PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 28/001/2006
23 January 2006
UA 17/06 Fear of torture
ALGERIA Nouamane Meziche (m), aged 35, joint Algerian and French national
Nouamane Meziche was arrested shortly after he arrived in Algeria from Germany on 5 January. The authorities have since refused to tell his family where he is held, and he is in grave danger of torture.
He had flown in to the capital, Algiers, from Frankfurt in Germany. He was arrested by the border police at Houari Boumediene airport. He was able to telephone his mother two days later, on 7 January, to say that he had been arrested and was held at a police detention centre in the Ben Aknoun district of Algiers. When family members went there to see him they were told that he had been handed over to the custody of the Département du renseignement et de la sécurité (DRS), Department of Information and Security, for questioning in connection with alleged "terrorist" activities abroad. They were told to leave without finding out where he was held.
Nouamane Meziche, who was born in France, has dual French and Algerian nationality. He had been living in Hamburg, Germany, with his wife and two children. He had left Algeria in 1992 after the army had intervened to stop elections, which a now-banned Islamist party, the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS), Islamic Salvation Front, were set to win. Violent conflict broke out the following year between the government and self-styled "Islamic" armed groups.
One of Nouamane Meziche’s brothers joined an armed group during the internal conflict, and was reportedly killed by the security forces in 1996. His father and another brother were arrested in 1995, apparently for no reason other than the activities of the first brother, and have not been seen since.
Thousands of Algerians “disappeared” during the internal conflict for their alleged or perceived support of the FIS, or of armed groups. Thousands more were sentenced to prison terms in unfair trials, many of them in their absence. Before Nouamane Meziche returned to Algeria on 5 January, his family had made enquiries with the Algerian judicial authorities to make sure that he would not be at risk of arrest if he returned to the country. There was apparently no arrest warrant against him, and he had not been sentenced in any trials which had taken place during his absence.
The provisions of this law are routinely violated in “terrorist” cases. Those arrested are systematically held in secret for 12 days, and sometimes beyond this limit, until they are either brought before the examining magistrates or released without charge. It is while they are in secret detention in police, gendarmerie or DRS centres that detainees are most at risk of torture, ill-treatment and “disappearance”. During the 1990s, more than 4,000 people “disappeared” in Algeria after they were arrested, and their whereabouts are still unknown.
The most serious reports of torture and ill-treatment come from detention centres used by the DRS. Algeria’s civil authorities appear to exercise little or no control over the activities of the DRS. Judicial authorities routinely overlook allegations of abuse by the DRS, so that its officers enjoy effective impunity.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Arabic, French, English or your own language:
and to diplomatic representatives of Algeria accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 6 March 2006.