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

Title:  Algeria Human Rights Practices, 1995  
Author:  U.S. Department of State   
Date:  March 1996   
 
 
 
 
                                   ALGERIA 
 
 
Since shortly after independence in 1962, political power has been 
controlled by Algeria's military leadership, supported by the 
bureaucracy and remnants of the National Liberation Front (FLN), the 
former ruling party.  The Constitution, adopted in 1989, provided for a 
transition from this military-based, one-party Socialist state to a 
multiparty parliamentary system.  However, democratization was suspended 
in 1992 when the Army intervened, forced the president to resign, 
canceled the second round of parliamentary elections which the Islamic 
Salvation Front (FIS) was poised to win, and installed a five-man High 
State Committee.  Subsequently, this ruling Committee imposed a state of 
emergency, banned the FIS as a political organization, and jailed most 
of its leaders.  Since 1992, fighting has continued between the security 
forces and armed Islamist groups seeking the overthrow of the Government 
and the imposition of a fundamentalist Islamic state. 
 
In 1994 the Army leadership replaced the High Committee with Liamine 
Zeroual, a former general, who became president of a "transitional" 
government.  Zeroual tried to find a political solution with the major 
legal parties and the FIS, and undertook some limited confidence-
building measures.  He conditioned release of FIS leaders from prison, 
and their inclusion in multiparty discussions, on their calling for an 
end to political violence.  Late in 1994, Zeroual announced that a 
national dialog for a political resolution to the crisis had failed, and 
that presidential elections would be held in 1995.  He rejected "totally 
and in detail" the "national compact," a proposal for negotiating a 
political solution, adopted by opposition parties at a meeting in Italy 
sponsored by the Sant'Egidio Society in January.  These parties included 
representatives of the FIS and FLN, the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), 
which is supported mainly by Berbers, as well as several smaller 
parties. 
 
The Government tried without success to convince the Sant'Egidio parties 
to participate in the presidential election.  Four candidates officially 
received the 75,000 signatures needed to appear on the ballot of the 
country's first pluralist presidential election.  After an intense and 
widely-publicized campaign lasting 3 weeks, nearly 75 percent of the 
electorate voted on November 16.  President Zeroual obtained over 60 
percent of the votes, according to government figures.  While there 
appears to have been little coercion of the 12 million voters, losing 
candidates claimed that there were instances of localized election 
fraud, but insufficient to alter the outcome.  In his inaugural address, 
President Zeroual called for legislative elections and promised to move 
toward full democracy in the future. 
 
The Government's security apparatus is composed of the newly formed 
Communal Guards (a local police), the police, the gendarmerie, and the 
army, air force, and navy, all of which are involved in efforts to 
repress the Islamist insurgency and combat terrorism.  The security 
forces were implicated in torture, arbitrary arrest, and extrajudicial 
killing. 
 
Spurred by government reforms, the economy is evolving slowly from a 
centrally planned system to a more market-oriented system.  However, 
government-owned industry still dominates the economy.  In 1995 the 
state-owned hydrocarbon industry alone constituted about one-fourth of 
gross domestic product and earned 97 percent of the country's export 
revenues.  The Government's contractionary fiscal and monetary policies 
in 1995 hit the state sector hard, as the Government reduced its 
financial support to debt-ridden firms.  Some of these companies laid 
off excess workers and limited salary increases during the year.  
Algeria is a middle-income country, with an annual per capita income of 
about $1,700.  Unemployment rose in 1995, especially among younger 
workers.  About 70 percent of persons under 30 could not find adequate 
employment.  Some of them made a living from petty smuggling or peddling 
goods on the street. 
 
A broadly accepted estimate is that an average of 10,000 people have 
been killed every year since the beginning of the unrest.  One estimate 
indicates that nearly 50,000 Algerians had been killed by the fall of 
1995. 
 
