Letter: British refuge saves lives of Algerians

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Sir: Robert Fisk ("Truth the victim in American crackdown", 16 May) writes of the questionable means used by the US authorities in their attempt to send Anwar Haddam back to Algeria. Truth is even more a victim in Algeria itself.

No information regarding "security" matters in Algeria may be reported that has not been issued by the security forces or the official press agency. The French newspaper Liberation (23 April) reported that journalists trying to visit the village where 93 people were reportedly massacred on the night of 21/22 April were turned back, preventing any independent confirmation of the massacre. There are no foreign journalists in Algeria, and on the rare occasions that they obtain visas they must almost invariably be accompanied by a security forces escort. Thus no independent reports are reaching us from Algeria.

On 23 February Rachid Medjahed, arrested by the security forces, appeared on television and "confessed" to having planned and directed the killing of the prominent trade unionist Abdelhaq Benhamouda on 28 January 1997. Rachid Medjahed's father, who had not known of his son's arrest until he saw him on television, was shown his son's body in a hospital on 3 April. He was not allowed to take the body but was given a death certificate signed 3 March.

On 8 April representatives of Human Rights Watch, who were visiting Algeria, were told by the Minister of Justice that Rachid Medjahed had been wounded but so far as the minister knew was well and receiving treatment.

Do the Algerian authorities know what is going on in their own country? Amnesty International is gravely concerned that Mr Medjahed was extrajudicially killed. The truth about the deaths of tens of thousands of other Algerians needs to be most urgently known. The dreadful atrocities carried out by armed groups cannot be an excuse for not permitting the truth of the situation in Algeria to reach the outside world.


Country Coordinator Algeria, Amnesty International UK

Colwyn Bay, Clwyd