- Amnesty International has called on the next Algerian president to address state impunity and the legacy of human rights abuses that has been prevailing the country since the 1990’s internal conflict. The appeal comes in less that two weeks before the north African state goes to presidential polls on 9 April.
The Acting Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme Philip Luther said the next president should and respond to thousands of victims grievances let down by the authorities. "How can there be genuine national reconciliation if the authorities are yet to establish the truth about past and ongoing crimes and justice for the victims?” he asked.
Mr Luther said the blanket amnesties granted to armed groups and later to members of the security apparatus are an additional wound inflicted on the victims and their families, saying granting amnesty encouraged further abuses.
“The authorities should restore the dignity of victims by sending out a strong message that such crimes will no longer be tolerated,” he said.
The newly released Amnesty International report entitled A Legacy of Impunity: A Threat to Algeria’s Future, has raised a number of concerns on the ongoing lack of investigations into human rights abuses of the past and present members of the armed forces.
The report said more than 200,000 people were killed in the 1990’s after the country's cancellation of the 1992 legislative elections, which were set to be won by the Islamic Salvation Front.
“Armed groups were responsible for the killing of civilians, abductions, torture and rape. Security forces and state-armed militias forcibly disappeared thousands of people,” it said, adding however that the authorities have denied that they were responsible for widespread human rights violations.
The report said amnesty measures initiated by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, have barred victims and their families from obtaining truth, justice and compensation.
The report further accused the Algerian authorities of actively seeking to erase the memory of the internal conflict without dealing with its consequences on victims and the general human rights situation and shut down debate and criticism.
“Families of victims of enforced disappearance are unable to mourn and achieve closure so long as their ordeal continues to be ignored,” said the report further stating that the families are pressured into accepting death certificates and financial assistance.
“Clarify the fate of victims of enforced disappearances and provide their families with an effective remedy; ensure that financial support to families of victims of enforced disappearances is not conditional upon the presentation of death certificates,” the report said.
Amnesty International has called on the government to repeal laws that entrench impunity benefiting perpetrators of human rights abuses and ensuring that no immunity from prosecution would be granted to perpetrators.
The country is going to polls in which President Bouteflika who will be seeking the third term is expected to win after two prominent opposition figures pulled off from the elections.
The 71-year-old president, a veteran of Algerian politics was first elected in 1999. He has overseen a return to relative peace, though there has been a series of suicide bombings over last two years blamed on militants linked to al-Qaeda.
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