Algeria: Two brothers forcibly disappeared in retaliation
In August 2008, TRIAL submitted an individual communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on behalf of Mrs Taous Djebbar and Mr Saadi Chihoub, acting in the name of their sons, Djamel and Mourad Chihoub. Djamel Chihoub first, then his brother Mourad six months latter, were arrested by members of the Algerian army and are have been repported missing since. These cases are to be put in the broader context of the disappearance of thousands of Algerian citizens in the hands of the army and of various security forces in the country between 1992 and 1998.
Djamel and Mourad Chihoub have been arrested at their home by soldiers from the Baraki barracks, respectively on 16th May 1996 at 8 am and on 13th November 1996 around 11 pm. The circumstances of Djamel Chihoub’s arrest show that he was taken away for no other reason than to exerce pressure on his older brother Saïd, suspected of having joined the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), to force him to surrender himself to the authorities. The abduction of Mourad Chihoub, then only 16, happened after the death of Saïd and despite the fact that the very officer in charge when he was arrested aknowledged that he had no clue indicating any involvement of Mourad in illegal activities.
Since their arrests, and in spite of constant efforts, their relatives failed to gather any official information about their fate.
The victim’s relatives, and particularly their parents, turned to all relevant institutions to find where the deasappeared were taken. In particular, the Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Algiers, informed by the family about the illegal treatement the two brothers suffered, did not initiate any proceedings and has not sought any information on the circumstances of the two disappearances. An investigative judge from El Harrach did initiate a formal proceeding, which however ended in the dismissal of the case, no serious investigation having been carried out despite the fact that the family even provided the identity of the people involved in the disappearances.
The family also adressed various administrative and governmental institutions, among which the President of the Republic, the Mediator of the Republic, the Minister of Justice and the National Observatory on Human Rights (ONDH), to no avail.
Moreover, the Chihoub family is now faced with a legal prohibition to resort to any judicial measure after the promulgation in February 2006 of the Order 6/10 enforcing the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation. In addition, any Algerian jurisdiction is duty-bound to dismiss any such case.
The authors of the communication request the UN Human Rights Committee to recognize Djamel and Mourad Chihoub as victims of enforced disappearances, a crime which infringed their most fondamental rights, as guaranted by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the Covenant). They ask the Committee to recognize a violation of articles 2 § 3, 6 § 1, 7, 9 §§ 1, 2, 3 et 4, 10 § 1, 16, 17 § 1 and 23 § 1 of the Covenant in respect of both Chihoub brothers, and, as regards Mourad, who was still minor at the time of the events, a violation of article 24 § 1 of the Covenant. The authors of the communication also ask the Committee to consider that they themselves were victims of a violation of articles 2 § 3, 7 and 23 § 1 of the Covenant for the mental suffering they went through during so many years of incertitude about the fate of their sons and the failure of the State to protect the family.
The general context
7,000 to 20,000 persons, according to different sources, have been arrested or abducted by the Algerian security forces, all bodies considered, as well as by the government-armed militia between 1992 and 1998, and have been missing ever since.
Up to now, none of the victims’ families has received any information about the fate of their relatives, no investigation has been initiated following the complaints and proceedings they tried to initiate, and although the authors and those who ordered those crimes are well known, no one has ever been prosecuted.
In December 2011, 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 and 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, taken alone and in conjunction with Article 2 § 3 of the Covenant with regards to Djamel Chihoub and Mourad Chihoub, as well as an additional violation of Article 24 with regards to Mourad Chihoub, minor at the time of the facts.
The Committee also held that Algeria violated Article 7 of the ICCPR, taken alone and in conjunction with Article 2 § 3, with regards to the victims’ parents.
The Committee requested Algeria to “conduct a deep and rigorous investigation into the disappearance of Djamel and Mourad Chihoub”, to “furnish their family with detailed information concerning the results of its investigation”, to free them immediately if they are still being secretly detained or, if they are deceased, to return their mortal remains to their family. Moreover, the Committee insisted on Algeria’s obligation to “indict, put on trial and punish those responsible for the violations committed”. Algeria was also required to pay an adequate compensation to the family of the victims for the violations endured.