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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Algeria: Human Rights of Women

Algeria: Human Rights of Women
Date Distributed (ymd): 970311
Document reposted by APIC

This posting contains three documents, one a recent action alert by International Women's Human Rights Law Clinic at the City University of New York (IWHR, e-mail:; the second a background press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, 666 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10012; tel: 212-614-6464; email:; and the third a more general background document from Amnesty International. More information from Amnesty International can be found at the organization's international Web site ( or U.S. Web site (


February 26, 1997

This is an urgent request for your assistance in demanding that the United States government deny political asylum or withholding of deporataion to Anwar Haddam, a key leader, policy maker and spokesperson for the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and Armed Islamic Group (GIA), two of the most extreme and significant terrorist groups in Algeria today.

Anwar Haddam is in the custody of the INS and has made a claim for political asylum. Under U.S. law, Anwar Haddam is not entitled to asylum or withholding of deportation because he has "ordered, inited, assisted of otherwise participated in the persecution" of others. It is the obligation of the federal government, and particularly of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), to enforce this law.

Now there is concern that the United States government may make a deal with Haddam, either giving him political asylum or withholding deportation and thereby allowing him to remain in the country. Either result would be abhorrent and provide him a cloak of legal, moral and political legitimacy.

In his official capacity as a leader and representative of FIS and GIA, Anwar Haddam has assisted and participated in a criminal campaign of terror against civil society in Algeria, targeting indepedent democrats, intellectuals, feminists and women who do not conform to Islamist dictates, as well as journalists and foreigners. The acts of terror include assassination and summary execution; beheading and mutilation; hijacking and hostage-taking; and the burning of schools.

The stated goal of this campaign-- which FIS/GIA call a jihad or holy war-- is to establish a theocratic state that would function according to tenets comparable to those enunciated by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Like the Taliban, the FIS/GIA call for and enforce through violence and terror, the complete segregation of men and women in public life and the obedience of women to their version of Islam. Particularly vicious acts of violence against women in Algeria have included the beheading of a young girl who appeared in public without a veil; and the kidnapping, rape and murder of young wmen who have been forced into "temporary mariages" and held in sexual slavery at the secret bases of militant terrorist groups.

Anwar Haddam has played a significant role in the planning and conduct of these terror campaigns, and has also claimed the power to stop it if the FIS/GIA demands are met. As spokesman for FIS/GIA, he has publicly justified and applauded brutal assassinations and bombings. He is currently the target of an investigation by the French government into bombings in France; it is believed that there is a sealed indictment and strong evidence against him in this connection.

As detailed in the attached press release issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, on December 17, 1996 a group of women's rights advocates, intellectuals, journalists and poitical democrats from Algeria filed suit in the federal district court in Washington, D.C. charging Haddam and FIS with crimes against humanity and other egregious violations of human rights.

Anwar Haddam has resided in the U.S. acting as representative of the FIS, since 1993. In the fall of 1996, his initial claim for asylum was denied and he was subsequently arrested by the INS. Once in custody, he renewed his request for political asylum.

Women's groups and advocates of religious tolerance and democratic ideals around the world are outraged that the United States would consider providing this kind of protection to Anwar Haddam and his terrorist organizations. Not only would such an action by the U.S. government provide a veneer of legitimacy to Haddam and FIS/GIA, it would send a message to terrorists in many parts of the world that the United States is prepared to give them explicit or tacit protection. It would also communicate to all who struggle against such terror that gross violations of their human rights do not matter.

We therefore call on the United States government to firmly oppose Anwar Haddam's claim for political asylum and to pursue his involuntary deportation.

Please fax letters stating your concern to: President Clinton (202) 456-2461, Attorney General Janet Reno (202) 514-4371, Secretary of State Madeline Albright (202) 647-7120, Director of INS Doris Meisner (202) 514-3296


Press Release

Contact: Jenny Green at (212) 614-6434/6431 or Rhonda Copelon at (718) 575-4300


Anwar Haddam and Islamic Salvation Front Charged In U.S. Human Rights Lawsuit

Washington, D.C., December 18th, 1996 - Late last evening women's rights advocates, intellectuals, political democrats, journalists, and opponents of religious intolerance, sued the Islamic Salvation "Front (FIS), and its US-based representative, Anwar Haddam, for crimes against humanity, war crimes and other human rights violations. The FIS and its armed branches, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA, Armed Islamicj Movement (MIA), and Islamic Salvation Army (AIS), is an organized, fundamentalist, Islamic movement in Algeria which is engaged in a campaign of terror with the objective of using relgion to seize power. FIS/GIA/MIA/AIS tactics include: assassinations, beheading, rape and other torture, hijacking, hostage-taking, mutilation, extortion, ethnic cleansing and sexual slavery. Among its goals are the establishment of a state based on sexual apartheid.

Anwar Haddam has been residing in the US since 1992, during which time he has operated as an official representative of the FIS. Recently, US immigration authorities initiated exclusion proceeding against Haddam and he is currently being held in Virginia, where he was served with the lawsuit late yesterday.

The plaintiffs represent over 1500 women and men, individuals at all levels of society, who asked the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to take legal action intended to hold the FIS, its armed branches, and Haddam responsible for the atrocities they have committed. Independent of the Algerian state, they represent the heterogeneous group of all those working for a civil society in Algeria.

The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the lawsuit with the International Women's Human Rights Law Clinic (IWHR), and the Washington law firm of Maggio and Kattar. The case is brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which has been used to great effect by CCR in vindicating Human Rights violations carried out around the world.

