The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar



                          ALGERIA

##
TITLE:  ALGERIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995




                            ALGERIA


The 1989 Constitution was to have provided for Algeria's 
transition from a one-party Socialist state to a multiparty 
parliamentary system.  However, political power remains in the 
hands of the military leadership and officials of the former 
ruling party.  The experiment in democratization came to a halt 
in 1992 when the regime canceled the second round of 
legislative elections, which the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), 
a party which seeks to transform Algeria into an Islamic state, 
was poised to win.  Subsequently, the regime imposed a state of 
emergency, banned the FIS as a legal organization, jailed most 
of its leaders, and created a five-man High State Committee to 
serve as Algeria's collective presidency.

In January 1994, the regime replaced the High State Committee 
with a former general, Liamine Zeroual, who assumed the 
presidency of a "transitional" government.  President Zeroual, 
asserting that the country's crisis should be resolved through 
dialog, made some attempts to consult with legal political 
parties and opened informal contacts with imprisoned FIS 
leaders.  However, the FIS and other major parties dismissed 
his overtures as disingenuous and demanded that the Government 
undertake certain actions, such as releasing FIS leaders, 
lifting the state of emergency, and giving the political 
parties a role in the transitional period leading to new 
elections.  In a speech on November 1, Zeroual declared that 
dialog had failed and announced his intention to hold 
presidential elections in 1995.  Also in November, the major 
opposition parties met in Rome to develop a common platform for 
renewed negotiations with the Government, which strongly 
protested that meeting.

Armed Islamist groups steadily intensified their campaign to 
overthrow the Government.  Guerrillas mounted daily attacks on 
security personnel and established strongholds in certain 
Algiers neighborhoods and other parts of the country.  Militant 
Islamist groups with more radical agendas than the FIS have 
steadily become more active in the insurgency.  A climate of 
fear and intimidation deepened as extremists assassinated 
dozens of political figures, journalists, academics, and 
thousands of other civilians, as well as over 78 foreigners.  
Reprisals by the regime's forces have grown bloodier.  The 
Government estimated that 10,000 people had been killed by the 
end of 1993.  The figure for 1994 has not been officially 
released but most sources estimate that it will be twice as 
high.

The State's security apparatus includes the police, the 
gendarmerie, and the army, all of which are involved in efforts 
to repress the Islamist insurgency and combat terrorism.  They 
were responsible for numerous human rights abuses.

Civil strife has devastated the economy, aggravating the 
longstanding problems of unemployment, inflation, housing 
shortages, scarcity of foreign exchange, and the legacy of 
years of inefficient state planning.  Economic pressures and an 
inability to make service payments on its foreign debt prompted 
the Government in April to sign an agreement with the 
International Monetary Fund and to begin implementing market 
reforms.  Nonetheless, conditions for ordinary Algerians only 
worsened in 1994.

Respect for human rights and the rule of law continued to 
deteriorate in an increasingly tense environment.  Abuses by 
all sides multiplied.  Using emergency law powers, the 
Government continued to detain, in many cases without due 
process, hundreds of people suspected of Islamist activities or 
sympathies.  Special antiterrorist courts, created under the 
state of emergency, handed down death sentences in trials which 
were unfair according to international standards.  There is 
convincing evidence that the security forces carried out 
hundreds of extrajudicial killings, mostly in retaliation for 
previous attacks by armed groups, and often tortured and 
otherwise abused detainees.  The Government continued to 
restrict the freedoms of assembly, religion, and the press and 
to discriminate against women.  Domestic violence against women 
remains a serious problem.

