Justice Commission for Algeria
Paris, 6 th October 2004
32 nd Session of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN ALGERIA (1992-2004)
5 - 8 November 2004
- Algeria : Ligue algérienne de défense des droits de l'homme (LADDH), SOS Disparus.
- France : Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture (ACAT), Association droits de l'homme pour tous (ADHT), Cedetim, Collectif des familles de disparu(e)s en Algérie, Ligue française des droits de l'homme, Survie.
- Germany : Pro Asyl.
- International NGO's : Algeria-Watch, Amnesty International, Comité international pour la paix, les droits de l'homme et la démocratie en Algérie (CIPA), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Human Rights Watch (HRW), World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), Reporters without Borders (RSF), Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (REMDH).
c/o Cedetim, 21 ter , rue Voltaire, 750011 Paris
The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal (Tribunal permanent des peuples or TPP) was called upon by the Justice Commission for Algeria ( Comité Justice pour l'Algérie ) (1) with support from several NGOs (Algerian, French and international) that defend human rights, to rule on serious human rights violations perpetrated against the Algerian people by State security forces, their auxiliaries, as well as by armed forces and groups claiming to be fighting in the name of Islam. In the session that will take place in Paris 5-8 November 2004, the Court will deliberate on these violations, taking into account the political and economic evolution experienced by Algeria since 1988.
It so happens that this initiative coincides, by a matter of days, with the 50' h anniversary of the beginning of the Algerian struggle for independence. The first of November 1954, the founders of the National Liberation Front (Front de libération nationale or FLN) conducted a series of armed actions that marked the beginning of a terrible war for the liberation of their country, subjected since 1830 to the grip of French colonization. It took more than seven years of suffering, and hundreds of thousands of casualties for the Algerian people to finally achieve Independence. On both sides of the Mediterranean, the wounds of this war are still far from healing. It is thus essential for a real reconciliation between the French and Algerian peoples to take place, that plural perspectives on this tragedy today be heard and that France recognize its responsibility in these dark times of its History.
However, this necessary recognition must not blot out another reality : leaders in Algeria today, who lay claims to the heritage of the first combatants of November 1 st , are actually the descendents of those who confiscated the right to self-determination for which the Algerian people had given enormous sacrifice. On the heals of independence came a new form of oppression, with the imposition of the unique political party controlled by the army. A minority hijacked the struggle of an entire people and established a regime which, underneath a generous discourse of socialism, subjected its people to an authoritarian grip. And since 1979, new leaders have wielded the same grip, this time in the name of liberalism and the systematic appropriation, through corruption, of the country's riches. Then, in 1992, a terrible civil war broke out and their power was contested by the votes for the Islamic fundamentalist opposition.
The horror of the "second war of Algeria" must not be forgotten, overshadowed by the celebration of the first war - celebrations that are organized by the same people who, in Algeria and in a certain respect in France, are responsible for the terror and misery of the Algerian people since 1992. This is why members, Algerian and French, of the Justice Commission for Algeria have called upon the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, so that the violations of human rights be judged at a session whose date is shared with the honoring of the veterans of November 1 st ,1954.
But why this recourse to a "opinion tribunal?" In the first place, because the international community has failed. Despite the magnitude and the terrible nature of the war that has bloodied Algeria since 1992 - causing tens of thousands of victims, thousands of "disappeared," and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons -, the international community has not been able to establish an international independent investigative commission to investigate the issue of responsibility for these crimes , nor have it been able to obtain permission from the Algerian government to allow United Nations Special Rapporteurs against Torture and enforced or involuntary disappearances to work in Algeria. And of course, recourse to the International Criminal Court remains out of the question for victims of the Algerian tragedy as the court only has jurisdiction over crimes taking place after its creation on July 1 st 2002, and as Algeria has not ratified the ICC Rome Satute.
Secondly, victims' attempts to take other paths to justice, especially those founded on the principles of "universal jurisdiction," encounter considerable obstacles. In September 2002, General Khaled Nezzar, former Algerian minister of Defence, lost a case versus ex-second Lieutenant Habib Souaïdia, author of the book The Dirty War, whom he was suing for defamation before the high court of Paris . Souaïdia , as well a high level officer in the Algerian army and secret services, seriously undermined General Nezzar's credibility by involving the serious human rights violations suffered by the Algerian population since 1988, and especially since the disruption of the electoral process in January 1992.
