Under the pretense of promoting “reconciliation”, Algeria’s government granted amnesty to perpetrators of widespread killings and violence which left an estimated 150,000 dead between 1992 and 2002. ICTJ has worked with local civil society groups in Algeria to challenge amnesty laws and promote truth, accountability and redress for victims and their families.
Background: No Redress for Victims
Algeria’s “dirty war” in the 1990s led to approximately 150,000 deaths and at least 7,000 disappeared. The 1992 military annulment of election results led to extreme violence by state security forces, armed rebels, and state-sponsored militias.
In 1999, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika granted conditional amnesty to insurgents willing to lay down their arms. Since then violence has steadily declined, but neither the government nor rebel groups have been held accountable for acting against civilians.
In 2003, the President established a commission to investigate the disappearances. Although its report was never publicly released, the head of the commission revealed that the state was responsible for 6,146 cases of disappearance.
In 2005 a referendum on the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation proposed by President Bouteflika was approved by voters. The Charter provides amnesty to armed rebels, exonerates state security forces, and grated some compensations to victims and their families. However, it neither includes a truth-seeking mechanism or investigation into abuses committed since 1991 nor measures to reform state institution in order to prevent repetition of past violations.
Algerian human rights lawyers have legally challenged the Charter’s amnesty provisions but the case is still pending before Algerian courts. Also victims group continue to struggle for accountability, truth and reparations.
First approached for assistance by Algerian lawyers and civil society groups in 2003, our initial focus was on capacity building and providing advice on how to address the issue of the disappeared advance victims demands for accountability and redress.
Following the decree to implement the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation in 2006, ICTJ has worked to address the challenges posed by the Charter’s amnesty provisions, and supported reparations and truth-seeking efforts.
- In July 2006, we organized a meeting in Brussels for Algerian civil society and international human rights organizations to discuss transitional justice after the Charter. Following this, ICTJ helped Algerian lawyers with an [amicus brief] challenging the constitutionality of the Charter and the amnesty law.
- In May 2008, with the Moroccan Center for the Study of Human Rights and Democracy, we organized a four-day workshop in Rabat, Morocco, for Algerian and international human rights activists, lawyers, and victims’ representatives. Topics included truth-seeking, documenting mass atrocities, and forensic anthropology.
- After several attempts to visit the country, ICTJ was finally authorized to visit Algiers in January 2009. At the invitation of the Algerian Parliament, an ICTJ delegation attended a conference on reconciliation organized in parliament by a coalition of political parties. During meetings with government officials, we insisted on the need to open a dialogue with civil society and victims groups on how to address their demands.
ICTJ continues to monitor transitional justice developments and assist local actors in their efforts to achieve accountability and justice.