Armed groups, many of which claim to have Islamist objectives, 
also committed escalating abuses and atrocities.  Terrorists, 
often disguised in uniforms of the security forces, killed 
hundreds of civilians.  Some armed groups carried out a 
campaign of violent intimidation aimed at closing down schools 
and other public institutions.  As law and order broke down, 
anti-Islamist vigilante groups engaged in reprisal killings of 
Islamists and their sympathizers.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There is credible evidence that security forces committed 
politically motivated extrajucial killings.  Despite President 
Zeroual's assurances to the contrary, there was no evidence 
that the authorities investigated such killings.  The National 
Observatory for Human Rights (ONDH), a government body, 
maintained that it provided the Ministry of Justice with 
information on 12 cases of suspected extrajudicial killings.  
In September a group of Islamists sent an open letter to 
President Zeroual citing 36 cases of summary executions in 1994.

The Government maintains that the security forces resort to 
lethal force only in the context of armed clashes with 
terrorists.  Nonetheless, security forces are believed to have 
carried out hundreds of extrajudicial killings, mostly in 
retaliation for previous attacks by armed groups.  Many victims 
were reportedly killed by security forces wearing civilian 
clothes or covering their heads with hoods.  The security 
forces reportedly killed victims during curfew hours, at or 
near the victims' homes, or in the presence of the victims' 
family and friends.  The bodies of some victims were reportedly 
discovered clothed in pajamas, indicating that they had been 
killed after they were taken from their homes.  Security forces 
allegedly killed other persons after they were taken into 
police custody.

Security forces were implicated in the deaths of nine students 
and their teacher from the El Oued area--Dahab Omar, Derouiche 
Abdel Bassat, Rahal Abderrazak, Mahadda Salah, Aouniet 
Abdelkader, Djerad Abdelkader, Arhouma Saad, Maatallah 
Abdelbaki, Nazli Abdelkamel, and Kouider Messaoud, who were 
arrested on March 12.  The police maintained that the men were 
arrested to verify their military service status.  On April 13, 
the police informed a relative of one detainee that the 10 men 
had been released on April 8, but that they were immediately 
killed by unknown "terrorists" after release.  The Government 
has not provided an adequate explanation of the deaths.

On March 19, the body of Kouider Melal was found in the street 
near his home in El Ataf, Ouedfoda, alongside the bodies of 
three men from the same district.  Melal had been previously 
seen in police custody 2 weeks before his death.

In addition to reports of extrajudicial killings outside 
detention facilities, Islamists and human rights activists 
accused the security forces of causing the unlawful deaths of 
many detainees who succumbed to torture while in custody.

Armed groups, most notably the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), 
killed hundreds of persons, including members of the security 
forces and ordinary citizens.  Terrorists attacked civilians 
whom they regarded as instruments of the State or whose 
lifestyles they considered in conflict with Islamic values.

Victims included politicians, teachers, tax collectors, 
hairdressers and beauticians, entertainers, veterans of the war 
of independence, government-appointed Islamic preachers, 
lawyers and magistrates who work with the Special Courts, women 
who refused to veil themselves, industrialists, journalists and 
intellectuals, and foreigners.  Many victims had their throats 
cut or their bodies were mutilated after death.  Often the 
victims' severed heads would be discovered in one location and 
the bodies in another.  According to a February press account, 
suspected terrorists kidnapped and killed a 14-year-old boy 
from Medea, purportedly because he had befriended several 
police officers.  His body was found hanging from a street 
sign.  His head was found in a nearby town.

Armed groups killed at least 18 Algerian journalists and 10 
lawyers.  On November 30, gunmen forced two reporters from 
their homes and shot and decapitated them.  One of the victims 
worked for the state television company, the other for a 
state-owned newspaper.  Throughout the year, the GIA issued 
death threats to journalists, foreigners, and others.  Many 
journalists fled abroad because of threats to their lives.  In 
October independent newspapers suspended publication for 3 days 
to protest the killings of journalists.

Armed groups killed the national secretary for the country's 
major labor union, the Union Generale des Travailleurs 
Algeriens (UGTA); the president and vice president of Islah Wa 
El-Irchad, the largest private charitable organization; the 
rector of the Houari Boumediene University of Science and 
Technology; the president of the Algerian League for Human 
Rights; the chaiman of the Agronomy Institute at the University 
of Blida; a professor of economics at the University of Oran; 
the director of the School of Fine Arts in Algeria; a famous 
playwright/actor; the director of the National Institute of 
Islamic Studies in Batna; a popular singer; a leading sports 
personality; and the husband of the Government's former 
spokeswoman.