This ruling was an important step in the struggle headed, now for several years, by NGOs and human rights activists - in Algeria and at the international level - to shed a light on the issues of responsibility behind the tragedy that has bloodied Algeria for so many years. Several national and international organizations (specifically the Algerian League of Human Rights, Amnesty International, the FIDH, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Algeria-Watch) have indeed allowed, through numerous investigative documented reports, the gathering of a body of information, including witness testimonies, that played an important role in informing the High court of justice in Paris.
In addition, such organizations' actions is encouraging for more direct action to be prepared and undertaken in order to bring those who are responsible before justice. In April 2001 and June 2002, two cases were brought by Algerian citizens before French courts against General Nezzar for crimes of torture, on the basis of the 1984 Convention on torture. These cases were closed without follow-up by the Parquet de Paris , after a very rapid deliberation in which political considerations seem to have played a role.
The path to justice, to expose and judge the people responsible for human rights violations, must certainly not be abandoned. Indeed, certain legal procedures founded on the principles of "universal jurisdiction" theoretically allow the prosecution of Algerian leaders by the legal systems of another country. And even if their outcome may be uncertain (as the Pinochet case demonstrated), this kind of action can play an essential role in raising international awareness and informing international opinion: this is particularly important in the Algerian situation where disinformation and obstruction constitute real obstacles. However, it is necessary to recognize that this path remains fragile:
- legal concerns: this type of procedure generally requires the prosecuted leader(s) and/or the plaintiff to be physically present in the country where the case is being tried, constituting a great constraint; another constraint lies in the problem of acting on the principle of universal jurisdiction which is limited to certain specific crimes only (for instance in France, where the principle may only be invoked in cases concerning acts of torture);
- political concerns : in the case at stake, executive power can interfere with the legal system to restrain or impede its activity; this seems to be particularly true in France, due to the narrow ties between the French political class and the Algerian decision makers; the risk has only increased since 11 September 2001, with the reinforced support from European States and the United States to regimes supposedly struggling against Islamist terrorism, regardless of whether the benefiting regime is non-democratic (as in the case of Algeria).
Therefore, without renouncing this type of procedure, and keeping in the spirit of the years of work and action of national and international human rights NGOs struggling against impunity, the Justice Commission for Algeria, with the support of several other groups, has decided to submit the case of human rights violations in Algeria before the "Permanent Peoples' Tribunal" (Tribunal permanent des peuples or TPP).
The Permanent People's Tribunal is an international opinion tribunal , independent from any State authority, which publicly and analytically examines cases regarding violations of human rights and rights of peoples . The complaints are submitted by the victims (or groups or individuals representing them). The TPP was founded in June 1979 in Bologne by law experts, writers and other intellectuals, under the support of the Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, created in 1976 by a resistant Italian democrat, Lelio Basso (1903-1978) . This tribunal succeeded the Russel Tribunals I and II which had exposed the war crimes of the 1960's and 1970's committed in Vietnam, and was presided by Bertrand Russel, then Jean-Paul Sartre and Lelio Basso. The TPP was first presided over by François Rigaux, a law professor in Brussels. He was followed by Salavatore Senese, an Italian magistrate who continues to preside to this day.
Shortly after its creation in 1976, the Foundation convened an international conference in Algiers which, on 4 July 1976 (day of the 200th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence and eve of the Algerian national holiday), proclaimed the "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples." Although the initiative was a private one, and the notion of "rights of peoples" was already included in several international doctrines, this effort was the first to outline, in one single document, the rights of peoples.
Along with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the United Nations, a charter on inter-State relations, the Declaration of Algiers is a document considered by many law experts today as a fundamental work. Twenty eight years after its adoption, the text has clearly not lost its relevance, and the time and the date chosen for its adoption, considered from the contemporary perspective, lend to it a particular resonance.
The secretariat of the TPP is located in Milan, Italy. It is ensured by the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, created in June 1982, which obtained the status of accredited NGO to ECOSOC - Economic and Social Council - and which is represented at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. The TPP publishes its sentences in the United Nations system through the intermediary of the League. Its work contributes to the action of the world civil society and is brought to public awareness through the media.
The TPP may also be called upon by requests formulated by associations, political parties, organizations and personalities. These requests must be issued by credible persons and indicate the violations being asserted, as well as the authorities, groups or persons that the accuser considers responsible.
