SILENCING THE VOICE FOR JUSTICE
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), a regional federation of human rights organizations working directly on the issue of enforced disappearance in Asia, joins the international human rights community in strongly condemning the Algerian authorities for violently dispersing a protest by families of the disappeared persons in the country.
According to the report, the Algerian law enforcers violently broke up a peaceful protest of some 40 relatives of the disappeared in front of an official human rights body, the National Advisory Commission for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (Commission Nationale Consultative de Promotion et de Protection des Droits del’ Homme, CNCPPDH) in Algiers on 11 August 2010. The police did not even spare the aging mothers and grandmothers from physical violence as they were harshly pushed away and hit at random by the police. Several human rights defenders and lawyers who attempted to intervene also sustained injury in the process. Four of the protestors were arrested and briefly detained by the police in an obvious ploy to intimidate and discourage them from holding similar political activities.
For more than a decade, the Families of the Disappeared of Algeria have been traditionally holding a peaceful protest to demand for truth, justice and adequate reparation for human rights violations. Official records show that more than 200,000 cases of human rights violations were committed during the internal conflict that began in 1992. The severity and magnitude of these violations amount to no less than crimes against humanity. One of these is enforced disappearance. Thousands of people “disappeared” after having been arrested by the security forces or have been abducted by armed groups and never seen again. They are believed to have been summarily executed. Despite the tireless efforts of victims and their families to search for the truth and to demand for justice, the Algerian authorities have not taken concrete action to clarify the circumstances of the crimes and to bring those responsible to justice.
Algeria’s Constitution guarantees in Article 41, the freedoms of expression, association and assembly. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Algeria is a party to, in Article 11, also guarantees the right of everyone to assemble freely with others. The right to assemble peacefully is also provided for in Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Algeria ratified in 1989. The action by the Algerian authorities is not only a blatant violation of the protestors’ constitutional rights, but also against international human rights standards.
AFAD therefore calls on the Algerian government to uphold the fundamental human rights of its citizens. It must immediately conduct a full, independent and impartial investigation into allegations of violent dispersal by security forces against the protestors. The voice of the victims and their families are essential to any process of reconciliation and for building a solid foundation for a genuine democracy.
For any democratic state who wants to finally put a closure of its dark history, it must encourage and ensure a national discourse where freedom of expression, assembly and association, and the right to information, are guaranteed and fully respected. Democracy can only be strengthened and entrenched when society is fully aware of its fundamental human rights and freedoms and when its government consciously lays the ground for its full realization. Without doing so, it is doomed to repeat its historical mistakes.
Algeria must also comply with its international obligations as well as its commitment displayed through its signing of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 6 February 2007 by ordering prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all past and current allegations of enforced disappearances and by assisting the victims’ families in their search for truth and justice.
Signed and authenticated by:
MUGIYANTO MARY AILEEN BACALSO