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EU Mission to Algeria: No more 'Secret' dialogues

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

5 June 2002 MDE 24/016/2002

Dear Sirs,

On the eve of the EU mission to Algeria this week (Wednesday 5 June), Amnesty International wishes to put some very pressing questions to you regarding the EU's relationship with Algeria.

The secrecy in which EU dialogues with other countries are conducted is a matter of concern to many citizens in Europe, but even more so in the countries in question such as Algeria where serious human rights violations including killings, torture and secret detention continue to occur.

For them, and for human rights organisations such as ourselves, there is no way of knowing whether human rights issues are effectively brought up within the framework of these dialogues, although EU legislation and the human rights clauses in EU Association Agreements contain a clear commitment to do so.

The fact that the human rights crisis in Algeria shows no signs of being resolved in spite of the recent signing of an Association Agreement suggests that the EU's secret efforts have failed to impress change on the Algerian authorities.

We call for an end to the secrecy. We call for greater accountability from you, the representatives of the citizens of Europe.

In light of the recent signing of the EU-Algeria agreement, Amnesty International therefore asks that you raise five specific questions with the Algerian authorities during your visit to the country this week. Amnesty International further calls on you to make a public statement on the results achieved in relation to these five questions on your return from Algeria:

Demonstrators killed

Fact: Some 100 unarmed civilians have been killed in the context of demonstrations in Algeria since April 2001. An official commission of inquiry was established to look into some of the killings and concluded that the security forces had repeatedly resorted to excessive use of lethal force. Question: More than one year on from the start of this wave of killings, have any members of the security forces been prosecuted?

Civilians killed in armed conflict Fact: The number of people killed in the context of the armed conflict remains shockingly high, consistently averaging around 200 a month. Some of these are civilians killed by armed groups in both targeted attacks and indiscriminate bomb explosions. Question: What concrete steps are being taken to ensure that full, independent and impartial investigations are conducted into these killings?

"Disappearances"

Fact: Some 4,000 people have "disappeared" after being arrested by members of the security forces or state-armed militias since 1993, yet no effective action has been taken to clarify their fate. Question: Has a full, impartial and independent investigation been conducted into any "disappearance" case and has the family of the victim been informed of the results?

Intimidation of human rights defenders

Fact: Intimidation of human rights activists in Algeria is being stepped up. The most recent case documented by Amnesty International concerns human rights defender Abderrahmane Khelil and his friend Sid Ahmed Mourad who, on 26 May 2002, were given six-month suspended prison sentences as a result of their research into the arbitrary arrests of students. Question: Will the Algerian authorities stop obstructing the activities of human rights defenders?

No access for international observers

Fact: The Algerian authorities continue to block access to the country for United Nations representatives and international non-governmental human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. Question: Will the Algerian authorities invite UN human rights experts who have requests pending to visit the country, namely the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on torture and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, and ensure access for international non-governmental human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International?

We look forward to your answers.

Yours sincerely,


Dick Oosting

Director

Amnesty International EU Office

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