As constitutional head of state, President
Abdelaziz Bouteflika appoints and dismisses the Prime Minister, and may dissolve
the legislature. According to the Constitution, the Prime Minister appoints the
cabinet ministers; however the President has taken a key role in designating the
members of the cabinet. The military establishment strongly influences defense
and foreign policy and is largely believed to have influenced the outcome of the
1999 presidential election which had numerous problems associated with it.
President Bouteflika, who is not affiliated formally with any party, ends his
5-year term in April 2004. The Government's cancellation of the 1992 elections,
which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) were poised to win, suspended the
country's democratic transition to a pluralist republic and resulted in on-going
fighting between the security forces and armed insurgent groups seeking to
impose an Islamic state. The ensuing violence resulted in the deaths of
approximately 100,000 or more in the last decade. Although the Constitution
provides for an independent judiciary, executive branch decrees partially
restricted the judiciary's authority.
The Government's security apparatus
comprises the army, consisting of ground, naval and air defense forces; the
national gendarmerie; the national police; communal guards; and local
self-defense forces. All of these elements were involved in counterinsurgency
and counter-terrorism operations and were under the control of the Government.
Security forces committed serious human rights abuses, although allegations of
such abuses continued to decline during the year.
The country confronts many of the
challenges that states making the transition from a state-administered to open
market economy face. The country had a total population of approximately 31.5
million. The Government launched a large 4-year spending program in 2001 to
stimulate the economy and modernize key sectors; however, progress continued to
be slow. The Government's draft laws for liberalizing the hydrocarbons sector
have stalled due to opposition from labor unions. The hydrocarbons sector was
the backbone of the economy, accounting for approximately 60 percent of budget
revenues, 26 percent of GDP, and over 95 percent of export earnings. Official
estimates placed unemployment at 30 percent; however, as much as 70 percent of
the population under the age of 30 were unable to find adequate employment.
Despite macroeconomic stability, the delay in the reforms and a non-performing
public sector privatization process stunted economic growth.
Despite the decline in security force
abuses from prior years, the human rights record remained generally poor, and
there continued to be problems with excessive use of force, increased
restrictions on freedom of expression, and failure to account for past
disappearances. The massacre of civilians by armed terrorist groups also
continued. There were significant limitations on citizens' right to change their
While such abuses continued to decline,
the security forces committed extra-judicial killings, tortured, beat or
otherwise abused detainees, and arbitrarily arrested and detained, or held
individuals incommunicado. Most such cases were committed against suspected
members of armed groups in the context of the Government's continued battle with
terrorism. Security forces also committed serious abuses in connection with
riots and demonstrations by the Berbers in the Kabylie region during the spring
and summer of 2001. While armed confrontations continued throughout the year,
there was a decrease in flagrant abuses committed by security forces. Further
infringements occurred this year during the May 30 parliamentary elections and
the October 10 local elections, when boycotts, protests, and other
demonstrations led to violent confrontations with police, which were often put
down with excessive force. Berber activists continued to face arrest,
harassment, and detainment at the hands of the Government in the months
following local and parliamentary elections.
Security-force involvement in
disappearances from previous years remained unresolved. The Government attempted
to improve prison conditions with the assistance of the United Nations
Development Program (UNDP). During the year, prisoners died in fires which
stemmed from riots protesting prison conditions. Prolonged pretrial detention
and lengthy trial delays were problems. Despite reforms in the judicial system,
detention beyond the legal limit remained a problem. Defendants' rights to due
process, illegal searches, and infringements on citizens' privacy rights also
Although there was no overt censorship of
information, the Government continued to restrict freedom of speech, press,
assembly, association, and movement in varying degrees during the year. The
print media was relatively free and the independent press commented regularly
and openly and expressed a wide range of views on significant issues such as
terrorist violence and surrenders under the amnesty program. However, some
elements of the news media practiced self-censorship.
Unlike in the past, when electronic media
expressed only government policy, government-controlled radio and television
stations presented a variety of views, including those critical of the
Government, especially during the violence that took place in the Kabylie region
of the country from the spring and summer of 2001 through the end of this year.
The Government also placed some restrictions on freedom of religion. Domestic
violence against women, the Family Code's limits on women's civil rights and
societal discrimination against women remained serious problems. Child abuse was
a problem. Although the Government recognized the Amazigh language as a national
language, Kabylie ethnic, cultural, and linguistic rights were the objects of
demonstrations and riots in the spring of 2001 and remained an undercurrent of
the political scene throughout the year, particularly during protests
surrounding the parliamentary and local elections. Child labor was a problem.
Armed groups committed numerous serious
abuses and killed hundreds of civilians, including infants. While such violence
continued to decrease, it did not decrease at the same rate as in 2001. Armed
terrorists continued their widespread campaign of insurgency, targeting
government officials, families of security-force members, and civilians. The
killing of civilians often was the result of rivalry between terrorist groups
and to facilitate the theft of goods needed by the armed groups. Violence was
also used by terrorist groups to extort money.
Armed groups left bombs in cars, cafes,
and markets, which killed and injured indiscriminately. Some killings, including
massacres, also were attributed to revenge, banditry, and land grabs. Press
reports estimated that approximately 1,386 civilians, terrorists, and security
force members died during the year in the ongoing domestic turmoil. The violence
appears to have occurred primarily in the countryside, as the security forces
largely forced the insurgents out of the cities. Algeria was invited by the
Community of Democracies' (CD) Convening Group to attend the November 2002
second CD Ministerial Meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea, as an observer.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
The security forces committed
extra-judicial killings, mostly during clashes with armed terrorist groups. The
Government maintained that security forces resorted to lethal force only in the
context of armed clashes with terrorists. However, security forces killed 71
civilians this year. The Government also contends that, as a matter of policy,
disciplinary action is taken against soldiers or policemen who are guilty of
violating human rights, and that some disciplinary action was taken during the
year. However, the Government did not routinely release specific information
regarding punishments of military and security force personnel and no such data
was made public this year. The majority of civilian deaths at the hands of
security forces occurred this year during protests in and around the Kabylie
During riots in late March, a gendarme
shot and killed a young man in Chemini, Bejaia. As a result of the rioting that
ensued between gendarmes and protestors, there were hundreds of casualties and
four persons were critically injured (see Section 1.g.).
In April mass protest marches took place
in Kabylie towns to commemorate the first anniversary of high school student
Massinissa Guermah's death in custody. Street battles between protesters and
riot police resulted in numerous injuries and deaths (see Sections 2.b.).
On August 2, security forces in the east
of the country killed 40 terrorists after surrounding their mountain compound
for 12 days. Over the course of a 2-week period, security forces in the area of
Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia bombed different camps belonging to the terrorist
organization Salifast Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) camps using military
helicopters in an attempt to capture GSPC leader Hassan Hattab.
In 2001 security forces surrounded for 11
days an abandoned mine used as a stronghold by the terrorist group GSPC calling
for the terrorists to surrender. Security forces then used explosive to collapse
the mine, which killed 70 persons.
In 2001 Massinissa Guermah, a 19-year-old
Amazigh high school student, died in the custody of security forces of gunshot
wounds. During the April 2001 demonstrations and riots that ensued in the
Kabylie region following Guermah's death, security forces used excessive force,
killing at least 45 rioters and demonstrators and injuring hundreds more (see
Sections 1.c., 1.d, 2.b, and 5). Press reports have estimated that as many as 80
rioters may have died at the hands of security forces during the riots that
continued into the summer. Ten days after Guermah's death, the local gendarmerie
issued a statement claiming that the official responsible for the death of
Guermah had been court-martialed. The Government appointed two separate
commissions to investigate Guermah's death and the violence that followed it. In
2001 the report of one commission, headed by Amazigh jurist Mohand Issaad, found
that the security forces version of the death was "not satisfactory,"
blamed gendarmerie units for using excessive force in putting down the
demonstrations, and found that the units did so without orders. The report of
the National Assembly Commission, released this year, differed little from the
original account of the incident given by security forces. In reaction to the
National Assembly report's release, the Government issued financial indemnities
to the families of victims and detainees in addition to a proclamation ordering
the "draw down" of gendarmes during the year. Both uniformed and
civilian clothes police were deployed to minimize tension in the region.
In November 1999, prominent FIS leader
Abedlkader Hachani, who had spoken out in favor of peace and reconciliation, was
shot and killed in Algiers. In December 1999, authorities arrested a suspect who
had the murder weapon in his possession. In March the suspect, Fouad Boulemia,
was found guilty and sentenced to death.