In October 1993, the GIA announced that foreign residents 
should depart Algeria or face death.  Since then, terrorist 
groups have killed at least 90 foreigners, including more than 
78 in 1994.  Foreign victims included members of the clergy, 
businesspeople, diplomats, and longtime residents of Algeria.  
Victims were citizens of a number of European and other foreign 
countries, although French citizens were the primary targets.

In addition to targeted killings, terrorist groups also 
resorted to indiscriminate violence.  In June two grenades were 
thrown at demonstrators at an Algiers march organized by the 
Movement for Berber Culture, an anti-Islamist group.  The 
grenades and the return fire from the police wounded 64 
persons; 2 died later.  Armed Islamist groups used car bombs on 
numerous occasions, killing many passersby.  In July, five 
French Embassy personnel were killed by terrorists attempting 
to place a car bomb inside an Embassy residential compound.

Armed anti-Islamist groups, such as the Organization of Young 
Free Algerians (OJAL)---widely suspected as a front for 
elements of the regime's security forces---carried out 
reprisals against terrorist groups.  Such groups are reportedly 
active in the Berber region of Kabylie.  In March 
anti-Islamists likely killed two veiled high school students at 
a bus stop in an Algiers suburb.  The killings may have been in 
reprisal for the killing a month earlier of a 17-year-old high 
school girl who declined to wear a head scarf.  In April the 
OJAL issued a threat to kill 20 women wearing a head scarf or 
20 bearded men for every woman killed by Islamic terrorists for 
not wearing a head scarf.

There were many reports of reprisals by vigilante groups for 
the deaths of military personnel.  Vigilantes may have killed 9 
persons whose bodies were found on a street near an Algiers 
bread shop on April 12.  The killings may have been committed 
in revenge for the murder a day earlier of an army colonel near 
the same bread shop.  In September an anti-Islamist group 
killed as many as 90 people in Annaba, apparently in 
retaliation for the earlier terrorist murder of a gendarmerie 
captain and his daughter.  The Government has failed to condemn 
the violence by anti-Islamist groups.

     b.  Disappearance

The ONDH claimed it had documented 116 cases of disappearances 
believed to have been caused by security force personnel.  Each 
of these cases was submitted to the Ministry of Justice or the 
Ministry of Interior.  In some cases, the Government responded 
to the ONDH queries but did not respond in others.

Armed Islamic groups also kidnaped civilians.  Sometimes the 
bodies were found later, but often the victims disappeared and 
their families have no information on their whereabouts.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Knowledgeable sources, including Amnesty International (AI) and 
all three major Algerian human rights organizations---ONDH, 
LADH, and LADDH---reported that the security forces frequently 
used torture on detainees, especially suspected Islamists, to 
extract confessions or to obtain knowledge about the activities 
of terrorist groups.  The Government denies that torture is a 
matter of policy or accepted practice, but it states that 
"excesses" may be committed by individual security officials.  
The Government has failed to condemn publicly the use of 
torture or to investigate allegations seriously.  This creates 
a climate of impunity which encourages the continued use of 
torture.

The ONDH maintains that some alleged torture victims decline to 
press charges for fear of reprisal by the security forces.  
ONDH claimed that it submitted several torture cases to the 
Ministry of Justice but did not receive any indication that the 
allegations were investigated.  In a statement published in the 
London newspaper Al-Hayat on September 28, the FIS cited three 
alleged cases of torture by policy.  It reported a claim by 
Professor M. Moulay, who had headed a FIS delegation which 
negotiated with the army early in the crisis, of having been 
tortured in the Chatou Neuf police center during a 30-day 
detention.  It stated that the Algiers police tortured Dr. 
Lamdjadani, a Health Ministry official, during a 60-day 
detention.  Lastly, it cited the death in custody of Professor 
Bouchlagum, whose family had been informed that he was 
transferred to the Chatou Neuf station but then discovered that 
his body was in a morgue in Algiers.

