Amnesty International today calls on the Italian EU Presidency to urgently address the continuing serious human rights situation in Algeria, in view of the EU-Algeria Association Agreement, signed in April 2002 and soon to be ratified by all parties.
The call coincides with the release of Amnesty International’s major new report: “Algeria: Steps towards change or empty promises ” (available in English and French see end of page).
The 45-page report shows that recent reforms by the Algerian authorities have failed to address the gravest human rights concerns, resulting in a lack of public confidence in the government’s stated commitment to improving the human rights situation:
- Investigations into human rights abuses, whether they were committed by state agents or members of armed groups, are rarely carried out, maintaining a climate of impunity and confusion.
- The legacy of a decade of violence is yet to be concretely addressed, leaving victims and their families feeling abandoned and the population without guarantees that the grave human rights abuses they have witnessed in recent years will not be perpetuated.
- The Algerian authorities, moreover, continue to deny that state agents have been responsible for widespread patterns of human rights violations.
At the same time, despite some positive developments, the human rights situation in Algeria remains of serious concern. Around 100 people continue to be killed each month by armed groups, the security forces and state-armed militias, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence in indiscriminate bomb explosions or targeted armed attacks.
Torture in state custody continues to be widespread and is systematic in cases linked to what the authorities describe as “terrorist” activities. The vast majority of cases of torture and secret detention reported in the last two to three years appear to have been carried out in military compounds run by Military Security, the most secretive and unaccountable of Algeria’s security services.
“The Italian EU Presidency must take seriously its responsibilities under the soon-to-be ratified EU-Algeria Association Agreement which contains a mutually-binding human rights clause,” Dick Oosting, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office said. “Shying away from confronting Algeria now, for its failure to address the most serious human rights abuses, will simply fuel the frustration felt by many Algerian citizens.”
“In its forthcoming talks with the Algerian authorities, the EU must seek concrete commitments to improve the situation, and to address the lack of accountability for past crimes,” he said. In particular, Amnesty International calls on the EU to demand commitments from the Algerian authorities to:
- Ensure that the national body on “disappearances” announced by President Bouteflika on 6 August 2003 will have the necessary independence and powers to help reveal the truth about Algeria’s thousands of “disappeared”, and will put victims’ interests first;
- End impunity, including by putting an immediate stop to the practice of granting exemption from prosecution to armed group members who surrender to the authorities and by declaring the amnesty of 10 January 2000 null and void;
- Ensure that the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry into the killing of dozens of unarmed demonstrators in Kabylia in 2001 are followed up by thorough, impartial and independent investigations to identify the individuals responsible for every one of the killing and ensure that they are brought to justice in proceedings that meet international standards for fair trial.
For further comment/background and interviews:
Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):
E-mail: [email protected]