During the year, there continued to be no
reports of pro-government militia killing civilians as there had been in the
Armed groups targeted both security-force
members and civilians. Civilian deaths attributed to terrorists decreased by 30
percent from 2001 totals. In many cases, terrorists randomly targeted civilians
in an apparent attempt to create social disorder. In other cases, violent
reprisals were reportedly taken against those who failed to pay a
"tax" to the terrorists. Armed groups killed numerous civilians,
including infants, in massacres and with small bombs. Bombs left in cars, cafes,
and markets killed and maimed persons indiscriminately (see Section 1.g.). As
well as the use of small bombs, terrorist tactics included creating false
roadblocks outside the cities, often by using stolen police uniforms, weapons,
and equipment. Some killings, including massacres, also were attributed to
revenge, banditry, and land grabs.
Press reports estimated that approximately
1,386 civilians, terrorists, and security force members died during the year as
a result of the ongoing violence, a decrease from the 1,980 who died during the
previous year. The violence appears to have occurred primarily in the
countryside, as the security forces largely forced the insurgents out of the
On April 24, terrorists associated with
GIA targeted two families as they slept in a nomad camp outside of Djelfa,
killing 16 persons. Among the victims were nine children and an infant. The sole
survivors of the attack reported that the group robbed the families of
valuables, food, and a single rifle after the attack. On May 1 six armed
terrorists associated with GIA entered the city of Tiaret and proceeded to
attack two families using axes and knives. Thirty-one persons were killed and
five persons injured during the attack.
At the start of summer, outside Jijel in
the wilaya of Chlef, terrorists slit the throats of 23 nomads. After setting
fire to two of the tents and a car, the attackers fled, taking with them a
26-year-old woman. Press reports noted on July 3 that over the past 10-day
period 80 persons were killed in acts of terrorism across the nation.
On August 15, a terrorist group killed 26
persons in the hamlet of Khodr. The victims included women and 7 children
between the ages of 3 and 12 years old.
On November 23, terrorists in the
mountains outside Bejaia killed 9 members of the security forces during a
nighttime counter-terrorist operation.
Other similar incidents took place during
the year and from 1991-2001.
There were no credible reports during the
year of disappearances in which the security forces were implicated. However,
local NGOs reported a new trend of prolonged detention ranging from 8 to 18
months that was frequently reported as a disappearance until the person in
question was returned to his or her family. These "new" disappearances
at the hands of security forces often differed in duration and outcome from the
disappearances which occurred in the country during the first half of the 1990s
that remained unresolved. These incidents remained contrary to the legal
procedures stipulated in the country's penal code and its Constitution. There
have been credible reports of thousands of disappearances occurring over a
period of several years in the mid-90s, many of which involved the security
forces. A Ministry of Interior office in each district accepts cases from
resident families of those reported missing. Credible sources state that the
offices provided little useful information to the families of those who
disappeared. During the year, the Government lobbied for internal and
international support for a DNA lab and forensics training to assist in the
process of identifying human remains in order to update relatives as to the
status of the disappeared.
In a press conference held in June, the
Director of the National Consultative Commission for the Protection and
Promotion of Human Rights publicly admitted that "the issue of the
disappeared was the country's greatest weakness and that more should and could
In August a body of a
"disappeared" person was discovered buried in a cemetery outside of
Algiers. No records were available as to the circumstances under which the body
was interred, and the family was unable to receive a certificate listing cause
of death, despite repeated requests.
In 2001 the Minister of Interior told the
National Assembly that the Ministry had agreed to investigate 4,880 cases of
citizens reported "disappeared." The Ministry reported that it
provided information to the families in 3,000 of those cases. In 1,600 of the
cases, families requested administrative action to obtain death certificates for
their missing relatives. There were no reported prosecutions of security-force
personnel stemming from these cases, but government officials reported in 2000
that between 350 and 400 security officials had been punished for "human
rights abuses." Families of the missing persons, defense attorneys, and
local human rights groups insisted that the Government could do more to solve
the outstanding cases. The Government asserted that the majority of reported
cases of disappearances either were committed by terrorists disguised as
security forces or involved former armed Islamist supporters who went
underground to avoid terrorist reprisals.
The total number of disappeared in the
country continues to be debated. Official government estimates asserted publicly
that approximately 4,700 persons were missing, while privately some government
officials speculate that the total could be as high as 12,000. Local NGOs
reported figures of the total number of disappeared closer to 8,000. In
September 2000, (AI) reported that since 1994 more that 4,000 persons
disappeared after being detained by security forces.
Local NGO sources noted that a few of the
persons who disappeared were released from captivity by the security forces, but
that there was no public information about these cases, due to the fear of
reprisal against those released. Family members and other human rights activists
maintained that a number of persons who disappeared were still alive in the
hands of security forces. Witness testimony made these assertions credible.
However, it remained unclear if the disappeared seen alive during the 1995-1997
period still remain so. Terrorist groups continued to kidnap scores of
civilians. In many instances, the victims disappeared, and the families were
unable to obtain information about their fate.
There were incidents of women and girls
being kidnaped by terrorist groups for the purposes of rape and servitude during
the year (see Sections 5, 6.c., and 6.f.).
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Both the Constitution and legislation
prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; however,
according to local human rights groups and defense lawyers, the police at times
resorted to torture when interrogating persons including those suspected of
being involved with, or having sympathies for, armed insurgency groups.
There continued to be reports of police
torture and other abuse of detainees during the year. AI stated that some
persons die in custody from torture or were executed. The International Red
Cross noted a decrease in incidents of torture and that the severity of such
acts diminished. Many victims of torture hesitate to make public such
allegations due to fear of government retaliation.
According to AI, in April, after
plainclothes agents arrested Tahar Facouli, a shopkeeper from the village of
Surcouf, security forces tortured him for his alleged contact with human rights
lawyer Rachid Mesli.
Rally for Democratic Culture (RCD) alleged
during the course of the year that four of its members and their families were
detained and tortured by "persons with professional experience similar to
those given government training." Despite appeals to the Government for
clarification by year's end, no investigations into this matter had occurred.
In the past, the Interior Ministry and the
National Observatory of Human Rights (ONDH) stated publicly that the Government
would punish those persons who violated the law and practiced torture.
Government officials reported in November 2000 that between 350 and 400 security
officials had been punished for human rights abuses, although the Government
provided no details regarding the abuses that such officials committed or the
punishment that they received. There was no independent mechanism available to
verify the Government's claim. The National Observatory for Human Rights was
replaced in 2001 by the National Consultative Commission for the Protection and
Promotion of Human Rights (CNCPPDDH).
In response the backlash against security
force tactics used to put down riots during the 2001 Black Spring, the
Government replaced gendarme units patrolling the Kabylie region this year
during the summer and fall elections with members of the local police forces.
Armed altercations between security forces
and rioting civilians nonetheless continued this year, sometimes resulting in
death. At the writing of this report, gendarme units were deployed again to the
In 2001 the Government used excessive
force in some instances to put down demonstrations and riots throughout the year
in the largely Berber Kabylie region. Outdoor demonstrations in the Kabylie
region turned violent from April 22 to 28, following the death in security
forces' custody of a 19-year-old Berber high school student (see Sections 1.a.,
1.c., 2.b., and 5.). Security forces used live ammunition against demonstrators,
including against youths throwing stones and molotov cocktails. According to the
ministry of the interior, security forces killed 45 protesters and injured 491
within six days in April of 2001. Some of those killed or injured were shot in
the back. AI reported in 2001 that press reports indicated that as many as 80
persons were killed in the Kabylie through mid-year. In addition the Government
detained a large number of persons for short periods in connection with the
violence. AI reported that security forces tortured, beat, and otherwise abused
a number of them (see Section 1.d.). Although the Government allowed several
subsequent demonstrations to take place, it used force to disrupt several other
demonstrations that were held throughout the spring and summer of 2001 and
through much of the period covered by this report (see Section 2.b.).
In 2000 the Government announced new laws
and policies concerning the Police Judiciaire (PJ), which interrogates suspects
when they first are arrested to determine whether there are grounds for
prosecution. Local judges now are required to grade the performance of PJ
officers operating in their jurisdiction in an effort to ensure that the
officers comply with the law in their treatment of suspects. In addition, any
suspect held in preventative detention is to undergo a medical examination at
the end of the detention, whether the suspect requests it or not. These measures
remained in effect and the Government adopted them in practice.
