Treatment by authorities and by active armed groups of amnestied Algerians and their families, including former sympathizers of the Islamic Salvation Front (Front islamique du salut, FIS) who were returning to the country after several years of absence; state protection (May 2000-July 2005) [DZA100344.FE]

Amnesties

Two amnesties, granted in 1999 and in 2000, exempted some Algerian armed groups from judicial prosecution (AI June 2003; Davis May 2001, 8). The Civil Harmony Law (Loi sur la concorde civile), or Law No. 99-08, granted immunity from prosecution to the members of these armed groups (ibid.) if they surrendered within six months of 13 July 1999; this amnesty targeted members of armed groups who [AI English version] "had not killed, raped, caused permanent disability or placed bombs in public places" (AI June 2003). Amnesty International also indicated that those responsible for such crimes could receive reduced sentences if they surrendered within three months (ibid.).

Presidential Decree No. 2000-03, the second amnesty, grants exemption from prosecution, without any exclusion clause, to [AI English version] "the persons who belonged to organizations which decided voluntarily and spontaneously to put an end to acts of violence and which put themselves at the full disposal of the state and whose names are appended to the original of this decree"; however, this appendix had not been published when Amnesty International wrote its June 2003 report (ibid.; see also Davis May 2001, 8). Sources indicate that this decree benefited mainly the members of the Islamic Salvation Army (Armée islamique du salut, AIS) and the Islamic League for Preaching and Holy War (Ligue islamique pour la daawa et le djihad, LIDD) (AI June 2003; Davis May 2001, 8).

Application of amnesties

According to Amnesty International, President Bouteflika suggested that his government would be willing to offer measures of clemency to the members of other groups who surrender, even after 13 January 2000; however, Amnesty International indicated that, according to its knowledge, no law had been passed to this effect, and that reduced sentences or exemptions from prosecution had been granted after that date [AI English version] "on an entirely arbitrary basis" (June 2003). Quoting the Minister of Justice, Human Rights Watch (HRW) indicated that many individuals who turned themselves in had been imprisoned because they had not complied with the deadlines set out in the amnesty (6 July 2005).

Sources indicate that a large number of Algerians believe that the Civil Harmony Law exonerated individuals who committed crimes against humanity (La Tribune 9 Mar. 2005; Davis May 2001, 9). The May 2001 report prepared by Brian Davis, counsellor of the Canadian Embassy in Algeria, which is available in all regional documentation centres, indicated that the number of individuals who surrendered under the Civil Harmony Law (approximately 1,500) was smaller than what the government had predicted (May 2001, 9). Although this law explicitly excludes individuals responsible for crimes against humanity, Amnesty International revealed that many families of people who were killed by armed groups, and the organizations that represent the victims, believe that those responsible for killing the families' relatives were amnestied under that law (AI June 2003).

While stating that some exemptions from prosecution were given [AI English version] "without the necessary in-depth investigations," Amnesty International indicated that some people who were exonerated under the Civil Harmony Law were subsequently arrested for offences for which they had just been pardoned (June 2003). HRW indicated that the families of the victims did not have the right to know the identity of the individuals who surrendered to be amnestied (6 July 2005). A non-governmental organization cited by Country Reports 2004 said that the Algerian government feared the investigations led under the Civil Harmony Law because they could "embarrass President Bouteflika" (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 1.b). Amnesty International indicated that [AI English version] "dozens of individuals who gave themselves up under the Civil Harmony Law have subsequently returned to active service in armed groups" (AI June 2003; see also Davis May 2001, 10).

Treatment of amnestied individuals

No information on the treatment of former sympathizers of the Islamic Salvation Front (Front islamique du salut, FIS) could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints for this Response.