There is convincing evidence that the security forces carried out dozens 
of extrajudicial killings and often tortured and otherwise abused 
detainees.  While the Government continues to use its emergency law 
powers to detain hundreds of suspected Islamists, it closed the last 
remaining detention camp in November and released the 641 prisoners held 
there.  The Government continues to restrict freedoms of assembly, 
religion, press, and movement, and the Family Code discriminates against 
women.  The Government has promised legislative and local elections, but 
has not yet set a date.  In contrast to previous years, there was only 
one report of anti-Islamist vigilante groups killing Islamists and their 
sympathizers.  Domestic violence against women remains a serious 
problem. 
 
Terrorists carried out widespread attacks on civilians.  They 
assassinated political figures, journalists, academics, and thousands of 
other civilians as well as 20 foreigners.  According to press reports, 
they kidnaped and raped young women, forcing them to become mistresses 
of group leaders.  Insurgents used car bombs and other devices to attack 
electric pylons, telephone exchanges, schools, bridges, police and 
military headquarters, local government offices, and railroad trains and 
tracks.  Car bombs caused hundreds of civilian deaths.  In addition, 
some armed groups are composed of ordinary criminals who have exploited 
the general breakdown in law and order. 
 
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 continued to commit 
extrajudicial killings of persons involved in, or suspected of, 
terrorism.  In February the Minister of Justice announced that 96 
prisoners were killed and 10 wounded during a disturbance at the 
Serkadji Jail, a facility which houses prisoners condemned to death for 
terrorism.  The prisoners killed four guards during the disturbance.  
The Government has not made public a list of those killed, nor has it 
released the report of a special committee which investigated events at 
Serkadji.  However, the National Observatory for Human Rights (ONDH), a 
government body which reports on human rights issues to the President, 
released a report in May which supported the Minister's version that the 
security forces quelled a prison riot. 
 
Nevertheless, lawyers for the victims and their families issued a report 
in July claiming that the Government had spurned a peaceful settlement 
during the disturbance, and that the security forces deliberately killed 
over 100 prisoners even after the disturbance was quelled.  The lawyers 
also claimed that prison authorities systematically removed or destroyed 
evidence.  The Government has not responded to the lawyers' charges or 
to calls by Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch for an 
independent investigation.  An AI medical delegation visiting Algeria in 
March requested permission to visit Serkadji Prison and interview 
surviving detainees, but was denied access to Algerian jails. 
 
The Government maintains that the security forces resort to lethal force 
only in the context of armed clashes with terrorists.  Nonetheless, ONDH 
claims that during the year it provided President Zeroual with 
information on "some tens" of cases of possible extrajudicial killings.  
In other cases, ONDH was unable to determine the identity of the 
perpetrators. 
 
In July ONDH stated that a detainee in the Ain M'guel detention camp had 
been killed and an investigation was underway. 
 
In September Saghir Bouhadida, a former journalist, died under 
suspicious circumstances while in police custody.  Bouhadida was 
arrested on June 11 on suspicion of membership in a terrorist group.  
While in detention he reportedly gave the police information about a 
terrorist cell, and in September led the police to a terrorist hideout.  
The Government claims that Bouhadida was killed there in an exchange of 
fire. 
 
In 1994 ONDH provided the Ministry of Justice with information on 12 
suspected extrajudicial killings.  The Ministry responded to only one 
case in 1995.  In that case, a military tribunal found three security 
officials guilty of the extrajudicial killing of several people and gave 
them long jail sentences.  ONDH did not receive information on the other 
cases, despite President Zeroual's publicly stated assurances that human 
rights violators would be punished. 
 
The anti-Islamist, independent daily Liberte reported in October that 
the self-defense committee in a village in eastern Algeria had 
apprehended three men who allegedly participated in a terrorist attack 
on the village.  The committee executed the three without a trial. 
 
Armed groups, most notably the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), killed 
hundreds--perhaps thousands--of persons, including members of the 
security forces and ordinary citizens.  Terrorists attacked civilians 
whom they regarded as instruments of the state or whose life styles they 
considered in conflict with Islamic values. 
 
