NEW REPORT CALLS FOR TOUGH HUMAN RIGHTS CLAUSE IN ALGERIA-EU ACCORD

'With unarmed demonstrators in Algeria being shot dead in the street by security forces, there is an urgent need to make the agreement's human rights clause meaningful,' Amnesty International said today, as it released the 19-page report 'Algeria: When token gestures are not enough: human rights and the Algeria-EU accord.'

The association agreement, to be signed on the fringes of the 22-23 April Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Meeting in Valencia, focuses on trade, economic integration, security and political dialogue, but also contains a legally binding clause requiring the contracting parties to promote and protect human rights.

'If taken seriously, this human rights clause has the potential to be a tool for positive change in both Algeria and EU member states,' Amnesty International said.

However, the organisation is deeply concerned at the context in which the agreement is being signed, particularly at killings of unarmed protestors by security forces in the largely Amazigh (Berber) region of Kabylia. Amnesty International's report comes exactly a year after a schoolboy's death in custody sparked off protests. The report outlines a bleak situation, including:

- a 'shockingly high' monthly death toll (averaging 200+ over the last three years), with killings by the security forces, state-armed militias and armed groups;

- a recent trend of increased killings of civilians outside the conflict;

- secret and unacknowledged detentions;

- numerous and widespread reports of torture (including chiffon water torture) and ill-treatment by the security forces - including of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and of Children's rights as young as 15;

- a recent increase in restrictions on freedom of expression, including increased penalties for defamation of the president in writing or cartoons.

Amnesty International observes that since 1992, successive Algerian governments have repeatedly blocked attempts of international governmental and non-governmental organisations to scrutinise the country's human rights situation, while using 'counter-terrorism' arguments to justify massive human rights violations.

The human rights organisation is calling on Algeria and the EU to agree a compliance mechanism that would allow for:

- regular impartial monitoring of human rights developments in Algeria, paying particular attention to 'counter-terrorism' measures;

- access to Algeria for UN human rights experts;

- the setting of measurable goals for human rights, based particularly on unimplemented recommendations made by UN human rights bodies.

Amnesty International also reiterates its longstanding call on the Algerian government to create an independent and impartial commission of inquiry to investigate the thousands of killings, 'disappearances' (some 4,000), reports of torture and other human rights abuses carried out in Algeria since 1992.

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