The report on Algeria prepared by the counsellor of the Canadian Embassy in Algeria indicated that the individuals who turned themselves in and those amnestied by the President's amnesty decree received monetary compensation that was sometimes more than what victims' families received, but that the compensation was not distributed uniformly (Davis May 2001, 9). While some of the "emirs" who turned themselves in received comfortable houses and state protection, many other individuals who turned themselves in lived "in social isolation, especially if [they] continue[d] to wear Afghan-style garb" (ibid.). The report indicated that the individuals who turned themselves in immediately received 10,000 dinars [approximately CDN$166 (XE.com 11 July 2005a)], the equivalent of one month's wages as a labourer, as well as a monthly stipend of 3,000 dinars [approximately CDN$50 (XE.com 11 July 2005b)] (Davis May 2001, 9). Citing the National Observatory of Human Rights (Observatoire national des droits de l'homme), the report added that, in some cases, the government has run resettlement programs in other parts of Algeria for individuals who turned themselves in, some of whom were given a car and a taxi licence (ibid.). Those who move without the government's assistance can have financial difficulties (ibid.). According to El Watan, the government opened reception centres to better protect some individuals who turned themselves in and their families (ibid.).

Brian Davis' report indicates that the fate of the individuals who turned themselves in varied: some were victims of acts of revenge by the victims' families, some "former terrorists" lived their lives normally without "any apparent contrition" for past crimes; some were threatened and intimidated by people; and some were killed by former colleagues who called them traitors (ibid.). These statements could not be corroborated by the Research Directorate within the time constraints for this Response.

During a press briefing in February 2002, the secretary general of the National Democratic Rally (Rassemblement national démocratique, RND) denounced the desire of certain amnestied individuals to participate in the national elections, indicating that they would only bring [translation] "destruction and radicalism" to Algeria (L'Expression 16 Feb. 2002).

New amnesty

Several sources indicate that the government is preparing to grant a new general amnesty (HRW 6 July 2005; La Tribune 9 Mar. 2005; BBC 31 Mar. 2005). According to the BBC, this amnesty will likely pardon not only the members of the Islamic armed groups, but also the members of the security forces accused of torture or summary executions (2 Nov. 2004).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


Amnesty International (AI). June 2003. Algérie : Les demandeurs d'asile fuient la crise persistante des droits humains. http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/FRAMDE280072003 [Accessed 11 July 2005]

BBC News. 31 March 2005. "Light Shed on Algeria Disappeared." http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4398575.stm [Accessed 11 July 2005]

_____. 2 November 2004. Mohamed Arezki Himeur. "Algeria Proposes General Amnesty." http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3974423.stm [Accessed 11 July 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "Algeria." United States Department of State. Washington, DC. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41718.htm [Accessed 11 July 2005]

Davis, Brian J. May 2001. Report on Algeria. "Concorde Civile/Amnesty."

L'Expression [Algiers]. 16 February 2002. "Guerre ouverte contre les amnistiés." http://www.lexpressiondz.com/artarc.php3?category=4&id=4349&datedeb=2002-02-16&search=K2RB1&pass=OR``newsheadline`amnistiés [Accessed 11 July 2005]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 6 July 2005. Éric Goldstein. "Réformer la justice pour lutter contre l'impunité." http://hrw.org/french/docs/2005/07/06/algeri11280.htm [Accessed 11 July 2005]

La Tribune [Algiers]. 9 March 2005. Ghada Hamrouche. "L'amnistie après l'imprescriptibilité du crime contre l'humanité." http://www.algeria-watch.org/fr/article/pol/amnistie/miloud_brahimi.htm [Accessed 11 July 2005]

XE.com. 11 July 2005a. "Universal Currency Converter Results." http://www.xe.com/ucc/ [Accessed 11 July 2005]

_____. 11 July 2005b. "Universal Currency Converter Results." http://www.xe.com/ucc/ [Accessed 11 July 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted


Five academics specializing in Algerian politics, as well as the Ligue algérienne de défense des droits de l'homme (LADDH) and the Ligue algérienne des droits de l'homme (LADH) did not respond to information requests within the time constraints.

Internet sites, including: The Economist, El Watan, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House, Front islamique du salut (FIS), Liberté, Maghreb des droits de l'homme, World News Connection (WNC).