Victims included politicians, teachers, tax collectors, entertainers, 
government-appointed Islamic preachers, veterans of the war of 
independence, journalists, intellectuals, the families of security 
service personnel, and foreigners.  The throats of many victims were cut 
or their bodies were mutilated after death.  Sometimes the victims' 
severed heads would be discovered in one location and the bodies in 
another.  There were numerous reports of armed bands taking over 
villages, destroying government buildings, raping women, and killing 
inhabitants, including children. 
 
During the year, armed groups killed a minor presidential candidate; the 
president of the National Football Association; two members of the 
Finance Committee of the National Transition Council (Algeria's 
appointed parliament); a professor of Islamic law; the president of a 
women's association; a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official; a professor 
(a female) at the National Institute of Agronomy; the Director of 
Training at the National School of Administration; a well-known sports 
figure; active members of political parties; the imam of the Sidi-
Abderrahman Mosque; and a trade union leader who was also a member of 
the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH). 
 
In November terrorists killed a member of the Executive Committee of the 
Socialist Forces Front, as well as workers in the election campaigns of 
President Zeroual and Said Sadi, the candidate of the RCD party.  The 
president of the Algiers  
 
Association of Private Practitioners was assassinated in his office on 
November 26. 
 
Armed groups intensified their attacks on journalists, killing at least 
25 in 1995.  Five of the victims worked for the state television company 
and three for the state radio company.  In March a gunman shot and 
critically wounded a television journalist and her sister while the two 
were waiting for a company car to take them to work.  The journalist 
died of her wounds 10 days later.  A week after her death, the chief 
editor of the Government's French language daily El Moudjahid was killed 
on his way to work.  Three journalists were killed within 48 hours on 
September 3-4, and a television reporter and his wife were killed on 
September 8.  After these killings, independent newspapers suspended 
publication for 3 days to protest the killings of journalists and demand 
better police protection.  Throughout the year, some journalists lived a 
transient life, to avoid staying 2 nights in the same place.  Since 
1993, 54 Algerian journalists reportedly have been killed. 
 
Terrorist groups killed 20 foreigners in 1995, compared to 74 in 1994.  
Victims included Roman Catholic priests and nuns, businessmen, a 
university professor, and construction workers.  Terrorists attacked two 
French nuns, both longtime residents of a violence-prone suburb of 
Algiers, on November 10, killing one and critically injuring the other.  
Terrorists also killed two Latvian sailors on November 30 and wounded a 
third. 
 
In addition to targeted killings, terrorist groups resorted to 
indiscriminate violence, making greater use of bombs and car bombs in 
1995 than in previous years.  In January a suicide car bomb exploded in 
a busy street in central Algiers, killing 42 and wounding 286.  In March 
a car bomb wounded 83 persons and destroyed 60 apartments in a building 
housing police families.  The GIA claimed responsibility for that 
attack.  A car bomb in May at Bachdjara, also directed at a housing area 
for police, wounded 37 people.  In August a car bomb aimed at the 
Gendarmerie headquarters in central Algiers killed nine and wounded 104.  
In September a bomb exploded under a locomotive near Algiers, killing 5 
and injuring 11.  In October gunmen opened fire on a crowded country 
bus, killing 18 passengers, including three children, and wounding 15.  
Also in October, car bombs exploded in the towns of Barki and Relizane, 
and another exploded near a gendarmerie barracks in Rouiba, killing 6 
and injuring 83.  In November a car bomb exploded near a police station 
in Souk El-Tenine, in the Kabylie region, killing 3 and wounding 7.  
Fourteen people were killed in December by a car bomb in Ain Nadja.  A 
communique issued by the FIS condemnend that bombing. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
The ONDH claimed that it received significantly more complaints about 
disappearances in 1995 than in 1994 when it documented 116 cases of 
disappearances allegedly caused by security force personnel.  It 
submitted information on all of these cases to the Ministries of Justice 
and Interior; in some cases the Government responded to the ONDH 
queries, but in others it did not.  In many cases it was impossible to 
determine whether the security forces or armed groups were responsible. 
 
