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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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: Recent Reports

Algeria: Recent Reports
Date distributed (ymd): 981122
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: North Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains two press releases from Human Rights Watch, plus brief excerpts from a recent UN report on Algeria. The report, from the UN Panel of Eminent Personalities was widely viewed by human rights groups as insufficiently critical of the Algerian government's human rights record. Human Rights Watch and other groups continue to call for a full independent investigation of the responsibilities of both government and terrorist groups in massacres of civilians in that country. For a wide range of additional background and activist links on-line, see the web site of Algeria Watch International (, an independent non-governmental organization (P.O. Box 27423,West Allis,Wisconsin, 53227, USA. Tel: 1-610-634-0810. Fax: 1-610-695-5636. E-mail:

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Human Rights Watch Calls on Algeria to Lift Economic Siege against Critical Newspapers
(November 10, 1998)

For more information contact:
Jean-Paul Marthoz, Brussels 32(2)732-2009
Eric Goldstein, Washington (001)202-371-6592 ext. 115

Human Rights Watch,
485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104
TEL: 212/972-8400; FAX: 212/972-0905; E-mail:

1522 K Street, N.W., Washington D.C. 20005
TEL: 202/371-6592; FAX: 202/371-0124 E-mail:;

Web site:

see also:
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Special Report on Algeria (1998) (Scroll to bottom of frame for link to report)

(New York, November 10, 1998) -- Human Rights Watch today called on the government of Algeria to end the politically motivated financial pressures against four private dailies that have led to a three-week-long strike by seven of the country's leading newspapers.

The four papers were squeezed after they ran a series of unprecedentedly critical articles attacking top presidential advisor General Mohamed Betchine and Justice Minister Mohamed Adami, apparently hastening their resignations.

Following the publication of the exposes, which many observers characterized as a campaign targeting Betchine and other allies of President Zeroual, the government-owned printing presses on October 14 informed El-Watan, Le Matin, Le Soir d'Algerie and La Tribune that they would have to pay their debts in full within forty-eight hours. This demand reportedly contradicted an understanding reached between newspapers and printing presses earlier in 1998, and appeared to single out particular titles for their critical coverage. Following the notification by the printers that they intended to suspend services unless these four dailies paid their arrears, the printers informed two of them, El-Watan and Le Matin, that their printing was being suspended. In response to the printing halt, Le Soir d'Algerie and La Tribune, along with three other dailies, Liberte, El-Khabar, and Le Quotidien d'Oran, went on solidarity strike, leaving the country without seven of its leading dailies. The last three resumed publication on November 8. El-Watan announced that it had repaid all its depts to the printers on November 9, but as of November 10 publication had not resumed. During the strike, many of these newspapers published articles and declarations daily on the Internet.

Sudden demand for debt payment, in apparent disregard for existing understandings on repayment, is a method that Algerian authorities have used previously to exploit their monopoly on printing presses to punish critical newspapers while favoring those that toe the line.

The popular Arabic daily Ech-Chorouk was temporarily unable to publish in 1997 after its public-sector printer stopped printing it, citing unpaid bills. Ech-Chorouk eventually got a court to order its printer to resume printing the newspaper on the grounds that the printer had breached a contract with it. In December 1996, the opposition weekly La Nation was forced to shut down when its public-sector printer demanded full payment of arrears. La Nation remains closed, although it has reportedly reached agreement with printers on debt repayment and has been given authorization to resume publication.

Another vehicle of carrot-and-stick pressure on the press is the centralized agency that determines placement of all advertising purchased by public-sector entities, the main source of advertising revenues for Algeria's print media.

The New York-based Committee To Protect Journalists reported, in a communique dated October 28, that Communications Minister Habib Chawki had assured its representatives that newspapers could establish private printing facilities without government interference. Human Rights Watch welcomes this assurance and believes that the availability of private-sector printers is a safeguard of press freedom.

In the present situation of state monopoly over printing presses, Human Rights Watch urges state-owned presses not to practice discrimination on political or other grounds in their dealing with client publications. We also call on the government of Algeria to intervene with state-owned printers to rescind the demands for immediate debt payment that contradict earlier understandings and appear motivated by a desire to silence particular titles because of their outspokenness. Such steps will help to protect freedom of expression, a right enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Algeria is a signatory.

