Geneva-based NGO denounces Algeria’s reprisals against relatives of political dissidents

Geneva-based NGO denounces Algeria’s reprisals against relatives of political dissidents

A Geneva-based non-governmental organization has denounced before the United Nations the acts of reprisals carried out by Algeria against the relatives of political dissidents settled abroad.

In this connection, the Alkarama Foundation submitted to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention the case of the arrest of Abderrahmane Zitout.

The “crime” of Abderrahmane Zitout is that his is the brother of Mohamed Larbi Zitout, a former Algerian diplomat, who went into exile in London in 1995, where he obtained the status of political refugee. The exile had revealed and denounced the serious human rights violations committed by the Algerian forces during the civil war (1993-2000), according to a press release from the NGO.

Alkarama called on the UN Working Group to recognize the arbitrary nature of the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Abderrahmane Zitout and to urge Algeria to release him immediately and to refrain in the future from any act of reprisal against him or against any relatives of political dissidents living abroad.

Abderrahmane Zitout was arrested on March 30, 2022 by a dozen armed officers, some of whom were wearing uniforms while others were in plain clothes and hooded. The arrest took place in his ready-to-wear store located on the ground floor of his family home. The police searched the premises and his home, then took him to an unknown destination.

According to the NGO, despite research carried out by his family, his place of detention has not been revealed and Abderrahmane Zitout remained incommunicado until April 4, 2022, when his family finally learned that he was in El Harrach prison, in the suburbs of Algiers.

During a first visit by members of his family to the prison, Abderrahmane Zitout told them that he had spent the five days following his arrest at the central police station in Algiers where he had been questioned at length by agents of the judicial police. He said he had been interrogated about his links with his brother residing in London, the type of relationship he has with him and whether he shares his political convictions. He had also been questioned about events related to the widespread protest movement in Algeria, known as Hirak.

Abderrahmane Zitout was then transferred to El Harrach prison. To denounce his arbitrary detention, he went on a hunger strike from August 14 to September 1, 2022. During this period, he was placed in solitary confinement in a small cell, and was deprived of daylight. After his health condition seriously deteriorated, he was rushed to hospital where he remained until September 11, 2022, AlKarama says.

Earlier this month, the NGO had decried the unlawful listing by Algeria of pro-democracy militants as terrorists, saying that several human rights militants and vocal critics have been unfairly included by the Algerian authorities in its bogus terrorism list in blatant violation of international conventions and laws.

The NGO denounced the use by the Algerian regime of counterterrorism laws against human rights defenders and journalists in a desperate move to muzzle them, violating their right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

The UN Human Rights Committee had already slammed the violation by the Algerian regime of the rights of political opponents, saying the authorities use broad and vague terms in defining the crime of terrorism, allowing the prosecution of militants.

Al-karama had submitted to several UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, a report on the decrees issued by the Algerian regime to criminalize the peaceful demands of the Hirak protesters.

AlKarama had also sounded the alarm on the serious attacks on the rights and fundamental freedoms of Algerian citizens exiled abroad, calling on UN experts and the international community to be cautious in their cooperation with the Algerian regime in the fight against terrorism. The illegal Algerian terror lists are made by security bodies outside of any judicial procedure and serve only to hunt down political opponents in exile, the NGO warned.

Consequently, Interpol has refused to follow up on requests by the Algerian authorities to issue Red Notices against the listed individuals. The judicial authorities of several countries around the world have also refused to extradite opponents due to unfounded charges, which is an embarrassing rebuke for the ruling Algerian junta.

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