In July ONDH said that the security forces denied holding Djamal 
Fahassi, a radio journalist, who disappeared on May 6.  Fahassi was 
reportedly a militant supporter of the FIS who had been fired from his 
job at a state radio station.  ONDH assumed that Fahassi was kidnaped by 
armed groups; but many journalists believe he was arrested by the 
security forces.  Hadj Abdelkader Benaamane, an Algerian press service 
reporter who disappeared in February, reappeared in July at his trial 
before a military tribunal (see Section 1.e.). 
 
Terrorist groups kidnaped hundreds of civilians.  Sometimes their bodies 
were found later, but often the victims disappeared and their families 
have no information about their whereabouts. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
Knowledgeable sources, including Amnesty International (AI) and all 
three major Algerian human rights organizations--ONDH, LADDH, and the 
Algerian League for Human Rights (LADH)--reported that the security 
forces frequently used torture on detainees, especially suspected 
Islamists, to extract confessions or to obtain information about the 
activities of terrorist groups.  The ONDH claimed that it provided the 
Ministry of Justice with information on "tens" of cases of torture.  
Evidence suggests that many alleged torture victims decline to press 
charges against security officials for fear of reprisal against 
themselves or their families. 
 
In July the political parties that participated in the Sant'Egidio 
conference charged that torture had become an integral part of police 
investigations.  The Government denies that torture is a matter of 
policy or an accepted practice, but acknowledges that individual 
security officials may commit "excesses."  In January President Zeroual 
ordered the prosecution of any official charged with using torture.  
However, the Government has failed to condemn the use of torture 
publicly, nor has it demonstrated that it investigates torture 
allegations seriously.  ONDH claimed that it submitted 17 torture cases 
to the Ministry of Justice in 1994, of which 
5 had been transferred to judicial proceedings.  The  
 
Government has not revealed whether torturers have been punished. 
 
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 of fingernails, burning with cigarettes or a blowtorch, and 
the insertion of objects into the anus. 
 
Hamas party officials complained to the media that security forces 
arrested a party worker during the presidential election campaign and 
tortured him to death.  An autopsy reportedly revealed evidence of 
torture.  The Government did not deny the Hamas charges. 
 
Terrorist groups have also abused persons under their control.  For 
example, the media reported that armed Islamist groups often raped women 
when they took over control of towns and rural villages. 
 
Prisons are overcrowded, but there is no reliable information to assess 
other conditions.  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). 
 
   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 hold 
detainees in prearraignment detention for 12 days and must inform them 
of the charges against them. In practice, the security forces routinely 
exceed the lawful detention limit. 
 
In January ONDH announced that it had received 327 complaints in 1994 
that detainees were held in prearraignment detention longer than 12 
days. 
 
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.  These practices are apparently permitted under the state of 
emergency.   
 
Under the state of emergency, the Minister of Interior is authorized to 
detain suspects in special camps administered by the Army.  The 
Government announced on November 29 that it had closed Ain M'guel, the 
last of these camps, and released the 641 men who were held there (see 
Section 1.a.). 
 
Exile is not a legal form of punishment and is not known to be 
practiced. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and in December, 
President Zeroual promised new efforts to ensure that independence.  The 
judiciary is composed of the civil courts, which try misdemeanors and 
felonies, and military courts, which have been known to try civilians 
for terrorism offenses.  There is also a Constitutional Council which 
reviews the constitutionality of treaties, laws, and regulations, and 
elections.  Although the Council is not part of the judiciary, this 
independent body has the power to nullify laws, etc., if they are found 
unconstitutional. 
 
Islamic law, or Shari'a, provides much of the basis for civil court 
rulings in matters involving personal status, such as divorce or 
inheritance. 
 
Under the state of emergency, military courts are authorized to try 
civilians accused of terrorism.  The only known example of such a trial 
this year occurred in July when a military court in Tamanrasset 
sentenced Hadj Abdelkader Benaamane, a journalist, and at least two 
other defendants, to 2 to 4 years in prison for publishing the place of 
detention of the Vice President of the FIS, Ali Benhadj. 
 
In February the Government abolished three special courts established to 
try terrorism and subversion cases.  Their jurisdiction was transferred 
to the ordinary criminal courts.  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.   
 
