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UK/Algeria: Amnesty issues urgent web appeal amid fears that men deported from UK to Algeria may be tortured

Amnesty International today (29 January) issued an urgent web appeal on behalf of two Algerian men, known as “Q” and “K”, who are being held incommunicado in Algeria and are at risk of torture. The men were deported from the UK last week.

Amnesty is asking people to go to and email the Algerian authorities, calling on them to release the men immediately unless they are promptly charged with a recognisably criminal offence and tried within a reasonable time. It is urging the Algerian authorities to ensure that the men are not ill-treated and are granted access to their families while in detention.

Amnesty International UK Media Director Mike Blakemore said:

“The UK authorities have put these men in real danger by deporting them to Algeria, where they face a serious risk of being tortured.

“We are asking people in the UK and elsewhere to appeal to the Algerian authorities not to ill-treat the two men who were recently deported from the UK. In the face of the UK authorities' failure to comply with their human rights obligations, we hope that people in the UK and world-wide will take action and express concern about the fate of these men."

The UK authorities deported "Q" on 20 January and "K" four days later, on the grounds that they presented a “threat to the national security” of the UK. On arrival at the airport in the capital, Algiers, "K" was arrested by agents from the military intelligence agency, the DRS (Département du renseignement et de la sécurité).

Reports indicate that when “Q” first arrived in Algeria on 20 January he was held by the airport police and was released after a few hours' questioning. However, on 24 January he was also arrested by the DRS. Both men appear to have been taken to a military barracks in central Algiers, part of which is used as a secret detention centre. They have not been allowed access to their lawyers or relatives. Amnesty International fears that “Q” and “K” are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment in the custody of the DRS.

The DRS specialises in interrogating people thought to possess information about terrorist activities. Detainees held by the DRS are routinely held in secret places of detention, allowed no contact with the outside world, and there are persistent reports of torture and other ill-treatment.

“Q” and “K” were among a group of men the UK authorities labelled as “suspected international terrorists”. The men had been held either in prison or under effective house arrest for several years on the basis of secret intelligence which was never disclosed to them or their lawyers, and which they have therefore been unable to challenge.

While in custody awaiting deportation, both "Q" and "K" had their applications to be released on bail rejected. Both men had been held in the UK’s Long Lartin prison since August 2005, awaiting deportation. Both “Q“ and “K” had attempted to seek asylum in the UK, but their claims were rejected. Up until August 2005, the UK authorities recognised that neither man could be deported to Algeria because there were substantial grounds for believing that there was a real risk that they would be subjected to torture or ill-treatment if they were removed to Algeria.

“Q” and “K” faced a stark choice: either continue to challenge their deportation to Algeria and face continued detention in high-security prisons far away from their families, friends and communities for years on end, or face an uncertain future fraught with risk by returning to that country. “Q” and “K” lost all faith in the possibility that they would receive any meaningful justice in the UK. Last year, they withdrew their appeals against the deportation orders because they believed that, in the circumstances, they would never get justice in the UK. They preferred to return to Algeria, despite the risks they would face.

Background information

Anyone suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, or who is believed to possess information about terrorist activities in Algeria or abroad, faces a real risk of secret detention and torture in Algeria. Amnesty International has received dozens of reports of detainees treated in this way, among them people who had returned to Algeria from overseas, either voluntarily or at the hands of foreign governments.

Under Article 51 of the Algerian Criminal Procedures Code, detainees suspected of “terrorist or subversive acts” may be held without charge for a maximum of 12 days. The arresting authorities must immediately give them the opportunity to communicate with their families and to receive visits from them. In addition, any detention beyond four days has to be authorized in writing by the public prosecutor.

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