A commonly reported torture method is the use of the "chiffon," 
a cloth stuffed into the victims mouth and saturated with dirty 
water.  Other torture techniques reportedly include electric 
shocks, beatings, the pulling out fingernails, burning with 
cigarettes or a blowtorch, and the insertion of objects into 
the anus.

The Government does not permit independent monitoring of 
prisons or detention centers by such humanitarian organizations 
as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 
although it did allow representatives of AI to visit the 
country in 1994.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention.  It 
stipulates that incommunicado detention in criminal cases prior 
to arraignment may not exceed 48 hours, after which the suspect 
must be charged or released.  However, under the state of 
emergency, the security forces have arrested and detained 
thousands of persons.  According to the Antiterrorist Decree of 
1992, the police may not hold a detainee in prearraignment 
detention for more than 12 days and detainees must be informed 
of charges against them.  In practice, the security forces 
routinely exceed the lawful detention limit.

When making arrests, the security forces do not obtain warrants 
and allegedly often refuse to identify themselves or to provide 
detainees' relatives and lawyers with information about their 
whereabouts or well-being.

In September security forces arrested Farid Khellil, the son of 
a defense lawyer, for subversive activities.  The Bar 
Association accused the Government of holding the son as a 
hostage to intimidate his father.  The police granted a 
provisional release to Khellil after 6 weeks without charging 
him with any specific wrongdoing.

Under the state of emergency, the Minister of Interior is 
authorized to detain suspects in special camps administered by 
the army.  The Government stated that it intends to close these 
camps.  By year's end, some 350 to 600 detainees were held 
without charge at a camp in Ain M'guel.

Exile is not a legal form of punishment and is not known to be 
practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is composed of the civil courts, which try 
misdemeanors and felonies; the military courts, which in the 
past had tried civilians for terrorism offenses; and three 
Special Courts established in 1992 to try terrorism cases.  The 
President appoints civilian judges on recommendations from the 
Higher Magistrate's Council, composed of the President, the 
Minister of Justice, and various members of the judiciary.

Defendants are granted due process in the civilian courts.  
They have the right to legal counsel, are entitled to be 
advised of the charges against them, have the right to confront 
their accusers, may appeal the verdict, and trials are public.  
Islamic Shari'a law provides much of the basis for civil court 
rulings in social matters involving family and personal 
status.  The law requires that the Government provide lawyers 
for the indigent.

Under the state of emergency, military courts are authorized to 
try civilian defendants accused of terrorism.  Although there 
were no known military trials of civilians during the year, 
such trials took place in 1993.

The 1992 Antiterrorist Decree established three Special Courts, 
each composed of three civilian judges, to try persons accused 
of terrorist offenses.  Since February 1993, these courts have 
tried more than 10,000 persons, of whom 1,100 were sentenced to 
death, 6,500 imprisoned, and 2,500 acquitted.  Executions were 
suspended in 1993, although 26 persons condemned by the Special 
Courts were executed before the suspension order.

Defendants in the Special Courts do not receive due process.  
The charge of terrorism is defined so vaguely that it often 
includes the non-violent exercise of speech.  The judges do not 
reveal their identities nor exercise independence from 
executive authority.  They often restrict the number of 
observers at the trials and fail to order investigations of 
torture, even after defendants have appeared in court with 
marks and bruises.  Judges allow the introduction of 
confessions allegedly extracted by torture and may suspend 
defense lawyers who use "obstructive methods" for 1 year.  
Defense lawyers must receive authorization to represent their 
clients in the Special Courts.  State prosecutors have 
arbitrarily transferred to the Special Courts cases already 
assigned to the regular courts.  Although defendants may appeal 
verdicts handed down by the Special Courts, the Supreme Court 
has rejected most appeals without consideration and has not 
overturned any death sentence.