According to the Constitution of 1989, defendants are presumed innocent 
until proven guilty.  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.  In 
November the Minister of Justice admitted that 18,000 of the country's 
34,000 prisoners have not yet been tried.  About half of the prison 
population is being held for alleged terrorist offenses.  The courts 
continued to hand down death sentences to those found guilty of 
terrorism; however, executions were suspended in 1993. 
 
Police subpoenas are not always delivered to those subpoenaed, and the 
Government is unable to ensure their delivery.  The law requires that 
the Government provide lawyers for indigent defendants.  Lawyers 
representing Islamists have received death threats. 
 
The former detainees of the Ain M'guel detention might be considered 
political prisoners as most were arrested in 1992 for alleged 
"subversive activities" and held without trial (see Section 1.d.). 
 
   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. 
 
Armed insurgents often enter private homes either to kill or kidnap 
residents or to steal weapons, valuables, or food. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press.  The 
state of emergency and the Antiterrorist Decree of December 1992 gave 
the Government broad authority to restrict these freedoms and to take 
legal action against what it considered to be threats to the State or 
public order.  Fear of arrest deters many journalists from reporting on 
internal security developments, the Islamist movement, or the military 
and security services, unless the information is provided by the 
authorities.  In February journalists reported that the Government had 
assigned newspaper censors to prevent the publication of offending 
articles. 
 
Nonetheless, the press continued to report opinions contrary to the 
government line.  Commentary on the military is usually self-censored, 
but some newspapers have published interviews with former military 
officers who have criticized the current commanders. 
 
The Government continued to suspend newspapers without providing reasons 
for the closures, beyond vague accusations of undermining public order 
or the interests of the State.  The Government continues to restrict 
news about the FIS, unless provided by government sources. 
 
In November 1994, the Ministry of Interior suspended the publication of 
the FLN newspaper, El Hiwar, and that newspaper did not resume 
publication in 1995.  In September, the FLN's Secretary General claimed 
that the Ministry still had not provided him with a written suspension 
order.  Without it, the  
 
FLN was not able to petition for the removal of the suspension order. 
 
The Arabic weekly El Wadj El Akhar, suspended for a month in December 
1994, was suspended again in 1995.  It has not resumed publication. 
 
In March the Government suspended the independent weekly, La Tribune, 
because it did not publish an Arabic-language version as required by 
law.  After complaints that the law was applied selectively, the 
Government lifted the ban. 
 
Also in March, the Government began an investigation of the editors of 
El Watan, Algeria's biggest newspaper, and El Khabar on unspecified 
charges.  The editors were placed under "judicial control," which 
requires them to report periodically to their local police station.  The 
Government did not explain the purpose of the investigation, but the 
editors speculated that they ran afoul of the authorities because El 
Watan published an article about a scandal in the Public Health Service, 
and El Khabar criticized the Ministry of Justice's handling of the 
disturbance at Serkadji prison (see Section 1. a.). 
 
In May the Government suspended the publication of the newspaper 
Horizon, reportedly for publishing material that overstepped the 
Government's news guidance. 
 
In June the Government suspended the French-language El Ouma for 15 
days, and the weekly La Nation and the monthly El Houria, each for a 
month, allegedly for printing an announcement signed, inter alia, by the 
FIS, of a public meeting of the Sant'Egidio parties.  El Ouma reported 
in June that in its 8 months of existence, the Government had suspended 
its publication for 81 days. 
 
Also in June, the Government suspended the publication of the newspaper 
El Hadith, for 6 months reportedly because it had published a letter by 
FIS Vice President Ali Benhadj, after the Government had denied the 
existence of the letter. 
 
In July the police arrested Sheikh Hocine Slimani, purportedly because 
El Watan had published a description of his alleged role in facilitating 
behind the scenes talks between the Government and the FIS in June.  
Slimani was released after 24 hours but reportedly was placed under 
judicial control. 
 
