US State Department draws bleak picture of human rights in Algeria

US State Department draws bleak picture of human rights in Algeria

The US State Department exposed the degradation of human rights of the military regime in Algiers which has deployed brutal tactics to silence dissent including pretrial detention, torture, cham terrorism charges and free speech muzzeling.

The State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released this March, starts by questioning the atmosphere of elections which was marred by restrictions on civil liberties and “lack of transparency in vote counting procedures,” underlining the very low turnout that brought puppet civilian president Tebboune to power despite popular protests for a clean break with military rule.

Cases of torture abound in the “new Algeria” of General Chengriha as the report cites many cases including that of activist Mohamed Benhalima who was tortured, beaten up, and sexually abused by authorities during his imprisonment. Yet, there has been no official investigation into these degrading treatments.

Benhalima had denounced corruption in the military at the beginning of 2019 while living in exile in Spain following his participation in the Hirak protest movement.

The rise in cases of disappearances and arbitrary detentions was also highlighted by the US State Department which mentions the ordeal of activist Abdelhamid Bouziza who was kidnapped from his home in Tlemcen on October 19.

“Authorities did not address his detention until November 8, when they announced he was being held in Hay El Darwich prison in Blida on terrorism charges.”

The use of terrorism charges has been tailored to silence peaceful dissidents as “authorities cited broad provisions under the penal code, including membership in a terrorist organization, to arrest or punish critics including journalists and human rights defenders.”

In February the Middle East Institute reported that 59 detainees were being held under expanded terrorism-related charges under the penal code that the NGO reported were being imposed on “peaceful political activists.”

Prominent human rights activists estimate the number of political prisoners in Algeria to be higher than 300 including journalists, lawyers, opposition figures and Hirak protesters.

The Algerian regime has also silenced the press sending influential journalists such as Kadi Ihssane to jail for expressing views that criticized the regime.

Besides cracking down on free speech at home, Algeria has imposed a blackout on the situation in the country preventing foreign journalists from freely reporting and rejecting visits by UN human rights delegations.

The US State department report also deplores the violations affecting refugees and vulnerable groups.

“Black Algerians and sub-Saharan African migrants were discriminated against and subject to racism,” the report said.

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