The Government announced in December that , as part of its 
review of the Penal Code, it was considering closing the 
Special Courts and tranferring jurisdiction for cases involving 
acts of terrorism to the regular court system.

Between 350 and 600 detainees at the Ain M'guel detention camp 
may be considered political prisoners.  Most were arrested in 
1992 for alleged "subversive" activities.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Although the Constitution provides for the inviolability of the 
home, the state of emergency authorizes regional governors to 
issue exceptional search warrants at any time.  Security forces 
often enter residences illegally.  The Government fails to 
ensure that the police adhere to lawful procedures for entering 
houses or monitoring correspondence.  In addition, there were 
increasingly frequent incidents of entry into private homes by 
armed opposition elements, either to kidnap residents or to 
steal weapons or valuables.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The state of emergency and the Antiterrorist Decree of December 
1992 gave the regime broad authority to restrict this freedom 
and to take legal action against anyone whose speech is 
considered a threat to the State or public order.  Fear of 
arrest deters many journalists from reporting on internal 
security developments or the Islamist movement.  In June an 
interministerial directive required newspapers to submit for 
review all news reports on the internal security situation.  
The editor of El Moudjahid El Ousboui, an Arabic-language 
weekly, was arrested and detained for 1 week in October for 
publishing an article "Breaching National Security."

Shortly after the Minister of Communications warned editors in 
November to respect "professional ethics," the regime suspended 
several newspapers.  Editors were not given specific reasons 
for the closures, beyond vague accusations of undermining 
public order or publishing subversive information.  The FLN 
newspaper El Hiwar was suspended for 6 months, the 
French-language El Oumma and the Arabic weekly El Wadj El Akhar 
for a month, and El Watan for 2 weeks.  The Government 
suspended Le Libre indefinitely and placed the editor and two 
staff members under judicial control.  On December 18, the 
regime shut down L'Opinion for 40 days for publishing a draft 
electoral law.

The Government further controls the press through its effective 
monopoly on newsprint, printing presses, and the distribution 
network.  Several newspapers ceased appearing for financial 
reasons, which they blamed on the government monopolies.

The Government continues to curtail the public expression of 
views supportive of the FIS.  Two FIS publications banned in 
1992 remain suspended.  However, communiques and bulletins from 
various Islamist organizations, such as the GIA or AIS (Islamic 
Salvation Army), circulated clandestinely, and some mosques 
periodically transmitted pro-FIS messages.  The Algerian press 
reported FIS-related news only after the Government releases 
news items (as in a series of letters from FIS leaders to the 
regime); when the news protrayed the authorities gaining the 
upper hand (as in the deaths of GIA leaders); or, in selected 
cases, when the news had already appeared in print abroad.

The press continued to report opinions contrary to those of the 
Government, including criticism of the Government's political, 
economic, and social policies.  Commentary on the institution 
of the military was usually self-censored, but at least one 
leading French language newspaper carried several strongly 
worded editorials without reprisal.

Radio and television remained under government control, with 
coverage biased in favor of the government's policies.  During 
attempts at a political dialogue in the fall, the legal 
opposition political parties were invited to present their 
views on television.  Many expressed harsh criticism of the 
Government.  Because of the widespread accessibility of 
satellite dish antennas, millions of citizens have access to 
European broadcasts.

A brutal terrorist campaign against journalists and academics 
seriously constrained freedom of speech and press.  Assailants 
murdered 18 journalists in 1994.  In January the GIA issued a 
specific threat against all journalists and in August stated 
that it had a list of journalists to kill.  Newspapers 
estimated that 200 journalists had relocated abroad.  Terrorism 
targeting intellectuals and university educators prompted many 
to flee to neighboring countries.  Gunman killed the rector of 
the Houari Boumediene University of Science and Technology on 
May 31, the Director of the Institute of Agronomy at the 
University of Blida on August 6, and a Professor of Economics 
at the University of Oran on September 26.  As a consequence, 
few academic seminars and colloquia took place in 1994.