The TPP maintains a great capacity for deliberation and investigation to consider, elaborate upon, or reject part of, or the entirety of, a case. It calls together all parties concerned and offers the defendants the possibility to make their own arguments heard. The court decides, in collaboration with the plaintiff parties, the meeting place and the duration of the trial. It decides on the composition of the jury. The members of the jury are chosen from a list of judges established by the secretariat of the TPP (composed of 60 members, including 23 law experts and 5 Nobel Prize winners, of 31 different nationalities).
The TPP deliberates based on the facts submitted and on those that it can uncover during the course of its investigations. It applies rules that are general and conventional in international law, and in particular, the principles that are generally included in the international conventions and practices related to human rights and the rights of peoples.
Since its constitutive session in June 1979, the TPP has held 31 sessions, of which the themes can be organized into three groups;
- violations against specific peoples (14 s essions);
- new limits of the law (four sessions);
- "new" subjects of law and "new violations" (11 sessions).
The first pluralist legislative elections in Algeria were disrupted on 11 January 1992 by the high military commander in order to prevent the victory of the FIS (Front islamique du salut, or Islamic Salvation Front), which, after the first round of the elections, had already carried 188 seats out of the 232 available. In balloting often favourable in the 143 remaining votes, it was clearly set to dominate the future Assembly.
Legal institutions were suspended: the National Assembly was dissolved (in a post-dated measure) on 4 th January, and the President of the Republic, Mr. Chadli Bendjedid, was "resigned" on 11 January. The State leaders established an institution, created for the occasion by the army chiefs - not provided for by the Constitution - the "State High Commission" ( Haut Comité d'Etat, or HCE), composed of five people, including General Khaled Nezzar (Minister of Defence since July 1990) and Mohammed Boudiaf (president of the HCE), one of the fathers of the struggle for Algerian independence - who, considering it "saving" Algeria, accepted to return from more than 30 years of exile only to be assassinated five months later, most likely on the initiative of the generals who had pressured him to return and felt threatened by his activity.
From this point, not only was the FIS outlawed (in March 1992), but no other party was able to act outside of the "red lines" drawn by the military in charge. Throughout the year 1992, an entire legal arsenal was established in order to criminalize any opposition movement and any freedom of expression. Starting in February 1992, the same evening of the declaration of a state of emergency, thousands of leaders sympathetic or supposedly tied with the FIS were interned in camps, and entire communal assemblies (municipalities) under FIS control since the 1990 elections were dissolved.
FIS militants who were not imprisoned fled the country or joined the first underground armed movements that were beginning to form. The first attacks against the security forces were followed, in 1993, by assassinations of celebrities and intellectuals. Following a bloody attack in the Algiers airport at the end of August 1992 (whose authors are still unknown today), a decree was issued on 30 September, providing for exceptional measures to fight against terrorism (several articles of the decree were later included into the penal code, remaining there ever since as ordinary legislation). At the same time, General Mohamed Lamari, under directions of the leader of the ANP, established a command center for special troops of antiterrorist forces, the Center of Conduct and Coordination of Action of the Anti-Terrorist Struggle ( Centre de conduite et de coordination des actions de lutte anti-subversive, CCC/ALAS).
In 1993, terrible violence began, leaving a trail of victims - mostly civilians - from all levels of society. While it is established that a certain number of attacks, assassinations and massacres were committed by armed Islamist groups, the war machine of CCC/ALAS set into motion a spiral of savage repression aimed primarily at the civilian population and in which participated the security services, and militias created after March 1994 on the army's instigation. The peak of the crimes lies between 1994 and 1998: while officials systematically attributed the crimes to armed Islamist groups, other credible sources indicate that actually, they were largely due - especially from 1996 - to the security forces and their auxiliaries. In total, almost 200,000 people were killed in 14 years, almost 20,000 disappeared, dozens of thousands were tortured, almost 1.5 million were displaced and almost a half million fled the country. Since 1999, the number of deaths has lowered, but remained, at the end of 2002, at approximately 200 per month and, in 2004, at least 50 per month.
In 2004, nothing fundamentally has changed in the security and political field: the legal arsenal remains in place, the state of emergency is still in effect, secret centres of detention (places of torture and enforced disappearances by the security forces) continue to operate, the military personnel responsible for these crimes are climbing in the hierarchical ranks and armed groups continue to kill in the name of Islam. Justice is totally subservient to a corrupt political and military system. The few magistrates who, in the past, have tried to do their job, have been sanctioned or silenced. Complete immunity continues to reign.