In February 2001, following a bombing
against a military unit in the area, security forces arrested Said Zaoui and
approximately 20 other men in Dellys. The detainees reportedly were tortured and
Zaoui reportedly remained in detention.
Police beat protestors while forcibly
dispersing several demonstrations during the year and in 2001 (see Section
Armed terrorist groups committed numerous
abuses, such as beheading, mutilating, and dismembering their victims, including
infants, children, and pregnant women. These groups also used bombs that killed
and injured persons (see Sections 1.a. and 1.g.). Deaths at the hands of armed
groups decreased by about 30 percent, from 1,124 in 2001 to 782 during the year
(see Sections 1.a).
Prison conditions were spartan, but
generally met international standards. A local human rights activist noted that
the condition of prisons throughout the country were a result of overcrowding,
more than programmed or state-sponsored neglect. Poor medical standards for
prisoners received press coverage in October, 6 months after nationwide prison
protests. However, the provision of medical treatment remained limited. The
media reported there was one doctor for every 300 prisoners. An international
NGO noted that the Government continued to improve prison conditions over the
past two years. Prisoners generally were found to be in good health and
benefited from adequate food and expanded visitation rights. However, prison
protests and riots occurred throughout the summer, fall, and winter of this
year, as a result of conditions imposed by overcrowding and poor living
conditions, resulting in injuries and numerous deaths.
On April 30, a 19-year-old prisoner at Bab
El Djedid Prison in Algiers attempted to kill himself with a broken light bulb.
As prison guards attempted to stop the prisoner, a second prisoner in a nearby
cell lit a fire in his bed. Nineteen prisoners died and nine others were injured
in the ensuing fire. Three days later a revolt began in the same prison, with
approximately 60 prisoners climbing onto the roof and threatening to jump.
On May 5, in the prison of Boussouf in
Constantine, prisoners lit fire to their sheets and beds. Forty-eight prisoners
were injured and four had serious injuries.
In general the Government does not permit
independent monitoring of prisons or detention centers outside of programmed
visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Government
allowed ICRC to visit prisons since 1999 and as of October, ICRC had an official
presence. Limited monitoring consisted of pre-selected detainees, chosen by the
Government, being granted access to and meeting with various international human
rights groups. The ICRC did not visit FIS leaders or other political leaders in
prison or under house arrest.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary
arrest and detention; however, the security forces continued arbitrarily to
arrest and detain citizens, although such practices have been reported less
frequently than in past years.
The 1992 Antiterrorist Law suspended the
requirement that the police obtain warrants in order to make an arrest. During
the year, the police made limited use of this law. However, according to defense
attorneys, police who executed searches without a warrant routinely failed to
identify themselves as police and abused those who asked for identification (see
The Constitution provides that
incommunicado detention in criminal cases prior to arraignment may not exceed 48
hours, after which the suspect must be charged or released. However, according
to the 1992 Antiterrorist Law, the police may hold suspects in pre-arraignment
detention for up to 12 days, although police must inform suspects of the charges
against them. In practice the security forces generally adhered to this 12-day
limit in terrorist cases and to the 48-hour limit in nonterrorist cases.
The President of CNCPPDDH stated in a
press interview in September that he considered "the poor application of
legal texts by judges, notably the practice of 'preventive detention' to be the
sole reason that the country's entire judicial system continues to be of poor
quality." He further stated that the State of Emergency had no room to
accommodate human rights, and personally demanded that it be lifted.
In April according to AI, Tahar Facouli
was tortured and kept in detention because of his contacts with exiled human
rights lawyer Rachid Mesli.
Rally for Democratic Culture (RCD) members
lodged a formal complaint to the Ministry of Justice for the 3-day detainment
without formal charges of a party member from May 5 through May 8. In October a
human rights attorney who had frequently aligned himself with the RCD was beaten
by unknown assailants outside of the El Aurassi Hotel. RCD officials alleged
that "aspects of the Government" were involved in the attack.
Arouch citizen's movement members Belaid
Abrika, Mouloud Chebheb, Mohamed Nekkah, Mahklouf Lyes, Allik Tahar, and Rachid
Allouache were arrested and detained while attempting to follow the court
proceedings of Kabylie residents arrested during the riots. On October 15,
Abrika was charged with inciting violence and held on a four month, renewable
basis until his trial. In December he and others began a hunger strike which
lasted 42 days to protest their detainment. In contravention of the Penal Code,
by year's end, a trial date had not been chosen by the Government (see Section
In April 2001, three students were
arrested in two separate incidents in the Kabylie region. One died in custody
and the other two subsequently were released. The death in custody precipitated
demonstrations and riots in the region throughout the spring and summer and
remained an aspect of protests carried out in the region this year (see Sections
1.a., 1.c., 2.b.).
In 2001 the Government detained and
released hundreds of persons in connection with the demonstrations and riots
that took place in the Kabylie region in the spring and summer following the
April death in custody. AI reported that the police tortured or otherwise abused
persons in custody at that time (see Section 1.c.).
Abassi Madani, President of the banned FIS
party, who was released from prison in 1997, remained under house arrest and was
allowed to receive visits only from members of his family (see Section 2.d.).
During the year, Madani made numerous press statements and conducted interviews
while under house arrest. Jailed oppositionist and FIS vice president Ali
Belhadj, who had been held incommunicado from 1992 until 1998, was allowed
contact with members of his family, who spoke to the press on his behalf during
the year. Media reports indicated that Government officials also held talks with
the FIS in an attempt to gauge public sentiment towards a release of the leaders
on humanitarian grounds due to poor health. In early December the Government
abandoned plans for his release, according to print media.
Police and communal guards frequently
detained persons at checkpoints. There were previously reports of police
arresting close relatives of suspected terrorists in order to force the suspects
to surrender. While no reports were received of similar acts this year,
73-year-old El-Hadj M'lik who was arrested in 2000 was questioned concerning his
sons, one of whom is believed to be a member of a terrorist group. Security
officials reassured the family on two separate occasions that M'lik would be
returned to them. However, the Government has released no further information on
the case during the year.
Prolonged pretrial detention was a
problem. Persons accused of crimes sometimes did not receive expeditious trials;
however, instances of long-term detention appeared to decrease somewhat during
the past year (see Section 1.e.). Hundreds of state enterprise officials who
were arrested on charges of corruption in 1996 remained in detention. Some local
human rights activists and NGOs claimed that the Government continued to keep
some former prisoners under surveillance and required them to report
periodically to police.
Forced exile is not a legal form of
punishment and was not known to be practiced. However, numerous cases of
self-imposed exile involved former FIS members or persons who maintained that
they have been accused falsely of terrorism as punishment for openly criticizing
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an
independent judiciary; however, executive branch decrees restricted the
judiciary's authority. The Minister of Justice appoints the judges. A judge's
term is 10 years. The Government reportedly may remove judges at will. In August
2000, the President announced a massive reorganization of the judiciary. He
changed approximately 80 percent of the heads of the 187 lower courts and all
but three of the presidents of the 37 higher-level courts. Most of the court
heads were reassigned to new locations; however, a number were replaced. The
Government sought international technical assistance with the reform of its
judiciary over the course of the year, in many instances funded in full by the
The judiciary is composed of the civil
courts, which tried cases involving civilians, and the military courts, which
have tried civilians on security and terrorism charges. There is also
Constitutional Council, which reviews the constitutionality of treaties, laws,
and regulations. Although the Council is not part of the judiciary, it has the
authority to nullify laws found unconstitutional. The Council has nine members:
three of the members (including the council president) are appointed by the
President; two are elected by the upper house of the Parliament; two are elected
by the lower house of the Parliament; one is elected by the Supreme Court; and
one is elected by the Council of State. Regular criminal courts try those
persons accused of security-related offenses. Long-term detentions of suspects
awaiting trial again appeared to decrease somewhat during the year (see Section
According to the Constitution, defendants
are presumed innocent until proven guilty. They have the right to confront their
accusers and may appeal the conviction. Trials are public, and defendants have
the right to legal counsel. However, the authorities did not always respect all
legal provisions regarding defendants' rights, and continue to deny due process.
Some lawyers did not accept cases of defendants accused of security-related
offenses, due to fear of retribution from the security forces. Defense lawyers
for members of the banned FIS suffered harassment, death threats, and arrest.
