Enforced Disappearance of Benattia Zerrougui

21.01.2014 ( Last modified: 09.11.2016 )

Introduction

In June 2008, TRIAL submitted an individual communication before the United Nations Human Rights Committee on behalf of Ahmed Zerrougui, acting for his brother, Benattia Zerrougui. The latter was arrested on 1st June around 12 a.m., in Tiaret. He has since disappeared. This case comes within the general context of the enforced disappearance of thousands of Algerian citizens at the hands of the army or various other State security organs between 1992 and 1998.

Benattia Zerrougui holds a degree from the École nationale d’administration and had held the position of General Secretary at the Tiaret City Hall. He was arrested upon his arrival from Oran at the Tiaret taxi station, where his brother Ahmed was waiting for him. He was arrested by police agents wearing guns, hoods and the uniform of the security services of the wilaya, who had set up a check-point. They brought the victim by car to the police station situated some hundreds of metres away from the place of his arrest.

Since Benattia Zerrougui was arrested, his relatives have not managed to obtain official information about his fate, despite tireless efforts.

Members of the Zerrougui family, particularly the victim’s mother, appealed to all competent institutions in the hope of finding the victim and placing him under the protection of law. In particular, the Prosecutor of Tiaret was contacted, to no avail. The family wrote to several governmental and administrative institutions, amongst which the President of the Algerian Republic, the Mediator of the Republic, the Minister of Justice, and the National Observatory of Human Rights – Observatoire National des Droits de l’Homme (ONDH) –, in vain.

Moreover, since the enactment of Act No. 6/01 concerning the implementation of the Charter for National Peace and Reconciliation on February 2006, Mr. Zerrougui’s relatives face a legal prohibition on having recourse to any judicial body. If they were to do so, they would risk being convicted to prison terms. In addition, this law obliges any Algerian judicial authority to reject such a case.

The author of this submission requests the Committee to recognise Benattia Zerrougui 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 and 16 of the ICCPR in respect of Benattia Zerrougui, and articles 2 § 3 and 7 of the ICCPR in respect of the author, as a result of the psychological suffering that he has endured for so many years, caused by uncertainty as to the fate of his brother.

The procedure is pending before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

The Decision

In August 2013, the Human Rights Committee communicated its decision (in French only), called “views” by the UN.

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 or in conjunction with Article 2 § 3 of the Covenant with regards to Mr. Benattia Zerrougui.

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 victim’s family.

The Committee requested Algeria to conduct a deep and rigorous investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Benattia Zerrougui, 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.

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.