Information transmitted to the Government and replies received
24. By letter dated 26 August 1993 the Special Rapporteur informed the Government that he had received reports according to which the new anti-terrorist act, which entered into force in October 1992, extended the period of police detention (during which the prisoner is held incommunicado without contact with his family or his lawyer) from 48 hours to 12 days. This situation was allegedly creating conditions conducive to torture and ill-treatment, which were said to be practised systematically in some detention centres. The individual cases described in the following paragraphs were transmitted to the Government.
25. Nadir Hammoudi was allegedly arrested at his home in central Algiers on 9 October 1992 by members of the security forces. He was said to have been subjected to torture during the 29 days he spent in police custody.
26. With respect to this case the Government indicated on 15 November 1993 that following his arrest on 27 October 1992 Nadir Hammoudi had been brought before the Government Procurator's Office in Algiers on 7 November 1992 and charged under the Act to combat subversion and terrorism. The National Human Rights Observation Centre (ONDH) had approached the authorities concerned and Mr. Hammoudi himself on a number of occasions in order to obtain accurate information on the situation concerning his arrest and custody. ONDH had yet to receive a reply. Moreover, neither the parents of the defendant nor his lawyers had filed any complaint requesting a judicial investigation or an expert medical opinion.
27. Mohamed Yassine Simozrag was allegedly arrested at his home in Algiers on 23 July 1993 and held incommunicado for more than 20 days. His family and lawyer were able to visit him in Al-Harrach prison on 18 August and saw that he had contusions. He reportedly stated that he had been tortured by the "rag method", which involved tying the victim to a chair and trying to choke him with a rag soaked in dirty water and chemicals.
28. On 15 November 1993 the Government informed the Special Rapporteur that Mohamed Yassine Simozrag was arrested on 28 July 1993 in the company of a terrorist wanted for his involvement in several attacks. On the expiry of the legal period of custody, he had been brought before the Government Procurator's Office in Algiers and then had had a detention warrant issued against him after being charged in the context of the Act for the repression of terrorism and subversion. Two lawyers had been appointed to represent and defend Mr. Simozrag, who had received regular visits from them.
29. Following allegations of ill-treatment of the defendant during his custody, ONDH made a number of representations to the legal authorities concerned. One of the lawyers, on being contacted by ONDH, stated that no request for an expert medical opinion or a judicial investigation of ill-treatment during custody had been made; a visit to his client had enabled him to establish that the latter had not been physically harmed.
30. By the same letter of 15 November 1993 the Government indicated that its position on the question of torture had always been and continued to be a firm and unambiguous condemnation of this odious practice. This position was expressed, in particular, through Algeria's accession, without any reservation whatever, to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
31. Despite being confronted with terrorist activities arising out of religious extremism, Algeria had continued its efforts to safeguard democracy and protect human rights within the context of internationally recognized human rights principles. Temporary restrictions on the exercise of certain freedoms had not, therefore, gone beyond the limits expressly laid down by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Algeria was a party. Moreover, abuses of any kind were controlled by machinery which provided the persons concerned and those who defended them with every opportunity to denounce such acts, which, should they be proved, were treated accordingly, with the perpetrators being punished. Allegations which the Special Rapporteur had apparently received on certain aspects of Algerian legislation "connected with the practice of torture" were so aberrant that there could be no question of Algeria paying the least attention to them.
32. The Special Rapporteur transmitted an urgent appeal to the Government on 16 September 1993 expressing concern about the situation of Ameur Legraïdi and Fathi Ouerghi, Tunisian nationals alleged to be members of the unauthorized Islamic movement "Al-Nahda". They were reported to have left Tunisia in 1992 owing to fear of persecution because of their membership of the said movement. Ameur Legraidi had allegedly been condemned in absentia to 11 months' imprisonment in Tunisia. The two men reportedly applied for political asylum in Algeria, where they were registered as refugees by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Office of Stateless Persons and Refugees of the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was said to have granted them a temporary residence permit. On 13 June 1993 they were arrested in Algiers. Given the reports that seven persons of Tunisian nationality had been arrested and tortured by the Tunisian authorities after being forcibly repatriated from Algeria in January 1993, fears were expressed that the two men might also be subjected to such treatment if deported.
33. On 29 October 1993 the Government replied that these cases could not be regarded as situations coming within the terms of reference assigned to the Special Rapporteur by the Commission on Human Rights. However, in view of the importance Algeria attached to dialogue with experts of the Commission on Human Rights, the Government informed the Special Rapporteur that these cases had been discussed in detail with the appropriate body, namely, UNHCR. It recalled that States had the prerogative of granting refugee status to foreigners requesting such status and denied the allegation that Ameur Legraïdi and Fathi Ouerghi had been issued residence permits by the Office of Stateless Persons and Refugees in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
34. The Government also reported that Algeria had at no time failed in its duty as a country of reception, which had, moreover, been ranked as a constitutional principle; its continuing concern was to respond to genuinely humanitarian requests in accordance with the values of humanism and solidarity it had always upheld. Confronted with terrorist manifestations of religious extremism, Algeria had, since the establishment of the state of emergency, reiterated its commitment to the cause of human rights and showed that it was determined to base security action on full respect for the provisions of the international instruments to which it was a party, particularly those relating to the exercise of the right of derogation. All of the security measures taken to strengthen the rule of law and consolidate democratic institutions were thus in conformity with the international commitments Algeria had undertaken in the field of human rights. A similar concern had been shown in the humanitarian cases with which Algeria had had to deal and which had all been managed in accordance with its age-old attachment to the sacred principle of granting asylum to persons seeking protection.
35. On 18 October 1993 the source reported that Ameur Legraïdi and Fathi Ouerghi, who had been recognized as refugees in need of protection by UNHCR in Algiers, had been handed over to the Tunisian authorities on 8 July 1993.
36. The Special Rapporteur appreciates the Government of Algeria's commitment to dialogue with experts of the Commission on Human Rights. He notes that the Government has not explained why it considers the cases of foreign nationals threatened with deportation and eventually deported to a country where they risked being tortured might not fall within his terms of reference. In this he has merely followed the practice of his predecessor and other thematic procedures. Moreover, Algeria, as a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is bound by its article 3 to refrain from such deportations. As to the Government's dismissal of concerns that legislation authorizing prolonged incommunicado detention can facilitate torture, the Special Rapporteur notes that this concern has consistently motivated his predecessor and that the Commission on Human Rights shares the concern: as recently as 5 March 1993, in its resolution 1993/40, in which the Special Rapporteur was appointed, the Commission recalled that "incommunicado detention is highly conducive to torture practices". The Special Rapporteur welcomes the Government of Algeria's stated commitment, despite the existence of "terrorist manifestations of religious extremism", to maintain respect for human rights, in particular the absolute prohibition of torture. He believes that this commitment could be made more effective by eschewing resort to prolonged incommunicado detention.