An unknown number of persons who could be
considered political prisoners were serving prison sentences because of their
sympathies with Islamist groups and membership in the FIS. International human
rights groups did not request visits with political prisoners this year;
therefore it was unclear whether the Government would permit such organizations
to visit political prisoners.
In the days prior to the May legislative
elections, President Bouteflika granted amnesty to prisoners serving jail
sentences for criminal violations, including four students jailed for throwing
rocks at him during a visit to Algiers.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence
The Constitution provides for the
inviolability of the home, but authorities frequently infringed on citizens'
privacy rights. The state of emergency authorizes provincial governors to issue
exceptional warrants at any time. Security forces also entered residences
without warrants. According to defense attorneys, police who executed searches
without a warrant routinely failed to identify themselves as police and abused
persons who asked for identification.
Security forces deployed an extensive
network of secret informers against both terrorist targets and political
opponents. Credible sources and journalists believe that the Government actively
monitored telephone lines of political opponents, journalists, and human rights
groups (see Section 4). There were reports of police arresting close relatives
of suspected terrorists in order to force the suspects to surrender (see Section
Armed terrorists entered private homes
either to kill or kidnap residents or to steal weapons, valuables, or food (see
Section 1.a.). After massacres that took place in their villages, numerous
civilians fled their homes. Armed terrorist groups consistently used threats of
violence to extort money from businesses and families across the country.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations
of Humanitarian Law
On October 24, during a television
interview with French channel LCI broadcast nationally, General Touati, the
President's Defense Advisor, stated that the Kabylie region had been
"severely repressed." Kabylie Security forces reportedly exhibited
excessive force throughout the year in the Kabylie region.
In March gendarme units stationed in
Azazga (Tizi Ouzou), El Kseur, and Seddouk abandoned their barracks in the face
of widespread protests. Rioters burned barracks buildings, and in retaliation,
gendarmes from El Kseur, upon orders from the Government, looted and ransacked
shops, threatened bystanders and protesters alike, and attacked many. The death
of a man in Seddouk at the hands of security forces sparked off more violent
clashes (see Section 1.a.).
Wide-spread protest throughout the Kabylie
region during July and August forced 21 gendarmerie brigades to withdraw after a
young man was killed when shot in the head by a plastic bullet during riots in
Chemini, Bejaia. Amidst the rioting that ensued, casualty figures were in the
hundreds and special units of security forces were called in to replace the
gendarmes as they withdrew from the region. Anticipating the gendarmes'
departure, youths marching on barracks in Mechtras were fired at by gendarmes
with rubber bullets and smoke grenades, critically injuring four. Further
rioting ensued, which resulted in violent clashes between gendarmes and
protesters (see Section 1.a.).
In April 2001, gendarme units used
excessive force in response to rioting in the Kabylie region. Gendarme units
shot rioters with lethal rounds, not rubber ones, often in the back. A report
issued by the government-appointed Issad Commission to investigate the violence,
found that the gendarmes acted without orders. The Government claimed that the
gendarmes who fired the shots were disciplined. However, no details were
provided to the public during the year regarding the specifics of this
"disciplinary" action (see Sections 1.a. and 2.b.).
Armed groups continued to be responsible
for numerous, indiscriminate killings. Terrorists left bombs at several markets
and other public places during the year, killing and injuring dozens of persons.
In rural areas, terrorists continued to plant bombs and mines, which often
targeted security force personnel.
On March 17, terrorists left a large
home-made bomb which exploded at a post office in Algiers, in which more 20
persons were injured.
On April 20, a nail bomb left at a school
in Medea exploded injuring 20. On May 15, a bomb a few meters from the
headquarters of the communal guard killed 4 and injured 14. Hidden in a manhole
at the entrance of an open-air market in Tazmalt, the blast was timed to kill
countless more had it not been for poor craftsmanship.
On July 5, a market bomb in Larbaa killed
38 and injured 82. As in the past, such random lethal terrorist attacks occurred
throughout the year (see Section 1.a.).
On October 12, terrorists set up a false
roadblock outside of Boumia. Dressed as communal guards, a vehicle traveling
from Algiers was detained that contained six persons. Four civilians were robbed
of their valuables; the terrorists shot and killed the two police officers
traveling with the group.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties,
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of
speech; however, the Government restricted this right in practice. A 1990 law
specifies that freedom of speech must respect "individual dignity, the
imperatives of foreign policy, and the national defense." The state of
emergency decree gives the Government broad authority to restrict these freedoms
and to take legal action against what it considers to be threats to the state or
public order. These regulations were enforced throughout the year, and in some
instances appeared to target specific media organizations and their staff. The
number of independent press publications prosecuted or fined for reporting on
security matters increased from the previous year.
While the law permits the Government to
levy fines and jail time against the press in a manner that restricts press
freedom, in practice the existence of such a did little to curb reporting by the
independent press. However, members of the press acknowledged the economic
strains placed on the print media as a result of the 2001 amendment.
In 2001 the Government enacted broad
amendments to the Penal Code that imposed high fines and prison terms of up to
24 months for defamation or "insult" of government figures, including
the President, Members of Parliament, judges, members of the military and
"any other authority of public order." At least six prosecutions
occurred under the 2001 amendment to the Penal Code by year's end.
The Government's definition of security
information often extended beyond purely military matters to encompass broader
political affairs. In 1995 FIS officials who had been freed from detention in
1994 received direct orders from the Justice Ministry to make no further public
statements. This ban remained in force.
In general journalists exercised
self-censorship by not publishing criticism of specific senior military
officials, although throughout the year, the press widely criticized current and
retired military officers.
In February two journalists were brought
before the court and censured for reporting on security force tactics used
against terrorists in mountainous areas. A television journalist with National
Radio and Television (RTN) was refused accreditation without explanation and
barred from covering October's local elections. Despite inquiries on his behalf
by RTN and other interested parties, the grounds of the refusal were not made
For example, in August media criticism of
military spending forced General Lamari to appear at a press conference,
brandishing his pay slip in defense of his salary. Media criticism of the
military and its leadership reached a groundswell during the Government
sponsored "Colloquium on Terrorism" on October 26-28.
On October 22, the editors of three major
newspapers El-Watan, Liberte, and le Matin, were brought to court to respond to
charges brought against them by the Ministry of Defense under the 2001
Amendment. The El-Watan editor was charged with "allowing" a
journalist on his staff to write a libelous article about the son-in-law of
Colonel Boussis, a prominent retired colonel.
During the fall, the Ministry of
Communication and Culture proposed a pilot study to have fledgling newspapers
screened by the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Justice, as opposed to
the Ministry of Communication and Culture as provided for under the current law.
Journalists raised concerns that should the pilot study be promulgated into law,
journalists' freedom of expression will be constrained and monitored by the
Ministry of the Interior under the guise of national security. By year's end,
the pilot study was implemented.
In July 2001, Fawzia Ababsah, managing
editor of the French-language daily newspaper, L'Authentique, was tried in
abstentia and sentenced to 6 months in prison for defamation of Secretary
General Mahmoudi of the Finance Confederation (a union of financial workers).
Under the law, a person tried in abstentia has the right to "oppose"
any such decision and have the case reheard at the same level. Ababsah stated
that she intended to oppose the finding in her case.
According to a 1994 inter-ministerial
decree, independent newspapers can print security information only from official
government bulletins carried by the government-controlled Algerian Press Service
(APS). However, independent newspapers openly ignored the directive, and the
trend toward increased openness about security-force activities continued during
the year. The Government continued to provide the press with more information
than in the past about the security situation. The government-controlled press
reported on terrorism in an increasingly straightforward and accurate manner.
Unlike in previous years, when journalists deliberately did not report on
current possible abuses by security forces to avoid difficulties with the
Government, the independent press reported openly on abuses by the gendarmerie
during the recent violence in the Kabylie region in 2001 and the violence
surrounding this year's elections (see Sections 1.a., 1.c., 1.d., 2.b., and 5).
There also was significant coverage of NGO activity aimed at publicizing
government abuses committed in the past.
Other than El Moujahid, which is the
official government newspaper and reflects the FLN party's views, there were no
newspapers owned by political parties, although Liberte, L'Expression,
L'Autentique, and El-Borhane continued to report from an ideological
perspective. Many parties, including legal Islamist political parties, had
access to the independent press, in which they expressed their views without
government interference. Opposition parties also disseminated information via
the Internet and in comuniques.