In August the Government placed the managing editor of La Nation under 
judicial control, after it published an interview with a senior FIS 
official.  The Interior Ministry prevented La Nation's October 18 issue 
from appearing on news stands without explanation.  Shortly thereafter, 
the Ministry suspended two other issues of La Nation, again without 
explanation.  Observers speculated that the suspensions were ordered 
because La Nation supported the Sant'Egidio parties' call for a boycott 
of the November presidential election. 
 
In December the authorities arrested the editor and a reporter at the 
French-language newspaper, Liberte, apparently for discussing a possible 
government appointment for one of the country's top generals in a gossip 
column.  They received suspended sentences of 4 months and 2 months, 
respectively, and the newspaper was suspended for 15 days, even after it 
apologized for reporting erroneous information about the general. 
 
The Government further controls the press by its monopoly on newsprint, 
printing presses, advertising, and newspaper distribution services.  
Several newspapers ceased publication for financial reasons, which they 
attributed to the government monopolies.  Their problems were 
exacerbated by shortages of newsprint and cuts in electricity. 
 
The Government continued 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, including the FIS and its armed wing, the Islamic 
Salvation Army (AIS), circulated clandestinely.  Islamist communiques 
sometimes appear on the walls of mosques. 
 
The press may report news related to the FIS only after the Government 
has issued a news release about the FIS, as in the case of a series of 
letters from FIS leaders to the Government.  The press may also publish 
without harassment when the news reports police successes against the 
armed groups, or, in selected cases, when the news has already appeared 
in print abroad. 
 
Radio and television remained under government control, with coverage 
biased in favor of the Government's policies.  However, the state radio 
and television allowed opposition presidential candidates to present 
their views prior to the November presidential election.  Because of the 
widespread accessibility of satellite dish antennas, millions of 
citizens have access to European broadcasts. 
 
The terrorist campaign against journalists and academics continued to 
constrain freedom of speech and press.  In January the GIA reiterated 
its threats against all journalists.  Assailants murdered 25 journalists 
in 1995.  Many journalists received death threats and took security 
precautions. 
 
In April an unidentified group of armed Islamists seized a state 
television relay station in western Algeria and broadcast their own 
hour-long tape of Koranic verses before destroying the station's 
transmitting equipment. 
 
The exodus abroad of intellectuals and university educators to escape 
threats continued throughout the year.  As a result, there were few 
academic seminars and colloquia. 
 
According to the Government's latest figures, in 1994 terrorists 
destroyed 915 primary and secondary school classrooms, 7 institutes of 
research and development, 9 centers for professional training and 3 
university administration buildings.  Terrorists continued to target 
schools in 1995. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
Although the 1989 Constitution provides for the rights of assembly and 
association, the Government has sharply curtailed these freedoms under 
the Emergency Law. 
 
In July the Government forbade two officials of the FIS to make any 
public statements.  A month earlier, the Government had ordered them not 
to engage in further political activities after they had appeared on a 
public platform with other figures of the Sant'Egidio parties. 
 
Citizens and organizations must obtain a permit from the local 
governor's office before holding public demonstrations.  After review by 
the Ministry of Interior, such permits are generally granted for 
demonstrations against terrorism or in support of the Government.  Legal 
parties are not required to obtain permits to hold private meetings, but 
in July and September the Government refused several parties permission 
to hold a series of public meetings on human rights. 
 
The Government allows Berber organizations to hold demonstrations only 
in the Kabylie region, which has a large Berber population.  In January 
and February, it denied permission for two demonstrations sponsored by 
the Berber Cultural Movement in the Algiers area. 
 
The Ministry of Interior licenses all nongovernmental associations, and 
regards all associations as illegal unless they have licenses.  It may 
deny a license to, or dissolve, any group regarded as a threat to the 
existing political order. 
 
After the Government suspended the parliamentary election in 1992, it 
dissolved the FIS as a political party, and the social and charitable 
groups associated with it.  Membership in the FIS is illegal.  However, 
the Government itself has continued to meet periodically with FIS 
leaders who are in detention. 
 
