Algeria Amnesty Provides Neither Truth Nor Justice
Tomorrow's referendum in Algeria on a proposed amnesty for participants in the country's civil war will deny victims and their families the right to truth and justice, Freedom House said today.
On Thursday, September 29, Algerians will cast referendum votes on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation. The Charter would exempt all individuals -- whether in armed groups, state-armed militias or government security forces -- from prosecution for crimes committed during Algeria's civil war. The war, which began in 1992 and claimed more than 150,000 lives, also resulted in thousands of disappearances. The proposed amnesty would rule out investigations into the disappeared.
"President Bouteflika's effort to wipe the slate clean is an affront to long standing civil society efforts to bring justice and accountability," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "Leaving the legacy of Algeria's abhorrent conflict unresolved creates an obstacle to lasting peace and, by de facto offering immunity to those responsible for grave crimes, raises the specter of future human rights abuses."
The Charter comes after years of failed attempts by the Algerian government to properly investigate and prosecute perpetrators of human rights abuses committed during the civil war. Algeria's emergency laws and other impediments to freedom of association have furthered eroded efforts to uncover the truth of the war years.
In a July 13, 2005 declaration, Algerian human rights and victims' rights groups demanded truth and justice as part of any attempt at reconciliation. Freedom House reinforced this position, calling on the Algerian government to establish a truth commission and to pursue reconciliation measures that entail thorough investigations into human rights violations perpetrated by both government and Islamist forces during the civil war.
In Freedom House's latest global survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World 2005, Algeria is rated Not Free. Background material is available online:
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.