In 2001 two independent newspapers (El
Watan and Al-Khabbar) began to print in a privately run printing plant with
privately obtained newsprint. This ended the Government's monopoly on printing
companies and newsprint imports. However, most independent newspapers continued
to rely on the Government for printing and paper imports. There was no overt use
of the Government's power to halt newspaper publications during the year.
However, an administrative notice was disseminated throughout the ministries in
March announcing that four newspapers that were highly critical of the
Government, Liberte, Le Matin, Le Soir, and El -Youm, would no longer be
distributed to ministry offices.
The Government continued to exercise
pressure on the independent press through the state-owned advertising company.
All state-owned companies that wished to place an advertisement in a newspaper
had to submit the item to the advertising company, which then decided in which
newspapers to place it. In an economy in which state companies' output and
government services still represented approximately two-thirds of national
income, government-provided advertising constituted a significant source of
advertising revenue for the country's newspapers. Advertising companies tended
to provide significant amounts of advertising to publications with a strong
anti-Islamist editorial line and to withhold advertising from newspapers on
political grounds, even if such newspapers had large readerships or offered
cheap advertising rates.
Radio and television remained under
government control, with coverage favoring the Government's policies.
Satellite-dish antennas were widespread, and millions of citizens had access to
European and Middle Eastern broadcasting.
Many artists, intellectuals, and
university educators fled the country after widespread violence began in 1992;
however, some continued to return during the year. A growing number of academic
seminars and colloquiums occurred without governmental interference, including a
conference on Kabylie language and culture in October. In May 2001, a forum on
Judicial Reform was sponsored by Freedom House, which enjoyed wide press
University students staged numerous small
strikes early in the year in support of the protests in Kabylie. In April a
student strike in Algiers shut down two universities. Launched to protest the
arrest of over 500 persons in the Kabylie region during riots staged throughout
the year, the universities remained closed for four days. The Government did not
interfere in any political or economic seminars, as it had in the past.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and
The Constitution provides for the right of
assembly; however, the 1992 Emergency Law and government practice sharply
curtailed this right. Citizens and organizations must obtain permits from the
appointed local governor before holding public meetings. The Government
frequently granted licenses to political parties, NGOs, and other groups to hold
indoor rallies, although licenses were frequently granted days before events
were to take place, often impeding event publicity and outreach.
On December 10, supporters of Arouch
detainees attempted a protest in Algiers. Security forces increased their
presence and government roadblocks along the road leading from Tizi Ouzou to
Algiers, and security was heightened throughout the capital. Approximately fifty
persons were arrested as police and security forces put down the 300 - person
protest. In December a commune on the outskirts of Tizi Ouzou in the Kabylie
banned public demonstrations.
In response to the backlash against
security force tactics used to put down riots in Spring 2001, the Government
replaced gendarme units patrolling the Kabylie region this year during the
summer and fall elections with members of the local police forces. Armed
altercations between security forces and rioting civilians nonetheless continued
this year, frequently resulting in death.
In October gendarme units were deployed
again to the Kabylie region in the days surrounding the local elections to quell
anticipated civil unrest.
In spring 2001, the Government used
excessive force in some instances to put down demonstrations and riots in the
largely Berber Kabylie region. More than 50 persons were killed, hundreds were
injured, and a large number of persons were detained for short periods in
connection with the violence. AI reported that security forces tortured, beat,
and otherwise abused a number of them (see Sections 1.a., 1.c., 1.d., and 5).
Although the Government allowed several
subsequent demonstrations to take place, it used force to disrupt several other
demonstrations that were held throughout the spring and summer of 2001 and
during the year (see Section 2.b.).
After the April 2001 violence, the
Government permitted some demonstrations (most of them unsanctioned) to take
place. The largest political demonstration to take place in Algiers since 1998
concluded peacefully in early May 2001, in which more than 20,000 persons
marched in protest of government actions in quelling unrest in the Kabylie
However, the Government at times used
force to disperse demonstrations that became violent. In late May 2001, as many
as 20,000 demonstrators marched in Algiers with the tacit approval of the
Government. Security forces used tear gas and water cannons to break up the
demonstrations when 600 to 700 protestors became violent, throwing stones at
police. One month later, the Government dispersed a march of more than 250,000
protesters after small groups of marchers became violent, with tear gas and
water cannons. Some protesters burned and destroyed property, looting a police
station, a bus depot, stores, and businesses. In response, the Government
announced a ban on demonstrations in the capital which remained in effect.
Some other unlicensed groups continued to
be active, including groups dedicated to the cause of persons who have
disappeared. Such groups continued to hold regular demonstrations outside
government buildings during the year.
In November 2001, security forces in
Constantine disrupted a demonstration by family members of persons who had
disappeared. When the crowd of approximately 100 persons arrived at the town
hall for the weekly demonstration, they were met by security forces who demanded
that they disperse. When the demonstrators refused to leave, security forces
forcibly dispersed them, reportedly using truncheons. One person was injured.
The Constitution provides for the right of
association; however, the 1992 Emergency Law and government practice severely
restricted it. The Interior Ministry must approve all political parties before
they may be established (see Section 3). In October President Bouteflika
announced that the Government would consider dissolving parties that received
less that 5 percent of the vote during the local elections. The Interior
Minister confirmed the Government's intention to promulgate such a decree,
despite it being in violation of the Constitution.
In 2000 the Government refused to approve
the Wafa Party on the grounds that many of its members had belonged to the
outlawed FIS. The Government closed the Party's offices in November 2000. The
Front Democratique, headed by former Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali, applied
for registration in May 2000, but received no response within the time period
specified by law for governmental decision on such cases (see Section 3). In
March 2001, the Interior Minister stated that the information in the party's
application was too vague and that the Ministry was in the process of gathering
the information it needed to make a decision. The Front Democratique remained
unlicensed throughout the year.
Domestic NGOs must be licensed by the
Government and the Interior Ministry regarded all associations as illegal unless
they had licenses. Domestic NGOs were prohibited from receiving funding from
abroad. The Ministry may deny a license to, or dissolve, any group regarded as a
threat to the Government's authority, or to the security or public order of the
State. After the Government suspended the parliamentary election in 1992, it
banned the FIS as a political party, and the social and charitable groups
associated with it (see Section 3). Membership in the FIS remained illegal,
although at least one former FIS leader announced publicly that he intended to
form a cultural youth group. Some unlicensed groups operated openly.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution prohibits discrimination
based on religious belief and the Government generally respected this right in
practice; however, there were some restrictions. Although the Constitution
declares Islam to be the state religion and the law limited the practice of
other faiths; however, the Government followed a de facto policy of tolerance by
not inquiring into the religious practices of individuals.
The law prohibits public assembly for
purposes of practicing a faith other than Islam. However, Roman Catholic
churches, including a cathedral in Algiers (the seat of the Archbishop),
conducted services without government interference. There were only a few
smaller churches and other places of worship; non-Muslims usually congregated in
private homes for religious services.
Since Islam is the state religion, the
country's education system is structured to benefit Muslims. Education is free
to all citizens below the age of 16, and the study of Islam is a strict
requirement in the public schools, which are regulated by the Ministry of
Education and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
The Government monitored activities in
mosques for possible security-related offenses and bars their use as public
meeting places outside of regular prayer hours. The Ministry of Religious
Affairs provided financial support to mosques and has limited control over the
training of imams. The Ministry of Religious Affairs frequently appointed
selected imams to mosques throughout the country, and by law is allowed to
pre-screen religious sermons before they are delivered publicly. In practice,
while the Government frequently reviewed sermons, the press reported that
mosques supplanted government-appointed imams with those that hold views more
closely aligned to the sentiments of each mosques' adherents. The Ministry of
Religious Affairs publicly discussed its intention to create a government-run
school for the training of imams, charged with ensuring that all imams are of
the highest educational caliber and present messages in line with government
guidelines in place to stem religious fanaticism. However, no school was
Amendments to the Penal Code in 2001
specify prison sentences and fines for preaching in a mosque by persons who have
not been recognized by the Government as imams. "Persons (including imams
recognized by the Government) were prohibited from speaking out during prayers
at the mosque in a manner that is "contrary to the noble nature of the
mosque or likely to offend the cohesion of society or serve as an apology for
such actions." There were no reported cases in which the Government invoked
the new amendments by year's end.
Conversions from Islam to other religions
were rare. Islam does not recognize conversion to other faiths at any age.
