Enforced disappearance of Rachid SASSENE in May 1996

12.02.2016 ( Last modified: 15.09.2016 )

In December 2010, TRIAL lodged an individual complaint before the United Nations Human Rights Committee on behalf of Ms Bariza Zaier, spouse of Rachid Sassene. She acts in the name of her husband, kidnapped on 18 May 1996 in Constantine, and missing ever since. He disappeared during a widespread campaign of forced disappearances in Algeria between 1992 and 1998.

Mr. Rachid Sassene was arrested at his home by over twenty policemen of the commissariat of Constantine. He was then driven to his second flat where his wife, Ms Zaier, was violently arrested. They were then both brought to the central prison of Coudiat.

Up until she was released from prison on 3 June 1996, Ms Zaier was able to communicate with her husband. Since her release, she has not been informed on the fate and whereabouts of her husband, despite numerous attempts to obtain information from the authorities. The answers provided to her queries have proven incoherent and contradictory. Algerian authorities initially alleged that Rachid Sassene had never been arrested before stating that he had been “eliminated” by the security forces the day after his arrest, a fact that Ms Bariza Zaier knows is wrong, since she was able to talk with her husband during the two weeks that followed their arrest.

Ms Zaier, her children and Mr. Sassene’s father never stopped searching for him and undertook all possible steps to know the truth about his fate. Rachid Sassene’s disappearance also caused them a lot of administrative burden, obliging Ms Zaier to apply for a death certificate for her husband, in order to abide with the 2006 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation.

In her complaint before the UN Human Rights Committee, Ms Zaier requests that Algeria be found in violation of articles 2 § 3, 6 § 1, 7, 9 § 1, 2, 3, and 4, and of articles 10 and 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (right to an effective remedy, right to life, prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment , right to life and security of person, prohibition of inhuman treatment for all persons deprived of their liberty and right to recognition as a person before the law). She also asks for the violation of the articles 2 § 3 and 7 of the Covenant to be recognized for herself and her children, the disappearance of her husband being the cause of a long and painful uncertainty for all the family.

The proceedings are currently underway before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

General Context

According to different information sources, 7,000 to 20,000 persons were arrested or abducted by all corps of Algerian security services and the militia armed by the government between 1992 and 1998, and are still missing.

To date, none of the victims’ families have received information about their relatives, no investigation has ever been opened as a result of the criminal complaint and the procedure they have completed, and, thought the persons who committed the crimes and the backers are known, none of them have ever been prosecuted or troubled.


The decision

In October 2014, 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 Article 7 of the ICCPR, taken alone and in conjunction with Article 2 § 3, with regards to the victim’s spouse.

The Committee requested Algeria “to conduct a deep and rigorous investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Rachid Sassene”. 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


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