Algeria: New report details torture by Algerian Military Security as president meets Blair
Tony Blair must call on the Algerian President Bouteflika to stamp out torture in his country, rather than agreeing deals to enable the return of terror suspects at risk of torture, said Amnesty International UK today (10 July) on the eve of President Bouteflika’s arrival in the UK.
In a new report sent to Prime Minister Blair and President Bouteflika, Amnesty International exposes torture and secret detention by Algeria’s feared military police, the DRS (Département du renseignement et de la sécurité). Beatings, electric shocks and the forced ingestion of dirty water, urine or chemicals are just some of the methods used by Algeria's security forces with systematic impunity.
During President Bouteflika’s stay in the UK, the two countries are expected to conclude a “Memorandum of Understanding” or comparable arrangement to enable terror suspects to be returned to Algeria, despite the risk of torture. Amnesty’s report reveals that the civilian authorities exercise no control over the conduct and practices of the DRS and that its officers act with impunity – making any “Memorandum of Understanding” virtually worthless.
Amnesty International UK also launched a public call to action today, calling on people to go to www.amnesty.org.uk/torture to email the Algerian authorities directly and demand that they take action against torture.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“Algeria’s DRS ‘military security’ police must be brought under control and there should be an end to secret detention and torture. That is the message that Tony Blair should give to President Bouteflika – not that Britain will turn a blind eye to torture if Algeria will sign a diplomatic deal with us.
“People are still being held in secret and tortured by the DRS – a force that operates beyond the control of the civilian authorities. ‘Memoranda of Understanding’ are no substitute for tough words and tougher action to stamp out torture.
“President Bouteflika should publicly commit to investigating the disturbing allegations of abuse documented in this report. He must also ensure that DRS officers no longer arrest or detain suspects and that anyone responsible for torture or mistreatment of detainees is promptly brought to justice.”
The report, Unrestrained powers: Torture by Algeria's Military Security,examines several cases of torture or other ill-treatment by the DRS in secret detention centres without access to lawyers, independent doctors, family, or any civilian oversight. It is based on a series of case studies collected between 2002 and 2006.
Interrogation reports established by the DRS appear to be routinely used as evidence in court while the lack of investigations into claims of torture and other ill-treatment in Algeria is a long-standing concern of Amnesty International. A February 2006 amnesty law provided impunity for crimes under international law, including torture committed by the DRS.
Kate Allen said:
“The Algerian authorities have persistently denied the widespread abuse that has clearly taken place. Algeria still has a long way to go in combating torture and other ill-treatment.
“The authorities should address the grim legacy of the past and ensure that perpetrators of torture are punished."
The report makes a series of recommendations to the Algerian government including:
- DRS officers should no longer be allowed to arrest or detain suspects, given the persistence of allegations of torture perpetrated by DRS and the lack of any effective oversight over the arrest and detention procedures of the DRS;
- legislation should be amended to ensure that anyone who is taken into detention will be granted prompt access to a lawyer;
- legal provisions introduced in February 2006 that contravene Algeria's obligation to investigate and punish torture and ill-treatment and criminalise free expression about state abuses should be repealed.
In addition, Amnesty International calls on foreign governments to:
- halt the forcible return of individuals to Algeria if they would be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment;
- end the use of "diplomatic assurances" to effect forced removals where there is a risk of torture;
- ensure that evidence obtained under torture in Algeria is not used in court proceedings;
- ensure that anyone arrested in Algeria at their request is not detained by the DRS.
A number of countries, including Canada, France, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Spain have forcibly returned individuals suspected of terrorist activities to Algeria despite the fact that it is the DRS that usually detains and interrogates such individuals.