However, the Constitution's provisions concerning freedom of religion prohibit
any Government sanction against conversion. Because of safety concerns and
potential legal and social problems, Muslim converts practiced their new faith
clandestinely. Non-Islamic proselytizing is illegal, and the Government
restricted the importation of non-Islamic religious literature for widespread
distribution, although not for personal use. Non-Islamic religious texts and
music and video selections no longer were difficult to locate for purchase. The
Government prohibits the dissemination of any literature portraying violence as
a legitimate precept of Islam.
The country's 11-year civil conflict has
pitted self- proclaimed radical Muslims against the general Islamic population.
Self-proclaimed "Islamists," or religious extremists issued public
threats against all "infidels" in the country, both foreigners and
citizens, and killed both Muslims and non-Muslims, including missionaries. The
majority of the country's terrorist groups did not, as a rule, differentiate
between religious and political killings.
For a more detailed discussion see the
2002 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country,
Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law provides for freedom of domestic
and foreign travel, and freedom to emigrate; however, the Government at times
restricted these rights. The Government did not allow foreign travel by senior
officials of the banned FIS. FIS President Abassi Madani, who was released from
prison in 1997, remained under house arrest (see Section 1.d.). The Government
also does not permit young men who are eligible for the draft and who have not
yet completed their military service to leave the country if they do not have
special authorization; such authorization may be granted to students and to
those persons with special family circumstances.
The Family Code does not permit married
females less than 19 years of age to travel abroad without their husband's
permission, although this provision generally was not followed in practice (see
Under the state of emergency, the Interior
Minister and the provincial governors may deny residency in certain districts to
persons regarded as threats to public order. The Government also restricted
travel into four southern provinces, where much of the hydrocarbon industry and
many foreign workers were located, in order to enhance security in those areas.
The police and the communal guards
operated checkpoints throughout the country. They routinely stopped vehicles to
inspect identification papers and to search for evidence of terrorist activity.
They sometimes detained persons at these checkpoints.
Armed groups intercepted citizens at
roadblocks, often using stolen police uniforms and equipment in various regions
to rob them of their cash and vehicles. On occasion, armed groups killed groups
of civilian passengers at these roadblocks (see Section 1.a.).
The Constitution and the law provide for
the granting of asylum and refugee status in accordance with the 1951 U.N.
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The
Government grants asylum and cooperates with the office of the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in
assisting refugees. In 2001 the Government provided first asylum to
approximately 165,000 refugee Sahrawis, former residents of the Western Sahara
who left that territory after Morocco took control of it in the 1970s. UNHCR,
the World Food Program (WFP), the Algerian Red Crescent, and other organizations
assisted Sahrawi refugees.
The country also hosts an estimated 5,000
Palestinian refugees, most of whom no longer require international assistance.
There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights:
The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Constitution provides citizens with
the right to change their Government; however, there are limitations to this
right in practice (see Section 2.b.). The military's continued influence in
government matters constrained citizens from exercising this right to the
fullest possible extent. However, the situation continued to improve, although
factors such as voter distrust and apathy, and boycotts in the Kabylie region
underscored continuing problems in the arena of transparent governance. The
strong prerogatives of the executive branch, supported by the entrenched power
of the military and the bureaucracy, inhibited citizens from exercising this
President Bouteflika was elected in an
April 1999 presidential election that was seriously flawed by the withdrawal 1
day before the election of all other candidates, who charged that the military
already had begun to implement plans to produce a fraudulent Bouteflika victory.
Until those allegations surfaced, the campaign was conducted fairly, with all
candidates widely covered in both state-owned and private media. The conduct of
the campaign--although regulated as to the use of languages other than Arabic,
and as to the timing, location, and duration of meetings--was free, and all
candidates traveled extensively throughout the country. One potential candidate
was denied the ability to run because the electoral commission determined that
he could not prove that he had participated in the country's war of independence
against France, a legal requirement for candidates for President born before
July 1942. With the withdrawal of the other candidates and the absence of
foreign observers, it was difficult to make an accurate determination of turnout
for the election; although it apparently was as low as 30 percent, the
Government claimed a 60 percent turnout. The next presidential election is
scheduled for April 2004.
The withdrawal of six presidential
candidates in 1999 amidst credible charges of fraud, and the election of
President Bouteflika, highlighted the continued dominance of the military elite
in the process of selecting the country's political leadership. This dominance
was reportedly not as prevalent in parliamentary and local elections.
During the year, a new electoral law was implemented, with the oversight of the
majority of the country's political parties, to remedy problems in the existing
election laws that permitted the Government to remove candidates from party
lists for "security" reasons. Elections observers noted that those
selected for removal were more frequently from Islamic parties, questioning why
a judge and a professor at the national military academy could hold the
positions they do, yet be considered a national security threat when running for
On May 30, the country held its second
round of multi-party parliamentary elections since 1992. The elections were
regarded as free and fair, although not problem-free. Candidates representing 23
political parties participated, along with several independent candidates.
FLN took control of the National Popular
Assembly after an 11-year absence from power. It more than tripled its number of
seats in the 389-seat parliament, securing 199 seats in total. Two conservative
Islamic parties, Islah and Movement of the Society for Peace (MSP) share control
of 81 seats, the second largest bloc in the governing body. The Kabylie-based
Rally Democratic Culture (RCD) boycotted the vote, and urged supporters to
support its contention that the election was an outright sham.
Voter turnout of 46 percent was the lowest
since the country's independence. Problems were reported by credible sources at
some polling stations, notably ballot envelopes filled with positive votes for
the FLN. The Kabylie region launched a sometimes violently enforced boycott to
protest the lack of transparency, increased corruption, and overt discrimination
against Amazigh parties and candidates, successfully limiting the vote to 15
percent in some regions and 7 percent in Tizi Ouzou. In response to the
protagonists of the boycott's use of force to block voting from occurring in the
region while the boycott was in place, the Minister of the Interior publicly
stated prior to the elections that votes would be cast in all voting locations.
Local elections on October 10 saw further
boycotts by residents in the Kabylie region, with many protests leading to
violent confrontations with the police. On October 5, the Arouch Citizen's
Movement organized a general strike in order to reject the upcoming local
elections. Riots and confrontations with security forces ensued, of which many
were violent. Police arrested and detained Arouch (Berber political movement)
leader Belaid Abrika, his attorneys, and other leaders of the "Movement of
Citizens" while attempting to follow the court proceedings of Kabylie
residents arrested during the riots. On October 15, Abrika was charged with
inciting violence and held on a 4 month renewable basis until his trial (see
Section 1.d.). Strikes, sit-ins, and demonstrations around the Court of Justice
in Tizi Ouzou protested the arrests and continued throughout the remainder of
Under the Constitution, the President has
the authority to rule by decree in special circumstances. The President
subsequently must submit to the Parliament for approval decrees issued while the
Parliament is not in session. The President did not exercise such authority
during the year. The Parliament has a popularly elected lower chamber, the
National Popular Assembly and an upper chamber, the National Council, two-thirds
of whose members are elected by municipal and provincial councils. The President
appoints the remaining one-third of the National Council's members. Legislation
must have the approval of three-quarters of both the upper and lower chambers'
members. Laws must originate in the lower chamber.
Since 1997 the law requires that potential
political parties receive official approval from the Interior Ministry before
they may be established. To obtain approval, a party must have 25 founders from
across the country whose names must be registered with the Interior Ministry.
Two parties, Wafa and Front Democratique, have failed to receive registration.
In October President Bouteflika announced that the Government would consider
dissolving parties that received less that 5 percent of the vote during the
local elections. The Interior Minister confirmed the Government's intention to
promulgate such a decree, despite it being in violation of the Constitution. No
party may use religion, Amazigh heritage, or Arab heritage as a basis of
organizing for political purposes. The law also bans political party ties to
nonpolitical associations and regulates party financing and reporting
The more than 30 existing political
parties represent a wide spectrum of viewpoints and are engaged in activities
that ranged from holding rallies to issuing communiqués. The Government
continued to ban the FIS as a political party (see Section 2.b.). In 2001 the
Interior Minister stated that the information in the Front Democratique's
application for recognition, which was filed in May 2000, was too vague, and
that the Ministry was in the process of gathering the information it needed to
make a decision. The party's application remained pending at year's end. With
the exception of the FLN and the formerly governing National Democratic Rally (RND),
political parties sometimes encountered difficulties with local officials who
hindered their organizational efforts such as access to public venues and
permits for assembly. While opposition parties' access to state-controlled
electronic media remained limited, opposition party leaders increasingly were
permitted to represent their views on television and on the radio, even those
views directly critical of the Government. This year, for the elections, there
was an equal division of air time for political parties. Televised parliamentary
debates aired uncensored and allowed all parties access to the electronic media.
