UK: New report reveals torture in Algeria as UK starts proceedings to return ‘at risk’ detainees

As the UK’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) meets this week (commencing Tuesday 25 April) to hear the first appeal against the government’s plans to deport Algerian terror suspects to Algeria – a new report from Amnesty International discloses the continuing use of secret detention and torture by the Algerian security services.

In a report sent to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika last week, Amnesty International details 12 specific cases of secret detention and torture of alleged terrorist suspects by Algeria’s powerful military intelligence service, the DRS (Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité).

The report highlights allegations that detainees have been held incommunicado by the DRS for months at a time and tortured with electric shocks and beatings on the body and on the soles of their feet (falaka). Detainees have also suffered chiffon torture – where a rag is used to force open the victim’s mouth so that dirty water, chemicals or urine can be poured down their throat causing a sensation similar to drowning.

Detention by the DRS is often in secret detention centres, says the report, where people are held in cramped, squalid conditions. There is little or no civilian oversight of DRS activities, with officers apparently acting with impunity. Claims of torture have not been investigated and even when signs of torture have been visible there has been a failure to refer victims for proper medical examination. Amnesty International is calling for the powers of the DRS to be reduced.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“We are very concerned that the UK government is seeking to send people back to Algeria, where they would be at serious risk of torture.

“It is particularly those alleged to be involved with terrorism who are at risk in Algeria, where the powerful DRS military intelligence service continues to operate with impunity – secretly detaining and torturing those whom it suspects.

“The UK government is trying to negotiate a deal that would deliver people into the hands of a government with a long record of torture and which still allows the DRS free rein to hold people in secret and torture them.

“Instead of doing all it can to demand an end to torture, the UK is looking to strike deals with the countries responsible for it.”

Cases cited in Amnesty International’s report include:

Amar Saker, a 33-year-old farmer, who was arrested in February 2005 and taken to a DRS base. Over a period of 14 days, during which he was held incommunicado, he alleges that he was tortured by being stripped, beaten, hung up for hours at a time, and subjected to electric shocks – to the point where he thought he might not survive. Eventually, he says, he “confessed” to belonging to an armed group rather than undergo further torture but was made to sign a statement that he had been treated humanely.

Salaheddine Bennia, who was arrested in June 2003 after being forcibly returned to Algeria from The Netherlands. He was detained in secret by the DRS for over a year and half at a barracks in Algiers before any charges were brought against him. During this period, he alleges, DRS officers tortured him with electric shocks and the chiffon. He too was required to sign a declaration that he had been treated humanely.

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