According to a 1989 law, all citizens have the right to join political 
organizations, except judges, army and security service personnel, and 
members of the Constitutional Council.  Most political groups, except 
the banned FIS, conduct activities freely.  Over 55 parties, including 
some centrist Islamist parties such as Hamas, were active in 1995.  
Other associations include specialized groups such as human rights and 
women's rights groups, social welfare groups, and regionally based 
cultural organizations. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution declares Islam to be the state religion but prohibits 
discrimination based on religious belief.  The Government respects this 
right in practice.  It permits the small Christian and Jewish 
populations (numbering approximately 1,000 and 200 respectively) to 
practice their faiths without interference. 
 
In 1994 the GIA declared its intention to eliminate "Jews, Christians, 
and Polytheists" from Algeria.  The Christian community, composed mostly 
of foreigners, curtailed its activities and evacuated some church 
workers because of death threats.  During the year, extremists killed 
two Roman Catholic priests and three nuns, and wounded another nun. 
 
Conversions from Islam to Christianity are rare.  The Family Code 
prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, although Muslim men 
may marry non-Muslim women.  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.  It also 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 
Family Code, women under 19 years of age need their husband's or 
father's permission to obtain a passport or travel abroad. 
 
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 first imposed in 1992 
prohibits people from traveling in Algiers and the surrounding provinces 
between midnight and 4 a.m. 
 
In April the Government restricted travel by non-residents to four 
southern provinces where much of the oil industry and many foreign 
workers are located.  Police checkpoints in the cities and countryside 
routinely stop vehicles to inspect identification papers and search for 
evidence of terrorist activity.  Armed groups establish comparable false 
checkpoints to rob travellers of cash and vehicles, or to kill them. 
 
The Constitution provides for the right of political asylum, and the 
Government has granted asylum in a few cases.  The Government cooperates 
with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian 
organizations in assisting refugee Sahrawis, the former residents of 
Western Sahara who left that territory after it was occupied by Morocco 
in the 1970s, and Tuaregs, a nomadic people of southern Algeria and 
neighboring countries.  Some came from Mali to escape fighting in the 
northern part of that country.  There were no reports of forced 
expulsion of those having a valid claim to refugee status. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  the Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
The Army's cancellation of the electoral process in 1992 effectively 
denied citizens the right to change their government by legislative 
election.  Power remains in the hands of the military leadership, 
supported by the bureaucracy, and some officials of the FLN, the former 
ruling party.  The military appointed all the members of the National 
Transition Council, which functions as a quasi-parliament. 
 
In November President Liamine Zeroual was elected to a 5-year term in 
office, after obtaining over 60 percent of the vote in a multiparty 
presidential election.  Nearly 75 percent of the electorate cast their 
ballots in an election that was generally considered to be free and 
fair.  In his inaugural address, President Zeroual pledged that Algeria 
would continue to move toward full democracy, and announced his 
intention to hold legislative and local elections. 
 
Prior to the election, the Government clamped down on opposition parties 
which called for their supporters to boycott it.  When the FLN was 
denied permission to hold a large party meeting, it complained that the 
Government had impinged on its constitutional liberties.  The Government 
also clamped down on the media which supported the Sant'Egidio parties 
(see Section 2.a.). 
 
Few women hold high government positions.  There are no women in the 
Cabinet, but the highest government official responsible for family 
matters is a woman.  Fewer than 1 percent of the candidates for 
parliamentary elections in the 1991 parliamentary election were women.  
However, the head of the Labor Party is a woman, and the major political 
parties have women's divisions.  The Government changed the electoral 
law to ensure that women cast their own ballots, rather than to permit 
their husbands or fathers to do so for them, as frequently happened in 
previous elections. 
 
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 politics, 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 do not exist against any minority group. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
There are two independent human rights groups:  the Algerian League for 
the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), whose president was spokesman of 
the parties at the Sant'Egidio Conference, and the Algerian League of 
Human Rights (LADH), which is largely moribund.  Neither group issues 
annual reports of its findings.  A governmental body, the National 
Observatory of Human Rights (ONDH), established in 1992, is charged with 
reporting human rights developments directly to the President.  The ONDH 
submitted its first annual report to the President in 1994, but the 
Government has not made it public. 
 