The independent press also publicized their views.
The new Cabinet, named in June, had five
female members. Twenty four of the 389 members of the lower house of Parliament
are women. The upper house had seven female members. This was an increase of 45
percent and 14 percent respectively, from last year. The spokesperson for the
Benflis Government was a woman. During both sets of the elections that occurred
this year, female candidates could be found on the top tiers of lists; this
remained true for both RND and the Islamic-leaning party of Islah. In September
1999, President Bouteflika appointed the first female provincial governor. A
woman headed the Workers' Party, and all the major political parties except one
had women's divisions headed by women.
The ethnic Berber minority of about 9
million centered in the Kabylie region participated freely and actively in the
political process in the past. However, Berber protests and boycotts surrounding
the May and October elections underscored the economic and social neglect felt
by many in this community, which made up nearly one third of the overall
population. From April 2001 through the remainder of the year, the Berber held a
series of demonstrations, some violent; security forces in some instances put
down violent demonstrations with excessive force (see Sections 1.a., 1.c., 1.d.,
Two major opposition parties originated in
the Berber-populated region of the country: the Socialist Forces Front and the
Rally for Culture and Democracy. These two parties represented Amazigh political
and cultural concerns in the Parliament and the media. The two Berber-based
parties were required to conform with the 1997 changes to the Electoral Law that
stipulated that political parties must have at least 25 founders from across the
country. Both parties dropped out of parliament in protest of human rights
violations in the Kabylie region earlier in the year.
The Touaregs, a people of Amazigh origin,
played an important role in politics despite their small numbers, particularly
in the South and along the border regions where they remained the dominant
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding
International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
The most active independent human rights
group was the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), an
independent organization that had members throughout the country. The LADDH was
not permitted access to government officials for human rights and advocacy or
research purposes, or to prisons, except as under the normal consultations
allowed between a lawyer and a client. The less active Algerian League for Human
Rights (LADH) was an independent organization based in Constantine. The LADH had
members throughout the country who followed individual cases. Human rights
groups reported occasional harassment by government authorities in the form of
obvious surveillance and monitoring of telephone service (see Section 1.f.).
The Government allowed visits by
international NGOs since loosening its ban on such visits prior to 2000.
Monitoring trips have occurred at the invitation of the Government and the
majority of groups were allowed to move about freely. During the year, Human
Rights Watch (HRW), International Red Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC), and Reporters
without Borders have all been allowed to visit the country. Although an Amnesty
Algeria office was established in Algiers in 1999, AI was not permitted access
to the country since November of 2000. The organization also claimed that the
Government was staging demonstrations opposing 2000 AI visit. Freedom House,
after criticizing the Government in late December for continued human rights
abuses, also incurred visa difficulties. In 2001 the Rights Consortium, a
combined effort of Freedom House, the International Center for Journalists, and
the American Bar Association, visited the country in January, February, and May.
Doctors Without Borders requested visas to
visit the Kabylie region in June of 2001. Their requests were denied because the
Government maintained that the country's medical system was sufficient to handle
the demand for medical care. The Government had not responded positively to
requests for visits from the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary
Disappearances, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and the U.N. Special
Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions. However, the UN Rapporteur on the
Freedom of Religion was allowed to visited the country in September.
The National Observatory for Human Rights
(ONDH) was established by the Government in 1992 to report human rights
violations to the authorities; however, in February President Bouteflika
announced the creation of a new Human Rights Commission to replace the ONDH and
the national Human Rights Ombudsman. The new National Consultative Commission
for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights was formally established in
October 2001. The Commission is made up of 45 members, 22 of whom belong to
governmental bodies and 23 of whom come from civil society and NGOs. The
nongovernmental members include representatives of Islamic religious
organizations, the Red Crescent Society, and women's rights advocacy groups. The
President approves nominees, and the Commission's budget and secretariat (which
the Government says will be "independent") come from his office. The
Commission reports on human rights issues, coordinates with police and justice
officials, advocates domestic and international human rights causes, mediates
between the Government and the population, and providing expertise on human
rights issues to the Government. Domestic NGOs must be licensed by the
Government and are prohibited from receiving funding from abroad, although they
may receive in-kind donations. Some unlicensed NGOs operated openly.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race,
Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution prohibits discrimination
based on birth, race, sex, belief, or any other personal or social condition;
however, women continued to face legal and social discrimination.
Women's rights advocates assert that
spousal abuse was common, but there were no reliable statistics regarding its
extent. Spousal abuse was more frequent in rural than urban areas and among
less-educated persons. There are no specific laws against spousal rape. Rape is
illegal, and in principle a spouse could be charged under the law. However,
there are strong societal pressures against a woman seeking legal redress
against her spouse for rape, and were no reports of the law being applied in
such cases. Battered women must obtain medical certification of the physical
effects of an assault before they lodge a complaint with the police. However,
because of societal pressures, women frequently were reluctant to endure this
process. There were few facilities offering safe haven for abused women. Two
prominent associations for women that have received recognition by the
government and international community in the country are SOS Femme en Detresse
and SOS Femme Batus. Women's rights groups experienced difficulty in drawing
attention to spousal abuse as an important social problem, largely due to
societal attitudes. There were several rape-crisis centers run by women's
groups, but they had few resources.
During the year, extremists sometimes
specifically targeted women. There were incidents of women and girls being
kidnaped by terrorist groups for the purposes of rape and servitude during the
year. One rape crisis center specializes in caring for women who are victims of
rape by terrorists (see Sections 1.b., 6.c., and 6.f.). In July 2001, a group of
young men raided a shantytown area near the oil town of Hassi- Messaoud, raping
and seriously wounding dozens of single women who lived there. The violence was
incited by an imam who accused the women of prostitution and questioned why they
were working while men in the town were unemployed.
Also in July a similar attack took place
in the area of Tebessa, a trading center east of Algiers. Trials were held for
both incidents this year, with prison sentences meted out in each case.
Prostitution for economic reasons was a
growing problem, despite being prohibited by law.
A cabinet level position for the Female
Condition and Family was established during the year. However, no changes were
made in the family code. Some aspects of the law and many traditional social
practices discriminated against women. The 1984 Family Code, which was based in
large part on Shari'a, treated women as minors under the legal guardianship of a
husband or male relative. Under the family code Muslim women are prevented from
marrying non-Muslims, although this regulation was not always enforced. The code
does not restrict Muslim men from marrying non-Muslim women. Under both Shari'a
and civil law, children born to a Muslim father are Muslim, regardless of the
mother's religion. Divorce was difficult for a wife to obtain except in cases of
abandonment or the husband's conviction for a serious crime. Husbands generally
obtained the right to the family's home in the case of divorce. Custody of the
children normally is awarded to the mother, but she may not enroll them in a
particular school or take them out of the country without the father's
authorization. Only males are able to confer citizenship on their children.
Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims; Muslim men may marry
The Family Code also affirmed the Islamic
practice of allowing a man to marry up to four wives, although this rarely
occurs in practice. A wife may sue for divorce if her husband does not inform
her of his intent to marry another woman prior to the marriage.
Women suffered from discrimination in
inheritance claims; in accordance with Shari'a, women are entitled to a smaller
portion of an estate than are male children or a deceased husband's brothers.
According to Shari'a, such a distinction is justified because other provisions
require that the husband's income and assets are to be used to support the
family, while the wife's remain, in principle, her own. However, in practice
women did not always have exclusive control over assets that they bring to a
marriage or income that they earn themselves. Married females under 19 years of
age may not travel abroad without their husbands' permission (see Section 2.d.).
Women may take out business loans and use their own financial resources.
In its 2000 report, the International
Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts (COE) noted that the Government
stated that, despite equality between men and women in law and regulation, in
practice women still were confronted with discrimination in employment resulting
from societal stereotypes. Leaders of women's organizations reported that
discriminatory violations were common. Labor Ministry inspectors did little to
enforce the law.
Social pressure against women pursuing
higher education or a career was much stronger in rural areas than in major
urban areas. Over the past 2 years, women made up more than half of the
university student population. Women constituted only 10 percent of the work
force. Nonetheless, women may own businesses, enter into contracts, and pursue
careers similar to men's careers. About 25 percent of judges were women, a
percentage that has been growing in recent years. President Bouteflika's changes
to the judiciary in 2001 increased the number of courts headed by women. Whereas
women previously only headed a few courts, women at year's end headed 26 (see
There were numerous women's rights groups,
although the size of individual groups was small. Their main goals were to
foster women's economic welfare and to amend aspects of the Family Code.