The goals of the session will be as follows:
- to determine where responsibility lies for the massive violations of human rights and rights of people suffered by the Algerian population since 1992;
- that the TPP pronounces a sentence defining the serious and systematic human rights violations perpetrated by different State institutions (particularly the military authorities and security forces) as well as by armed Islamist groups;
- to formulate precise recommendations to be presented to the Algerian government and the international community concerning the Algerian situation.
The violations of human rights submitted to the Court's deliberation are as follows: summary executions and assassinations, massacres, torture and rape, enforced disappearances, kidnappings and arbitrary detentions, violations of the freedom of expression (including assassinations and disappearances of journalists), violations of public liberties and economic and social rights.
It is important to explain, on this matter, that if all information currently available indicates a crushing responsibility issuing from "State terrorism" for the terrible violence that Algeria has experienced since 1988 (and especially since 1992), this should not exonerate those crimes of groups and individuals who, claiming to struggle in the name of Islam against the power, are also involved in the perpetration of grave human rights violations. Although responsibility for these cases is more difficult to establish (due to manipulations by the power of the Islamist violence, complicit silence of "repentant" members of armed Islamist groups, and the total lack of serious investigation into these crimes), they will be submitted to the Court's deliberation.
The jury created for this 32 nd Session of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal is composed of ten people, of seven different nationalities (their names and positions will be made public at the opening of the session). The session will be held in Paris on Friday afternoon, 5 th November, and all day Saturday 6 th November 2004. On Monday 8 th November, at a press conference, the members of the Tribunal will pronounce their sentence.
The session is organized into ten thematic hearings, of varying lengths (from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes). At each hearing, at least one expert will present the facts under investigation and whenever necessary, witnesses to the facts will be heard by the Court (in total, approximately 30 people will be heard). At the end of each hearing, time will be set aside (from 10 to 30 minutes) for questions that the members of the Court might wish to pose to the experts and witnesses. As is the case for any court, the only individuals authorized to speak will be the members of the Court, the witnesses and the auditioned experts.
The session will be carried out as follows:
Friday, 5 th November 2004 (from 2 to 9 pm)
I/ General overview of the 1988-2004 period: human rights violations and the organization of the political system.
II/ The legal context: a freedomless legislative apparatus.
III/ The political context: the historic role of Islam in Algerian politics.
IV/ The economic context: corruption and international complicity as a background to massive human rights violations.
Saturday, 6 th November 2004 (from 9 to 18:30)
VI/ Enforced disappearances
VIII/ The responsibility of armed Islamic fundamentalist groups in violations of human rights ; the manipulation of Islamist violence
IX/ The organization of a system of repression: the structure of security forces and the role of militias
X/ The organization of impunity.
Monday, 8 th November 2004
11:00 - 13:00: press conference given by the President of the TPP for the presentation of the Court's sentence.
In order to document and complement the cases examined during the session, the Justice Commission for Algeria, at the request of TPP's secretariat, developed 19 detailed case files, written up by its members or specialists, precisely synthesizing all the currently available information. These case files - each including from 20 to 100 pages, a total of approximately 1,300 pages including thousands of notes and references - compose two large bodies of work:
- case files on human rights violations : 1. Torture, a systematized practice; 2. Massacres in Algeria, 1992-2004 ; 3. Enforced disappearances; 4. Arbitrary detentions; 5. Summary executions; 6. Centres of torture and execution; 7. Freedom of the press violations; 8. Freedom to unionize Violations; 9. Violations of the right of assembly; 10. Violations of human rights by Islamist armed groups;
- case files on context: 11. Islam and politics in Algeria before 1962: the role of Islam in the national movement; 12. Islam and politics in Algeria since 1962: the instrumentation of Islam by the government and the emergence of an Islamist opposition; 13. Organization of the political system; 14. Economics, predation and the police State; 15. Legal instruments of repression; 16. Organization of bodies of repression; 17. Organization of militias; 18. Organization of Impunity; 19. The Algerian Islamist movement: between autonomy and manipulation.
All of these case files were submitted months before the session to the members of the TPP (with some 40 reference documents - approximately 700 pages: official texts of the Algerian government, Algerian political texts, reports of human rights NGO's on Algeria, etc.). Brief (French) summaries of these cases files are presently available on the website <www.algerie-tpp.org>, which will publish them in extenso in addition to the Court's sentence, after the session.
(1) Created early 2003 to organize this initiative. Founding members are: Yahia Assam, Jean-Yves Barrère, Madjid Benchikh, Omar Benderra, Nasséra Dutour, Vincent Genestet, François Gèze, Ghazi Hidouci, Jeanne Kervyn, Salima Mellah.