Middle East: Amnesty's Algeria report hits at security services

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The Independent Online
Amnesty International yesterday accused the international community of an "abdication of responsibility" towards the Algerian people.

The report on Algeria describes the civilian population as "caught in a spiral of violence". It notes that massacres have often taken place in close proximity to military barracks and security-forces posts. But, Amnesty notes in its report, "The army and security forces have never intervened to stop the massacres and the murderers were, in each case, allowed to leave undisturbed."

At the very least, Amnesty argues, "The Algerian authorities are responsible and should account for the consistent failure to provide protection for the civilian population." In addition, Amnesty talks of the "growing concern" that units of the army or security forces may have been responsible for some of the massacres.

In response to reports by Robert Fisk in the Independent (based partly on the testimony of former Algerian policemen, speaking out for the first time), the Algerian ambassador to London wrote this month to complain of "limited sources of information" and insufficient "corroborating evidence" for the first-hand accounts.

Amnesty argues, however, that the Algerian government has repeatedly failed to respond to charges. "Amnesty regrets that its requests for talks with the Algerian government, as well as its substantive communications, have remained without response and that no measures have been taken to address its concerns."

Amnesty concludes its report by noting that the international community has "shunned its responsibilities in the face of a tragedy which takes place in camera". The UN Human Rights Commission has "carefully avoided addressing the issues of the human rights situation in Algeria".

The European Union and parliament have, despite vague declarations condemning violence, "failed to recognise any state responsibility concerning the human rights violations".