The Government provides free education for
children through the university system. More than 85 percent of children
completed the ninth grade. Boys and girls generally received the same treatment
in education, although girls were slightly more likely to drop out for financial
reasons in rural areas. The girls were then sent to vocational training schools
deemed more practical for their economic situation.
The Government provided free medical care
for all citizens-albeit in often rudimentary facilities. The Ministry of Youth
and Sports had programs for children, but such programs faced serious funding
Child abuse was a problem. However, a
system for reporting actual or suspected child abuse existed nationwide in the
country's school systems. Hospitals treat numerous child-abuse cases every year,
but many cases go unreported. Laws against child abuse have not led to notable
numbers of prosecutions. NGOs that specialized in care of children cited an
increase in domestic violence aimed at children, which they attributed to the
"culture of violence" developed during the years since 1992 and the
social dislocations caused by the movement of rural families to the cities to
escape terrorist violence. Children often were the victims of terrorist attacks.
Economic necessity compelled many children
to resort to informal employment, such as street vending (see Section 6.d.).
Persons with Disabilities
The Government did not mandate
accessibility to buildings or government services for persons with disabilities.
Public enterprises, in downsizing the work force, generally ignored a law that
requires that they reserve 1 percent of their jobs for persons with
disabilities. Social security provided for payments for orthopedic equipment,
and some NGOs received limited government financial support.
The Amazigh are an ethnic minority
centered in the Kabylie region. Amazigh nationalists sought to maintain their
own cultural and linguistic identity in the face of the Government's continued
Arabization program. Despite a declaration by President Bouteflika in 1999
stating that Amazigh would never be a recognized language, in April the
Government recognized Amazigh as a national language. The law requires that
Arabic be the official language for use in official documents. Two Government
television stations had a regular news program in Amazigh, and one of the
Government radio stations broadcasted entirely in that language. As part of the
national charter signed in 1996, the Government and several major political
parties agreed that the Amazigh culture and language were major political
components of the country's identity. There were professorships in Amazigh
culture at the University of Tizi Ouzou. Amazighs held influential positions in
government, the army, business, and journalism.
The Tuaregs, a people of Amazigh origin,
played an important role in politics despite their small numbers, particularly
in the hydro-carbon rich South and along the border regions where they remained
the dominant ethnic group.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Workers are required to obtain government
approval to establish a union, and the Government may invalidate a union's legal
status if its objectives are determined to be contrary to the established
institutional system, public order, good morals or the laws or regulations in
force. There were no legal restrictions on a worker's right to join a union.
About two-thirds of the labor force
belonged to unions. There is an umbrella labor confederation, the General Union
of Algerian Workers (UGTA) and its affiliated entities, which dates from the era
of a single political party. The UGTA encompasses national unions that are
specialized by sector. There are also several autonomous unions.
The 1990 law on labor unions requires the
Labor Ministry to approve a union application within 30 days. The Autonomous
Unions Confederation (CSA) has attempted since early 1996 to organize the
autonomous unions, but without success. The CSA continued to function without
Unions may form and join federations or
confederations, affiliate with international labor bodies, and develop relations
with foreign labor groups. For example, the UGTA is a member of the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). However, the law
prohibits unions from associating with political parties and also prohibits
unions from receiving funds from foreign sources. The courts were empowered to
dissolve unions that engaged in illegal activities.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain
The law provides for collective bargaining
for all unions, and the Government permitted this right in practice. The law
prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers, and
provides mechanisms for resolving trade union complaints of antiunion practices
by employers. It also permits unions to recruit members at the workplace.
Under states of emergency, on-going since
the Government was empowered to require workers in both the public and private
sectors to stay at their jobs in the event of an unauthorized or illegal strike.
According to the 1990 Law on Industrial Relations, workers may strike only after
14 days of mandatory conciliation or mediation. The Government on occasion
offered to mediate disputes. The law states that decisions reached in mediation
are binding on both parties. If no agreement is reached in mediation, the
workers may strike legally after they vote by secret ballot to do so. A minimum
level of public services must be maintained during public sector service
Despite a law in effect requiring all
public demonstrations, protests, and strikes to receive government authorization
prior to commencement, "unauthorized" strikes and gatherings occurred
throughout the year with retaliation by the Government or security forces. The
2001 ban on marches in the capital of Algiers remained in effect.
During the year, the ILO Committee of
Experts requested the Government to take steps through legislation to ensure
that no provisions of Legislative Decree 92-03 were applied against workers
peacefully exercising the right to strike. The decree defines as subversive
acts, or acts of terrorism, offenses directed against the stability and normal
functioning of institutions through any action taken with the intention of
"obstructing the operation of establishments providing public service"
or of "impeding traffic or freedom of movement in public places." The
Government claimed that the Decree was not directed against the right to strike
or the right to organize and has never been used against workers exercising the
right to strike peacefully.
A 3-month nationwide strike for higher
wages by university professors was resolved in September, having been preceded
by a 2-day strike in February. A strike begun in May by the Federation of
Educational Workers (FNTE) was not resolved by year's end. On October 22, health
sector workers protested poor working conditions and insufficient wages. The
media reported on plans for strikes within the courts of the capital, strikes by
labor unions, and further strikes within municipality buildings organized by the
In October members of the Arouch Citizen's
Movement organized strikes within municipal buildings to protest the arrest of
Citizen Movement Members and supporters as they tried to monitor the trials of
Kabylie detainees (see Section 1.a.). A "Youth Strike" ricocheted
across the country throughout August and September protesting economic
disenfranchisement and dwindling employment opportunities.
The Government established an
export-processing zone in Jijel. Workers in the Export Processing Zone have the
same rights as other workers in the country.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Bonded Labor
Forced or bonded labor is incompatible
with the Constitution's provisions on individual rights, and the Penal Code
prohibits compulsory labor, including forced or bonded labor by children. While
the Government generally enforced the ban effectively, armed terrorist groups
reportedly kidnaped young women and girls, and held them captive for weeks at a
time, during which group members raped them and forced them into servitude (see
Sections 1.b., 5, and 6.f.).
The ILO's Committee of Experts noted in
2000 that the law that requires persons who have completed a course of higher
education or training to perform a period of service of between 2 and 4 years in
order to obtain employment or work in an occupation, was not compatible with
relevant ILO conventions dealing with forced labor. The Committee stated that it
had been urging the Government for many years to cease imposing prison labor to
rehabilitate persons convicted for expressing certain political views.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and
Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum age for employment is 16
years. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor supposedly enforced the minimum
employment age by making periodic or unannounced inspection visits to public
sector enterprises. They did not enforce the law effectively in the agricultural
or private sectors. UNICEF reported in October 2001 that approximately 5 percent
of children worked in some capacity. There was no child labor reported in the
industrial sector; however, economic necessity compelled many children to resort
to informal employment (see Section 5).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law defines the overall framework for
acceptable conditions of work but leaves specific agreements on wages, hours,
and conditions of employment to the discretion of employers in consultation with
employees. The Government fixed by decree a monthly minimum wage for all
sectors; however, this was not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living
for a worker and family. The minimum wage was approximately $105 (8,000 dinars)
per month. Ministry of Labor inspectors were responsible for ensuring compliance
with the minimum wage regulation; however, their enforcement was inconsistent.
The standard workweek was 37.5 hours.
Workers who worked beyond the standard workweek received premium pay on a
sliding scale from "time and a half" to "double time,"
depending on whether the overtime was worked on a normal work day, a weekend, or
There were well-developed occupation and
health regulations codified in the law, but government inspectors did not
enforce these regulations effectively. There were no reports of workers being
dismissed for removing themselves from hazardous working conditions. Because
employment generally was based on very detailed contracts, workers rarely were
subjected to conditions in the workplace about which they were not previously
informed. If workers were subjected to such conditions, they first could attempt
to renegotiate the employment contract and, that failing, resort to the courts.
The high demand for employment in the country, however, gave the advantage to
employers seeking to exploit employees.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law does not prohibit specifically
trafficking in persons. There were incidents of women and girls being kidnaped
by terrorist groups for the purposes of rape and servitude during the year (see
Sections 1.b., 5, and 6.c.).
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, U.S. State Department, March