Terrorists also targeted primary and secondary schools.  The 
Minister of Education stated that 610 schools had been burned 
between June and October.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Using emergency laws, the Government sharply curtails freedom 
of assembly, although the 1989 Constitution provides for the 
rights of assembly and association.   Citizens and 
organizations must obtain a permit from the local governor's 
office before staging demonstrations.  Such permits are 
generally granted, after referral to the Ministry of Interior, 
for demonstrations against Islamist terrorism or in favor of 
the Government.  The regime does not require legal opposition 
parties to obtain permits to hold internal meetings.

The regime allowed Berber organizations to hold demonstrations 
as long as they took place in the Berber Kabylie region.  
However, it denied permission for 2 rallies sponsored by the 
The Berber Rights Movement (MCB) in the Algiers area.  
Nevertheless, the MCB demonstrated repeatedly in Kabylie for 
the teaching of the Berber language in the primary and 
secondary schools.

The Ministry of Interior must approve all nongovernmental 
associations.  The Government regards all associations as 
illegal unless they are licensed.  It may deny a license to or 
disolve any group regarded as a threat to the existing 
political order.  In 1992 the regime dissolved the Islamic 
Salvation Front (FIS) as a political party as well as Islamic 
social and charitable groups associated with the FIS.  
Membership in the FIS is illegal.  However, the Government 
itself has continued to meet periodically with detained FIS 
leaders Abbasi Medani and Ali Belhadj.

According to a 1989 law, all citizens may join political 
organizations, except judges, army and security service 
personnel, and members of the Constitutional Council.  Most 
political groups, except the FIS which was banned in March 
1992, operate openly.  There were over 55 parties, including 
some centrist Islamic parties such as Hamas, active in 1994.  
Other associations include specialized groups such as human 
rights and womens' rights groups, social welfare groups, and 
regionally based cultural organizations.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution declares Islam as the state religion but 
prohibits discrimination based on religious belief.  The 
Government permits the small Christian and Jewish populations 
(numbering approximately 1,000 and 200, respectively) to 
practice their faiths without interference.

However, communiques signed by the Armed Islamic Group declared 
that the intention to eliminate "Jews, Christians, and 
polytheists from Islam's land in Algeria."  The Christian 
community, composed mostly of foreigners, curtailed its 
activities and evacuated some church workers because of death 
threats from terrorists (see Section 1.a.).  Conversions from 
Islam to Christianity are rare.  Because of legal problems and 
social stigma, Muslim converts to Christianity practice their 
new faith clandestinely.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs appoints Islamic preachers in 
both state and private mosques.  The Ministry of Religious 
Affairs proposes themes for and monitors sermons.

     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.  The Government generally respects these 
provisions, although it imposes some restrictions on men of 
military age.  Under the state of emergency, the Minister of 
Interior and the provincial governors may deny residency in 
certain districts to persons regarded as threats to public 
order.  A curfew originally imposed in 1992 prohibits people 
from traveling in Algiers and the surrounding provinces between 
11:30 p.m. and 4 a.m.  Police checkpoints in the cities and 
countryside routinely stop vehicles to inspect identification 
papers and search for evidence of terrorist activity.

The Constitution provides for the right of political asylum, 
and the Government has granted asylum in a few cases.  The 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 
that approximately 165,000 Sahrawis, or natives of the Sahara 
desert, live in camps in southwestern Algeria.  The Government 
granted permission to the ICRC to visit camps holding Saharawi 
refugees and Moroccan prisoners of war.  (See the report on 
human rights in Western Sahara for fuller treatment of these 
issues.)  The Government tolerates and provides basic support 
for an estimated 50,000 displaced Tuaregs from Mali and Niger 
in settlements in southern Algeria.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The Government's cancellation of electoral process in 1992 
effectively denied citizens the right to change their 
government.  Power remains in the hands of the military 
leadership and former ruling party officials.  Despite 
President Zeroual's halting attempts to consult with legal 
political parties and informal contacts with imprisoned FIS 
leaders, there is no democratic process.  In a national speech 
on November 1, Zeroual declared that the political dialog had 
failed and announced his intention to hold presidential 
elections in 1995 regardless.  The FIS as well as the other 
major opposition parties dismissed this promise of elections.

