afrol News, 4 May - The Algerian President's promised investigation into fatal clashes in the Kabylie region must be truly independent if it is to have any credibility, the US-based group Human Rights Watch said today.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said on April 30 that the Algerian government would undertake an independent inquiry into the clashes, which have left at least 42 people dead and hundreds wounded since April 18. But previous government-sponsored inquiries have not been free of state interference, Human Rights Watch said.
- This inquiry has to be truly independent if anyone is going to believe in its conclusions, said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "President Bouteflika's credibility depends on it."
There have been numerous reports of the excessive use of force, including beatings and unjustified use of live ammunition by security forces. In some cases demonstrators attacked government buildings and security forces with "Molotov cocktails" and other homemade weapons. Algerian press reports have put the death toll as high as eighty.
According to news reports, law professor Mohand Issad will head the independent inquiry into the clashes. The human rights group claim Bouteflika's "remarks of April 30 left uncertain the composition of the commission", beyond stating that it would include "representatives of civil society."
- We urge you to ensure that persons appointed to the special commission enjoy, without exception, unchallenged reputations for independence, competence, integrity, and impartiality, the letter to the President says. "Their number must also include persons who have proven familiarity with and expertise in human rights law as well as Algerian law, and with international law enforcement standards."
The Algerian National Assembly has recently adopted a resolution to set up its own commission of inquiry into the same events. Human Rights Watch recommended "in addition that the government grant access to Algerian as well as international human rights organizations wishing to conduct investigations into these incidents. Such a step will greatly enhance the credibility of the national commission," the group states.
Sources: Based on Human Rights Watch