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Weekly Report: Algeria


Immediate action needed to prevent further protest killings

AI Index: MDE 28/011/2002

Publish date: 17/04/2002

"The Algerian authorities must take
immediate action to ensure no more

lives are put at risk during the policing of protests," Amnesty

said today, on the eve of the first anniversary of the death in custody

of a Kabyle schoolboy.

More than 80 unarmed demonstrators were shot

dead by the security forces in protests following the death last year,

but those responsible have still not been brought to justice. The ongoing

impunity from which they benefit continues to erode the public’s already

depleted confidence in the rule of law in the country.

Action to protect

the lives of protesters in Algeria is all the more urgent in the chilling

light of the killing of some 10 unarmed demonstrators, including one

allegedly aged only 14, and the injuring of dozens more by members of

security forces at the end of March and beginning of April 2002. The

killings have taken place in the predominantly Amazigh (Berber) region

of Kabylia in northeastern Algeria.

Some of the demonstrators are

reported to have been shot dead with live ammunition, some to have been

beaten or stabbed to death, and others to have died after being hit

rubber bullets or tear-gas grenades aimed at protesters’ heads. The

killings have occurred during the dispersal by the security forces of

demonstrations about deteriorating socio-economic conditions and the

arrest of hundreds of demonstrators following previous protests.

"The violations are a shocking reminder of the authorities’ continuing

of respect for the most basic human rights of its citizens," Amnesty

International said. "Lethal force appears to have been used recklessly

unlawfully against demonstrators when lives were not in danger."

Tomorrow sees the first anniversary of the killing of schoolboy Massinissa
Guermah, who died

after being shot by a member of the security forces while being held
in the

custody of the gendarmerie in Kabylia. Following his death demonstrations

erupted inside and outside the region. During the months of April to

2002, more than 80 unarmed protesters were killed by the security forces

hundreds more were injured.

An official commission of inquiry established

by the authorities to look into the killings in Kabylia last year published

a preliminary report in July 2001. It concluded, significantly, that

gendarmerie and other security forces had repeatedly resorted to excessive

use of lethal force. In its final report of December 2001 the commission

forced to concede that it could not complete its mission because many

were too afraid to speak to it.

Announcements by the authorities that the

individuals responsible for the killings would be brought to justice

not been followed up. Although the authorities say they have detained

25 members of the gendarmerie on charges of murder and firearms abuse
in the

context of the demonstrations in Kabylia last year, 12 months on from

start of last year’s wave of killings in Kabylia, no member of the security

forces is known to have been prosecuted for unlawful killings or other

rights violations.

If further deaths are to be avoided during ongoing

demonstrations in Algeria, the authorities must ensure, as a matter

urgency, that security forces comply with international standards governing

the conduct of law-enforcement officials and the use of force and firearms

and thereby respect and protect the right of life. These standards stipulate

that security forces should apply non-violent means as far as possible

resorting to the use of force, and may only use lethal force when strictly

unavoidable in order to protect life and when non-lethal means have


"They failed to apply those standards last year. They have failed

again recently and, if no action is taken by the authorities to ensure

those standards are applied now, there is a serious risk that more unarmed

protesters will be unlawfully killed," the organization warned.

Amnesty International calls on the authorities to ensure that full and

independent investigations are conducted into all the killings of

demonstrators during recent protests and that the alleged offenders

brought to justice in proceedings which meet international fair trial




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