Few women are active in government, a reflection of strong 
social pressures against women participating in politics.   One 
woman served in the Cabinet until her resignation in October, 
one woman served as governor of the province of Annaba, and 
fewer than 1 percent of the candidates for Assembly seats in 
the 1991 election were women.  The Berbers, an important 
indigenous minority group, participate freely and actively in 
the political process.  Berbers hold influential positions in 
the Government and the army.

The Tuaregs, a people of Berber origin, do not play as 
important a role in the national political process, due in 
large part to their small numbers, estimated in the tens of 
thousands, and their nomadic existence.  Systemic or 
government-sanctioned barriers to political participation, 
however, do not exist against any minority group.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and  
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Two human rights groups are active:  the Algerian League for 
the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) and the Algerian League of 
Human Rights (LADH).  Terrorists assassinated the head of LADH 
on June 18 near his office in downtown Algiers (see 
Section 1.a.).

A governmental body, the National Observatory of Human Rights 
(ONDH), established in 1992, is charged with reporting human 
rights developments to the President.  In 1994 the ONDH 
submitted its first annual report to the Government and to 
international human rights groups, but the Government did not 
make it public.  In December the head of the LADDH gave a 
presentation on human rights abuses at an internationally 
publicized meeting of Algerian political parties in Rome.

Two representatives from Amnesty International (AI) visited 
Algeria in August.  Security elements guarded them closely, 
ostensibly for their own protection.  Government 
representatives accused AI of having preconceived ideas and 
lacking evidence to support allegations of official abuses of 
human rights.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Although the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on 
birth, race, sex, belief, or any other personal or social 
condition.  However, women continue to face legal and social 
discrimination.

     Women

Some aspects of the law and many traditional practices 
discriminate against women.  The Family Code, based on Islamic 
law, or Shari'a, regards women as minors under the legal 
guardianship of a husband or father.  Women do not have full 
legal responsibility for their children because the father must 
sign all formal documents.  A woman's testimony in a court of 
law does not equal a man's.  Women are nonetheless allowed to 
work, own businesses, and enter into contracts.  The Code 
confirms the Islamic practice allowing a man to marry four 
wives---a rare occurrence.  However, a wife may sue for divorce 
if her husband does not inform her of his intent to marry 
another wife.

Under the Code, women need their husband's or father's 
permission to obtain a passport or travel abroad.  Only males 
are able to confer citizenship on their children.  The Code 
prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, although men 
are legally free to marry non-Muslims.  In cases of divorce, 
the Code awards guardianship of the children to the father, 
even though the mother is usually expected to care for them 
until a son is 13 and a daughter is married.

Women constitute about 10 percent of the work force and pursue 
opportunities in government, medicine, law, education, the 
media, and even in the armed forces.  Nonetheless, social 
pressure against women pursuing a career is strong.  In 1994 
Islamists increased their pressure on women to adopt Islamic 
fundamentalist views and norms.  In March terrorist groups 
posted notices threatening to kill any woman who does not cover 
her head with a scarf.  In one case, terrorists killed a 
17-year-old woman, reportedly because she declined to adopt 
Islamic dress (see Section 1.a.).  Also in March, suspected 
terrorists killed a woman in Saoula, reportedly because she 
refused to give up her job outside the home.

Women's rights advocates assert that spousal violence is 
common, although there are no reliable studies on the problem.  
Nonetheless, the central hospital in Algiers reported that in 
1991 and 1992, it treated more than 4,600 cases of abused 
women.  Battered women may file criminal charges or sue for 
divorce, but women's rights advocates maintain that legal 
actions are rare because the courts are generally lenient with 
abusive husbands.