One of the plaintiffs, Jane Doe III, who has requested that the court use a fictitious name for her because of fears for the safety of herself and family, discussed her purpose in bringing the lawsuit: "We have engaged in this action so that those who are responsible, including Anwar Haddam, for the horrors committed against us will not remain unpunished." A second plaintiff continued, "We place this action in the global struggle against all forms of fundamentalism and fascism. In Algeria, the goal of Haddam and the other instigators is to establish a theocratic fascist state. We cannot accept this."

Rhonda Copelon, CCR Vice-President and director of IWHR commented on the importance of the lawsuit: "FIS cannot commit crimes against humanity and expect to operate with impunity in the United States. This case allows those who demand the right to live in security and liberty in a democratic Algeria to make their case in court. The activists who have come forward do so at tremendous risk to themselves and their families."

Amnesty International News

Posted by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 8DJ (Tel +44-71-413-5500, Fax +44-71-956-1157)

News Service 213/96

AI INDEX: MDE: 28/13/96 19 NOVEMBER 1996


BRUSSELS -- Growing numbers of civilians have died or "disappeared" in Algeria in recent years where killings, torture and abductions are committed in the name of the "anti-terrorist fight" by some or "holy war" by others, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

"There is an atmosphere of terror and lawlessness in Algeria, where security forces commit extrajudicial executions, torture and "disappearances", armed opposition groups kill civilians, often decapitating and mutilating their victims, and government-backed militias have taken the law into their own hands," said Pierre Sane, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

Much of the horror which haunts the Algerian population is hidden behind a wall of silence, as the government censors information considered to be security-related, and masked by the indifference of the international community. In its report, based on detailed information gathered from a wide range of sources, including eyewitnesses victims, lawyers, doctors, and army and security forces personnel, Amnesty International -- the only international human rights organization which has continued to visit Algeria in recent years -- discloses the hidden reality.

"Despite repeated claims by the authorities that human rights are respected and that the security situation has improved, the fact that the pattern of abuses continues shows that for both security forces and armed opposition groups human rights abuses are an integral part of their strategy," Mr Sane said.

Amnesty International calls on all armed opposition groups to put an end to their murderous campaign against civilians and on the Algerian authorities to investigate human rights abuses, lift the impunity enjoyed by security forces, and disband the government-backed militias, as a first step to putting an end to the mass violations.

More than 50,000 people are reported to have been killed in the past five years. The identity and motives of those responsible for murders and other atrocities have become increasingly difficult to establish. Security forces often wear plain clothes and do not identify themselves, while armed opposition groups at times wear uniforms and pose as security forces. The proliferation and fragmentation of armed opposition groups, and government-backed militias has further added to the confusion.

"Just citing the numbers of those who have lost their lives can never convey the horror of the suffering of each individual, of each bereaved family," Mr Sane said.

The victims come from all walks of life: women, children, civil servants, teachers, journalists, religious figures, political activists as well as relatives of members of security forces, government-backed militias and armed opposition groups. Many were killed in their homes in front of their families, some after having been abducted, and others were victims of indiscriminate attacks. As the circle of abuses by both government forces and armed opposition has continued to widen, civilians are increasingly trapped in the spiral of violence.

Extrajudicial executions by security forces are widespread and appear to be used as an alternative to arrest, to eliminate suspects, to take revenge for killings of security forces by armed opposition groups, or to intimidate those who may support armed groups. Detainees have been killed during secret detention, weeks or months after their arrest. These victims are sometimes described by the authorities as "terrorists" killed during armed confrontations, or as victims of "terrorist attacks".

Government-backed militias, defined as "self-defence groups" or "patriots", have committed deliberate and arbitrary killings with impunity. These militias, reportedly set up to defend their villages against armed opposition groups, are increasingly involved in "anti-terrorist" operations, acting outside the framework of law-enforcement and accountability. Allowing these militias to take the law into their own hands has further eroded and undermined the rule of law.

Armed opposition groups who define themselves as "Islamic groups" have continued to kill civilians, both in targeted and indiscriminate attacks. Many of their victims have had their throats cut, or were decapitated or mutilated, at times in front of their children and other relatives.

"Such atrocities have created an atmosphere of terror, where people fear not just being killed, but being killed in particularly brutal ways," Mr Sane said.

Furthermore, these groups have increasingly targeted wives and relatives of members of the security forces and have also been responsible for abducting and raping women.

Amnesty International is also concerned about the "disappearances" of hundreds of people arrested by security forces. Some were reportedly seen in secret detention weeks or months after arrest and their families continue to search for them. "All they want to know is if their loved ones are dead or alive and where they are, but the authorities deny all knowledge of them," Mr Sane said.

The practice of torture has become widespread, especially during secret detention in police and gendarmerie stations, military security centres and other places of detention. The aim is mainly to extract confessions, but torture is also used to punish detainees outside the context of interrogation.

No investigations are known to have been carried out into abuses such as extrajudicial executions, torture and "disappearances" and members of the security forces have not been brought to justice for such crimes.

"Victims and their families are therefore left feeling that they have no recourse for seeking justice," Mr Sane said.

While the Algerian authorities have the right and the duty to bring to justice those responsible for killings and other atrocities, no level of violence by armed groups -- no matter how serious -- can ever justify the crimes committed by the security forces.

Amnesty International condemns in the strongest terms the murders and other heinous abuses committed by armed opposition groups against civilians, and calls on these groups to put an end to their campaign of terror. At the same time, the crimes committed by the security forces and government-backed militias cannot be allowed to continue unpunished.

"Urgent measures must be taken by the authorities to investigate these crimes and bring to justice those responsible, so as to end impunity and restore the rule of law," Mr Sane said.


This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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