Two Algerian torturers indicted by French justice: a hope for the victims in the fight against impunity in Algeria

Appeal to the French authorities to guarantee their presence before French justice

Two members of the Algerian Relizane Militias, Abdelkader and his brother Hocine " Adda " MOHAMED, were indicted on March 30 and were released yesterday on probation1 (contrôle judiciaire) by the Judge of the Liberties and the Detention (JLD).

The decision of the JLD came after the request from the public prosecutor to keep the brothers MOHAMED under custody based on the gravity of the crimes and the risk of collusion.

The JLD has nonetheless decided that - taking into account the fact that the alleged crimes were committed many years ago, that guaranties of representation existed (their families live in France and they are employed), that they denied the facts, and that they refer to a procedure in Algeria for the same facts - a liberation under probation was more adapted to their situation.

During the month of February 1998, the President Zeroual ordered the opening of an investigation concerning the "events of Relizane". The investigations ended in April 1998 with a dozen of arrests including that of Adda MOHAMED for kidnapping, assassination and extortion of money. This procedure gave hope to the population, as it was the first time that the crimes committed by the Relizane militia were discussed publicly. However that hope did not last long as on April 16, 1998 the Oran Prosecutor released all militia members and the case remains dormant today.
The liberation under probation of the brothers MOHAMED contains obligations for them to stay on the French territory, to restrain from going to Algeria, to come before the police every month, to leave their passports with the police and to restrain from having or using a weapon.

The Public Prosecutor could appeal the decision of the JLD.

The indictment follows a complaint for torture and crimes against humanity, which has been lodged in October 2003 before the prosecutor of the Nîmes Tribunal of First Instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance) by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the French League for Human Rights (LDH), supported by the Relizane section of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), member organization of the FIDH in Algeria, and the Coalition of the families of the disappeared in Algeria.

Between 1994 and 1997, the Relizane militias terrorized the civil population, committing numerous abuses. Those facts have been regularly denounced by human rights organizations (See FIDH position reports

The testimonies of the families of victims enabled to prove the direct involvement of the MOHAMED brothers in a large number of crimes of torture, extra judicial executions and forced disappearances.

After the filing of the case before the Nîmes investigating judge (juge d’instruction), the MOHAMED brothers were arrested at their home on Monday 29 March 2004, maintained into custody, questioned by the police and confronted to two of the witnesses.

Considering that the crimes committed in Relizane remain unpunished in Algeria, the FIDH, the LDH, the LADDH and the Coalition of the families of the disappeared in Algeria welcomed the decision to open an investigation in France and highlighted the importance for the Investigative Judge to be able to conduct all necessary and required hearings and investigations without any obstacle.

Keeping in mind that the fight against impunity remains an absolute necessity for ensuring a better future in Algeria, the FIDH, the LDH, the LADDH and the Coalition of the families of the disappeared in Algeria hope that the investigation that began in Nîmes will contribute to give justice to the victims and to restore hope amongst the families who still suffer from the lack of explanations about the fate of thousands of dead or missing persons.

However, the organizations express their deep concerns with regards to the decision of the JLD to release under probation the MOHAMED brothers considering the gravity of the offences and the likelihood that they try to escape justice.

The signatory organizations consider that the French authorities are accountable for keeping both accused at the disposal of the French judiciary.

Finally, they will be particularly careful that the witnesses and their relatives can benefit from sufficient protection and continue their fight against impunity without being threatened or intimidated.

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