     Children

The Government is committed in principle to protecting 
children's human rights.  Nonetheless, legal experts maintain 
that the Penal and Family Codes do not offer sufficient 
protection for children.  Many hospitals treat dozens of cases 
of child abuse every year, but many cases are unreported.  Laws 
against child abuse have not led to notable prosecutions 
against offenders.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Berbers were the original inhabitants of Algeria, and many 
citizens claim to be of mixed Berber and Arab ancestry.  The 
Berbers have sought to maintain their own cultural identity and 
language in the face of the Government's emphasis on the 
development of an Arab identity.  Amazight, a Berber language, 
is taught at Tizi Ouzou University, but the Government does not 
permit its instruction in the primary and secondary schools.  
In September and October, Berbers in the Kabylie area shut down 
the public school system.  The strike continued through the end 
of December.  In response, the Government has established a 
committee to consider the issue.

     People with Disabilities

The Government does not mandate accessibility to buildings or 
government services for people with disabilities.  In 1994 the 
Government established a monthly stipend, albeit meager, for 
people with disabilities.  The ONDH is charged with developing 
programs to provide unspecified "help" for people with 
disabilities, but the project has not been given a high 
priority.  The Government also provides limited financial 
support to several nongovernmental organizations that assist 
people with diabilities.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the right to establish trade unions of their 
choice.  About two-thirds of the labor force belong to unions.  
Workers are not required to obtain government approval to 
establish a union.  Nonetheless, the Government limits some 
union activities.  For example, the Government dissolved the 
SIT, an Islamist union which was affiliated with the banned 
FIS.  The law prohibits unions from associating with political 
parties, although some unions, such as the General Union of 
Algerian Workers (UGTA), maintain party ties.  The law also 
prohibits unions from receiving funds from foreign sources.  
The courts are empowered to dissolve unions that engage in 
illegal activities.

Under the state of emergency, the Government is 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, mediation, or arbitration.  This law states that 
arbitration decisions are binding on both parties.  If no 
agreement is reached in arbitration, the workers may legally 
strike after they vote by secret ballot to do so.  A minimum 
level of public services must be maintained during public 
sector service strikes.

There were numerous local strikes, including work stoppages by 
public-sector workers; most ended quickly following mediation 
efforts involving government officials and labor unions.  The 
Government did not invoke the state of emergency to block 
strikes, nor did it prosecute workers involved in the stoppages.

Unions may form and join federations or confederations and 
affiliate with international bodies.  Several unions, pursued 
international contacts.  The UGTA, for example, has contacts 
with French unions and the American Federation of 
Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for collective bargaining for all unions.  The 
Government permits this right to be practiced.

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 
further permits all unions to recruit members at the workplace.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is incompatible with the 
Constitution's provisions on individual rights.  The Penal Code 
prohibits compulsory labor and the Government effectively 
enforces the ban.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 16 years.  Inspectors from 
the Ministry of Labor enforce the minimum employment age by 
periodic or unannounced inspection visits to public sector 
enterprises, but do not effectively enforce it in the 
agricultural or private sectors.  Many children are driven by 
economic necessity into informal employment, such as street 
vending.

     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 fixes by decree a 
guaranteed monthly minimum wage for all sectors.  After 
consultations with the UGTA, the Government in 1994 raised the 
minimum wage to about $100 (from 3,500 dinars to 4,000 
dinars).  It met with the UGTA in October to negotiate pay 
raises for 1995.  Ministry of Labor inspectors are responsible 
for ensuring compliance with the minimum wage regulations, 
although they enforce these provisions inconsistently.

Algeria has a 44-hour workweek and well developed occupation 
and health regulations codified in a January 1991 decree.  
However, government inspectors do not enforce these regulations 
effectively.


(###)

[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1994 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.