On Eve of Algeria's Presidential Elections, Amnesty International Calls for Truth About Killings, Abductions, Torture, Rape

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On Eve of Algeria's Presidential Elections, Amnesty International Calls for Truth About Killings, Abductions, Torture, Rape

In New Report, Organization Points to Lack of Investigations or Accountability for Human Rights Abuses Committed During Algeria's Internal Conflict

LONDON - Ten days ahead of Algeria's
presidential elections, Amnesty International called on the next president
to address the legacy of human rights abuses of the 1990's internal conflict
and respond to thousands of victims let down by the authorities.

"Nothing has been done to address the crimes
that led to the killing of thousands of people in the 1990s," said Philip
Luther, acting director of the Middle East and North Africa program. "How
can there be genuine national reconciliation if the authorities are yet
to establish the truth about past and ongoing crimes and justice for the
victims?"

In a new report, A Legacy of Impunity:
A Threat to Algeria's Future,
Amnesty International raises concerns
on the ongoing lack of investigations into human rights abuses of the past
and present, and the impunity afforded to members of the security apparatus
and armed groups.

According to the Algerian authorities, up
to 200,000 people were killed during the 1990s conflict in Algeria when
governmental forces fought armed groups following the cancellation of the
1992 legislative elections, which were set to be won by the Islamic Salvation
Front.

Armed groups were responsible for the killing
of civilians, abductions, torture and rape. Security forces and state-armed
militias forcibly disappeared thousands of people, killed members of armed
groups or those suspected to belong to them and secretly detained and tortured
others. The authorities deny that they were responsible for widespread
human rights violations.

Amnesty measures instigated and promoted
by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, have prevented
victims and their families from obtaining truth, justice and reparation.
Most crimes that took place during the conflict have never been investigated
and the perpetrators have never been brought to justice.

"The blanket amnesties granted successively
to armed groups and later to members of the security apparatus are an additional
wound inflicted on the victims and their families," said Luther. "Instead
of granting impunity to perpetrators, thereby encouraging further abuses,
the authorities should restore the dignity of victims by sending out a
strong message that such crimes will no longer be tolerated."

The authorities are actively seeking to erase
the memory of the internal conflict without dealing with its consequences
on victims and the general human rights situation and shut down debate
and criticism. Legislation adopted in 2006 muzzles voices critical of the
authorities' conduct during the internal conflict by threatening them
with prison terms of up to five years.

For example, Louisa Saker, who has not seen
or heard from her husband since he was arrested in 1994, was convicted
in 2008 of participating in an unauthorized march because she demonstrated
with families of the disappeared in the north-eastern city of Constantine.
Nonetheless, she is determined to continue her struggle to uncover the
truth about what happened to her husband.

"Families of victims of enforced disappearance
are unable to mourn and achieve closure so long as their ordeal continues
to be ignored," said Luther. "They are pressured into accepting death
certificates and financial assistance whereas they are demanding truth
and justice."
 
Algerian authorities now repeat the same
argument of security threats and counter-terrorism that they used during
the internal conflict to justify ongoing human rights violations. Security
forces, and particularly the Department of Information and Security (Département
du renseignement et de la sécurité, DRS), continue to detain terrorism
suspects incommunicado in secret detention, at times for periods lasting
weeks or even months, and subject them to torture and unfair trials in
a climate of virtually total impunity.

Amnesty international reminds the Algerian
authorities that killings of civilians by the al-Qaeda Organization in
the Islamic Maghreb, which it condemns without reserve, should not be used
to justify violations in the context of counterterrorism.

Amnesty International made a series of recommendations
to the next president in its new report, including:
 
*Repeal laws that entrench impunity benefitting
perpetrators of human rights abuses and ensure that no immunity from prosecution
is granted to any person.

*Clarify the fate of victims of enforced
disappearances and provide their families with an effective remedy; ensure
that financial support to families of victims of enforced disappearances
is not conditional upon the presentation of death certificates.

*Amend laws that curtail freedom of expression
and threaten individuals critical of the conduct of security forces with
imprisonment, and ensure that families and activists can demand truth,
justice and reparation.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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