Dragged out of his house in the dead of night, never to be seen again

12.02.2016 ( Last modified: 10.11.2016 )

The Case

In March 2008, TRIAL submitted a communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on behalf of Aîssa Mezine, acting for his brother Bouzid Mezine. The latter was kidnapped in Algiers on 11 August 1996 between 1h30 and 2h00 am, following a police operation. He is reported to have been missing since then. This incident has occurred within the general context of the enforced disappearance of thousands of Algerian citizens at the hands of the army or security corps of the State between 1992 and 1998.

Bouzid Mezine was taken from his home, in the presence of his family, by a military detachment in the context of a police operation in the neighbourhood. The soldiers also proceeded to search his apartment.

Since his arrest, his family has never succeeded in discovering his fate, despite persistent attempts to do so. A former detainee of the military prison of Blida reportedly saw him two months after the arrest – this information was confirmed to the family by a member of the military.

Mezine’s relatives have turned to all the competent authorities in order to find him and to make sure he is under the protection of law. At the end of the time limit for police custody, they enquired about him at several military camps, police stations and prosecutor’s offices, with no success. Bouzid Mezine’s father has referred his son’s case to the prosecutors of the Hussein Dey and Algiers tribunals, as well as to the military prosecutor of Blida. The latter is believed to have opened an official enquiry, but has in fact never brought to fruition any reliable enquiry concerning the enforced disappearance of Bouzid Mezine.

His family has turned to several governmental authorities, including the Médiateur de la République, the President of the Observatoire national des droits de l’homme, the President of the Republic and the Minister of Justice. None of them have given the family any information about the victim’s fate.

Finally, Bouzid Mezine’s case has also been submitted to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. This special procedure did not assist in clarifying the disappeared’s situation, as the State decided not to answer the requests.

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 to 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 this submission requests the Committee to recognise Bouzid Mezine 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 Bouzid Mezine 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 his son. The case is pending.

The general context

According to different sources, between 7,000 and 20,000 people have been arrested or kidnapped and then made to disappear by the different Algerian security services or by government-armed militias between 1992 and 1998.

To date, none of the families of the victims of these enforced disappearances have received any information on the fate of their relatives. No investigations have been initiated pursuant to the lodging of criminal complaints or other procedures. Although the identity of the persons who committed and planned these crimes is widely known, none of them has been prosecuted.

The decision

In December 2012, 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 and in conjunction with Article 2 § 3 of the Covenant with regards to the victim.

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

The Committee requested Algeria to “”to conduct a deep and rigorous investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Bouzid Mezine”. Algeria is also requested to “provide the authors with detailed information concerning the results of its investigation”, “to free the victim 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 punish those responsible for the violations committed” and to pay an appropriate compensation to the family of the victim for the violations committed.

Algeria is further requested to guarantee the effectiveness of the domestic justice system, especially with respect to victims of torture, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance and to take steps to avoid the recurrence of similar violations.