Although the Government does not permit independent monitoring of 
prisons or detention centers (see Section 1.c.), it allowed 
representatives from AI to visit Algeria twice. 
 
The Government claimed that AI has preconceived ideas about the conflict 
in Algeria, and lacks evidence to support its allegations of human 
rights abuses.  The Government did not respond to calls by AI and other 
international human rights groups for an independent investigation into 
the disturbance at the Serkadji Prison (see Section 1.a.). 
 
The Government's public interest in human rights increased in January 
after the Sant'Egidio Conference.  At that meeting, several political 
parties and the FIS issued a "national compact" to end civil unrest, and 
called for respect for human rights.  Shortly afterwards, President 
Zeroual ordered state entities to cooperate with investigations 
conducted by ONDH, and indicated that the Government would prosecute any 
official accused of violating unspecified "human rights."  In June the 
ONDH held a 2-day seminar to educate the public about human rights. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disablility, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
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 
 
Women's rights advocates assert that spousal violence is common, 
although there are no reliable studies on the problem.  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. 
 
Some aspects of the law and many traditional practices discriminate 
against women.  Women's rights advocates argue that the 1984 Family Code 
violates the Constitution.  Based on Islamic law, or Shari'a, it 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 official documents.  A woman's testimony in a 
court of law does not equal a man's. 
 
The Family Code also confirms the Islamic practice of 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.  Only males are able to confer citizenship on their 
children.  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 may own businesses and enter into contracts.  Women constitute 
about 8 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.  According to government figures, women constitute 53 percent of 
illiterates. 
 
During the year, Islamists continued to pressure women to adopt Islamic 
fundamentalist social norms.  According to the Government, unidentified 
assailants killed over 160 women in 1995.  The GIA announced in March 
that it would attack families of members of the security forces.  They 
have carried out that threat (see Section 1.a.).  Extremists have also 
killed those who own and operate hair salons and their clients.  
Islamist groups reportedly raped women and forced some to serve as 
mistresses of group leaders. 
 
 
   Children 
 
The Government is committed in principle to protecting children's human 
rights.  It provides free education for children ages 6 to 15 and free 
medical care for all citizens.  The Ministry of Youth and Sports has 
many programs for children, but those programs face serious funding 
problems.  Legal experts maintain that the Penal and Family Codes do not 
offer children sufficient protection.  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. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
The Government does not mandate accessibility to buildings or government 
services for people with disabilities.  Public enterprises generally 
ignore a law which requires that they reserve 1 percent of their jobs 
for people with disabilities.  The independent newspaper La Tribune 
reported in May that the Government has ignored international standards 
for treatment of 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 disabilities. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
The Berbers were the original inhabitants of Algeria, and many citizens 
claim to be of mixed Berber and Arab ancestry.  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.  In May 
the Government created the High Commission for Berber Affairs.  The move 
followed a year-long school boycott in Berber areas, because there was 
no instruction in Berber language and culture.  The Commission has begun 
implementing its mandate to promote Berber culture, and to introduce the 
Berber language into the education and media.  There have been 
professorships in Berber language and culture at the University of Tizi 
Ouzou for years. 
 
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 belongs to unions.  Workers are required 
to obtain government approval to establish a union.  After a labor union 
receives its license, it must wait 6 months before it can start its 
organizing activities.  The Government limits some union activities.  As 
part of its crackdown on the FIS, the Government abolished an Islamist 
union affiliated with the FIS, because it had never been licensed. 
 
The law prohibits unions from associating with political parties.  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 and work stoppages by public-sector 
workers, such as a strike in June and July by oil-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; it only rarely retaliated against workers involved in 
the stoppages. 
 
Unions may form and join federations or confederations, affiliate with 
international labor bodies, and develop relations with foreign labor 
groups.  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 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.  The minimum wage is $80 per month (4,000 dinars).  
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 decree issued in 1991.  However, government 
inspectors do not enforce these regulations effectively. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1995 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.