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Algeria: Recent Reports
Algeria: Recent Reports
Date distributed (ymd): 981122
Document reposted by APIC
Region: North Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Human Rights Watch Calls on Algeria to Lift Economic Siege against
(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: email@example.com
1522 K Street, N.W., Washington D.C. 20005
TEL: 202/371-6592; FAX: 202/371-0124 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Web site: http://www.hrw.org
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Special Report on Algeria (1998)
http://www.cpj.org/attacks98/frameset.html (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
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
(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
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
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.
REPORT OF THE PANEL APPOINTED BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED
NATIONS TO GATHER INFORMATION ON THE SITUATION IN ALGERIA IN ORDER TO PROVIDE
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WITH GREATER CLARITY ON THAT SITUATION
(released September 16, 1998)
Excerpts: Contents, Introduction and Concluding Observations
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
- Political situation
- Economic and social situation
Part Four: Information gathered by the Panel
- Democratization and overall governmental structure
- Economic and social problems
- Human rights and fundamental freedoms (a) Disappearances (b) Torture
- The media
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
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
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
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.