Human Rights Watch Calls on Algeria to Set Up Independent Investigation of Atrocities
(August 31, 1998)

For further information:
Joe Stork (Washington): 1 202 371 6592 ext. 118 (w); 1 202 291 0846 (h)
Nejla Sammakia (Washington): 1 202 371 6592 ext. 144
Jean-Paul Marthoz (Brussels): 32 2 736 7838 Hanny Megally (New York): 1 212 216 1230

For text of full report:

(Washington, August 31) -- Human Rights Watch today urged the government of Algeria to set up a credible independent investigation into the massacres that have killed thousands of women, men, and children in recent years.

In a report released today, Human Rights Watch disputed the government's claim that Algeria's crisis is solely "a terrorist phenomenon." "On the one hand, ordinary civilians have been brutally slaughtered by armed groups, which have waged a campaign of terror and sexual violence against women and girls in particular," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the organization's Middle East and North Africa division. "On the other hand, security forces have been implicated in torture, forced 'disappearances,' arbitrary killings, and extrajudicial executions on a scale that can only be characterized as systematic."

The report endorsed the recent findings of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, an expert body which concluded that allegations of involvement or collusion by the security forces themselves in the mass atrocities were widespread and persistent enough to require independent investigation. The U.N. experts made their findings public in early August, after examining the government's fifty-five page report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and following two days of meetings with Algerian officials. The findings constitute the most severe indictment by any U.N. body of the government's practices since civil strife escalated in Algeria in 1992.

"Credible investigations are critical to ensure that the perpetrators of atrocities and human rights abuses do not enjoy impunity, and the victims are not compelled to live in perpetual fear," said Megally. Human Rights Watch called on President Liamine Zeroual to give the investigation "the power to question government officials and security forces at all levels."

The Algerian authorities have steadfastly refused to cooperate with U.N. human rights bodies, such as the special rapporteurs on torture and on extrajudicial executions and arbitrary killings, which have sought to visit Algeria. The government did invite a "panel of eminent persons" appointed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to visit from July 22 to August 4. The panel, headed by former Portuguese president Mario Soares, was asked to "gather information on the situation in Algeria" and to prepare a report which the secretary general would then make public. "Although the special panel does not have an expressly human rights mandate," said Megally, "the Human Rights Committee's findings will focus greater attention on its handling of Algeria's human rights crisis, a crisis the government insists does not exist. But the diplomats' visit is no substitute for an in-country investigation by U.N. human rights experts."

Human Rights Watch, together with other independent human rights groups, publicly called for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in October 1997 to initiate an international investigation with respect to massacres and gross abuses.

In this latest report, Human Rights Watch also called on Algeria to investigate and prosecute officials responsible for forced "disappearances" and for practicing or condoning the torture of detainees. The report released today includes the review of Algeria's human rights record that Human Rights Watch submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee and the full text of the committee's "Concluding Observations." It is available in French and Arabic as well as in English, and on the Internet.


(released September 16, 1998)

Excerpts: Contents, Introduction and Concluding Observations

Full report:


Part One: The activities of the Panel

Part Two: A brief history of developments, 1954-1992

Part Three: The Government's three-pronged approach for dealing with the situation in Algeria

  1. Political situation
  2. Economic and social situation
  3. Security

Part Four: Information gathered by the Panel

  1. Democratization and overall governmental structure
  2. Economic and social problems
  3. Terrorism
  4. Human rights and fundamental freedoms (a) Disappearances (b) Torture
  5. The media
  6. Diversity
  7. Women
  8. Children

Part Five: Concluding observations


On 29 June 1998, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, His Excellency, Mr. Kofi Annan, made the following announcement: "At the invitation of the Government of Algeria, the Secretary-General has today established a panel of eminent persons to visit that country. The purpose of this mission will be to gather information on the situation in Algeria and present a report to him, which he will make public. The Government of Algeria has assured the Secretary-General that it will ensure free and complete access to all sources of information necessary for the panel to exercise its functions, in order to have a clear vision and a precise perception of the reality of the situation in all its dimensions in Algeria today."

The Panel consisted of: Mr. Mario Soares, former President of Portugal (Chairman); Mr. I. K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India; Mr. Abdel Karim Kabariti, former Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Jordan; Mr. Donald McHenry, former Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations; Mrs. Simone Veil, former State Minister of France and former President of the European Parliament; and Mr. Amos Wako, Attorney-General of Kenya.

