim Chenoui said he was forced to “confess” under duress and Malik Medjnoun alleged that he was tortured in police detention in 1999.

Impunity for past abuses

The authorities took no steps to investigate thousands of enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses committed during the internal conflict of the 1990s. The Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation (Law 06-01), in force since 2006, gave immunity to the security forces and criminalized public criticism of their conduct. Families of those forcibly disappeared were required to accept death certificates in order to receive compensation but were denied information about the fate of their disappeared relatives. Those who continued to call for truth and justice faced harassment.

  • Mohamed Smaïn, former head of the LADDH in Relizane and an advocate of truth and justice for the families of the disappeared, was arrested in June when he failed to respond to a summons from the Relizane prosecutor. The summons was in connection with a two-month prison sentence and fines imposed on him after he criticized the authorities for moving corpses from a mass grave in Relizane in 2001. His sentence had been confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2011. He was released under a presidential pardon issued in July on health grounds.

Women’s rights

Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. However, following legislation in 2011 to increase women’s representation in parliament, women won almost a third of the seats in national elections in May.

In March, the CEDAW Committee urged the government to reform the Family Code to give women equal rights with men in relation to marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance. The Committee also urged the government to withdraw Algeria’s reservations to CEDAW, ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, enact laws to protect women against domestic and other violence, and address gender inequality in education and employment.