Algeria: father forcibly disappeared

12.02.2016 ( Last modified: 10.11.2016 )

Introudction

In May 2008, TRIAL submitted an individual communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on behalf of Hafsa Boudjemai, acting on behalf of her son, Djaafar Sahbi. The latter was abducted in Algiers on the 3rd of July 1995 around 10 am. He has not been seen since then. This incident occurred within the general context of the enforced disappearance of thousands of Algerian citizens at the hands of the army or various other security organs of the State between 1992 and 1998.

Djaafar Sahbi was kidnapped when leaving the Mustapha Bacha hospital where he was employed and where he had taken his 8 year old daughter for a doctor’s appointment. As they were coming out of the hospital, two policemen gave orders to follow them. Djaafar Sahbi and his daughter were taken away in a car. The girl was later brought back to her father’s office in the hospital by the policemen.

Three days later, policemen broke into the residence of the Sahbi family when no one was present. The police officers forced open several doors, at the entrance and inside the house, and took away personal effects and documents belonging to Mr. Sahbi.

Since his arrest, his family has been unable to learn anything about his fate, despite persistent attempts to do so.

Sahbi’s relatives, especially his brother Youcef, have turned to all the competent authorities in order to find him and ensure he is put under the protection of the law.

In particular, Sahbi’s case was submitted to the Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Algeria, to the Public Prosecutor of the Court of El Harrach and to the General Prosecutor of the Court of Algiers. Those requests were left unanswered. The family also turned to several governmental and administrative institutions, in particular to the President of Republic and the Minister of Justice, but all in vain.

Finally, Djaafar Sahbi’s case was also submitted to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. This special procedure was also unsuccessful in clarifying the situation with respect to Sahbi’s disappearance, since the Algerian State simply omitted to respond to the requests laid before it.

Furthermore, since the promulgation of Order n° 6/01 concerning the implementation of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation in February 2006, the family faces a legal barrier in bringing its case to justice. Any person who contravenes this Order faces a prison term, and Algerian tribunals are bound to declare such a case inadmissible.

The author of the submission therefore requests the Committee to recognise Djaafar Sahbi as a victim of enforced disappearance. This crime affects the most fundamental rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR). It is submitted that the situation gives rise to violations of articles 2 § 3, 6 § 1, 7, 9 §§ 1, 2, 3 and 4, 10 § 1, 16 and 17 § 1 of the ICCPR in respect of Djaafar Sahbi and articles 2 § 3 and 7 of the ICCPR in respect of the author, as a result of the psychological suffering he has endured for so many years, caused by uncertainty as to the fate of her son.

General Context

According to several sources, between 7,000 to 20,000 individuals have gone missing after being arrested or abducted by the various different Algerian security services as well as by government armed militias between 1992 and 1998.

Until today, none of the families of such victims of enforced disappearances has received any information concerning the fate of their loved ones. No investigations have been opened up as a result of complaints they have lodged or other procedures taken. Despite the fact that the perpetrators of the crimes and those behind them are well known, no one has been put under investigation or brought to prosecution.

The decision

In June 2013, the Human Rights Committee communicated its decision (called “views” in the UN language).

The Committee held that Algeria violated Articles 6 § 1, 7, 9, 10 § 1, 16 and 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights taken alone or in conjunction with Article 2 § 3 of the Covenant with regards to M. Djaafar Sahbi.

The Committee also held that Algeria violated Article 7 and 17 of the ICCPR, taken alone and in conjunction with Article 2 § 3 with regards to the victim’s family.

The Committee requested Algeria to conduct a deep and rigorous investigation into the disappearance of Djafaar Sahbi, to furnish his family with detailed information concerning the results of its investigation, to free him immediately if he is still being secretly detained or if, he is deceased, to return his mortal remains to his family.

Moreover, the Committee insisted on Algeria’s obligation to indict, try and sanction those responsible for the violations committed. Algeria was also required to pay an adequate compensation to the family of the victim for the violations endured.