The Panel visited United Nations Headquarters in New York on 8 July 1998 for meetings with the Secretary-General and for consultations with other senior United Nations officials, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The panel then proceeded to Lisbon from 20 to 22 July, where it planned its visit. In Lisbon, as well as in New York, the panel met with a number of international experts on Algeria. It thereafter proceeded to Algeria where it stayed from 22 July to 4 August 1998.

Following its departure from Algiers the panel once again met in Lisbon on 5 and 6 August where it had further meetings and worked on its report. The Panel subsequently approved this report for submission to the Secretary-General.

In approaching our work, we were mindful that our mission was to gather information on the situation in Algeria in order to provide greater clarity on that situation with a view, hopefully, to helping Algerians move forward in peace, harmony and justice. We saw our task as complementary to but separate from the special procedures of the United Nations human rights programme.

In conducting our visit to Algeria, we decided on our programme as the visit progressed, and directly contacted persons and organizations we wished to see. During our visit we arranged for staff to receive messages from the public. We tried to follow-up as much as we could. However, shortage of time did not permit us to respond to many submissions. We had neither the means nor the mandate to conduct investigations of our own.

Part Five: Concluding observations

Before concluding this report, we would like to thank all the Algerians we met for their cooperation and support. The Algerian authorities, as well as the Algerians we met were cordial in their welcome and we are grateful for all the efforts made to help make our stay fruitful.

In offering some observations we would like to state, first, our categorical rejection of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Terrorism has been condemned outright by the international community and is illegal under international law. Algeria deserves the support of the international community in its efforts to combat this phenomenon.

We also condemn any form of extremism or fanaticism that might be offered as a pretext for the acts of terrorists. There is no excuse for terrorism. We are satisfied that Algerian society is capable of expressing political views and discussing them within the framework of legality.

Second, efforts to combat terrorism must take place within the framework of legality, proportionality, and respect for the fundamental human rights of the Algerian population. The law enforcement, security and self-defence forces should be held to the highest standards of accountability so that the Algerian population and the international community at large will feel confident that the rule of law prevails in Algeria. It is with more democracy and more respect for human rights that one can fight terrorism.

We think that Algeria deserves the support of the international community in the implementation of the broad lines of the strategy explained to us, to consolidate democratic institutions, to address economic challenges, to defeat terrorism, and to establish security, subject to scrupulous respect for the rule of law and respect for human rights in daily practice.

We believe that it is indispensable to strengthen democratic pluralism and to reinforce the civilian element in government, which is now feasible.

Third, we believe that energetic efforts should be made to entrench in society and all public institutions a state of legality and respect for the rule of law, as well as to encourage more political openness. It is important to work resolutely for a change of mentality in the judiciary, the institutions responsible for upholding human rights, in the police and the army, and in the Algerian body politic as a whole.

Fourth, we believe that there is considerable room to accelerate the pace of privatization of the Algerian economy. Privatization will release the creative energies of the Algerian people, contribute to a more vibrant economy, and help generate the resources needed to tackle social problems, such as high unemployment, housing shortages, and decreased per capita income. It is crucially important, at the same time, that the Government give serious consideration to programmes of social reform that would reduce the sense of hopelessness that we were told was very widespread among large sections of Algerian youth. Unless these pressing social problems are tackled urgently and effectively, Algeria could experience more social dislocations and tension in the future.

Fifth, the international community should consider avenues or programmes of cooperation and support, in solidarity with Algeria in its efforts to deal with the pressing problems facing it. Algeria will need the support of the international community in order to pursue its political and economic policies and conduct its fight against terrorism as outlined in this report. It will particularly need support in order to address the social problems on the resolution of which its future internal stability and progress will, in large part, depend. If the situation in Algeria deteriorates, this could have a very negative impact on the Mediterranean region, in Europe, and in the international community.

Sixth, further invigoration and strengthening of the Algerian institutions responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights as well as expeditious attention to complaints of arbitrary detention, extrajudicial execution and disappearances would all be measures in the right direction.

Finally, the Algerian authorities should examine measures to improve the transparency of their decisions, the dialogue with and the flow of information to the Algerian citizenry.

10 September 1998

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). 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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