July 12, 2006
Amnesty International released a report Monday on evidence of torture by Algeria’s military arm in secret locations
Based on a series of case studies collected between 2002 and 2006, the report, Unrestrained Powers: Torture by Algeria’s Military Security,examines several cases of torture or other ill-treatment by the DRS (Département du renseignement et de la sécurité) in secret detention centres without access to lawyers, independent doctors, family, or any civilian oversight. The paper shows how the “war on terror” is serving as an excuse to perpetuate torture by Algeria’s “Military Security” intelligence agency.
“As a first step, President Bouteflika should acknowledge the disturbing allegations of abuse documented in this report and publicly commit to investigating them. He must also ensure that DRS officers no longer arrest or detain suspects and that any responsible for torture or mistreatment of detainees are promptly brought to justice,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
Countries such as Canada, France, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Spain have forcibly returned individuals suspected of terrorist activities to Algeria despite that the DRS usually detains and interrogates such individuals.
July 4, 2006
Reporters Without Borders issed a statement praising Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to issue a pardon for journalists convicted of defamation or insulting state institutions. The organization also has asked Bouteflika to continue carrying out political reforms.
“President Bouteflika’s pardon suggests he would like to make a fresh start, but we call on him to confirm this desire by carrying out real reforms that would take the pressure off journalists. The reforms should include the decriminalization of press offences so that journalists can work freely, without fear of getting a prison sentence at any moment,” Reporters Without Borders said.
Mohamed Benchicou, former managing editor of Le Matin was one of the journalists recently released in mid-June after two years in prison . He told Reporters Without Borders that while the release of journalists was welcomed, Bouteflika’s decision was meant to benefit his administration rather than the press.
“It has come late after three years of unprecedented political, police, judicial and fiscal harassment in which seven journalists were imprisoned and 23 others were given prison sentences,” Benchicou said.
An Algiers court heard 67 cases in a special session yesterday and either dismissed charges or imposed only token sentences in all cases, according to journalists and lawyers present.
June 15, 2006
As the director of the Algiers-based daily newspaper Le Matin, Benchicou served two years in prison–his full sentence. Before his conviction in June 2004, Benchicou and his newspaper criticized Bouteflika and other ministers in his government. In February 2004, Benchicou published a biography Bouteflika, an Algerian Fraud, prior to his re-election.
“Authorities claimed that Benchicou violated customs regulations to justify putting him in prison. But his real crime was attacking the president and his associates at a time when they were determined to mute such criticism,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division.
Such prosecutions and other pressures have significantly curbed press freedom in Algeria compared to seven years ago, when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was first elected.