Human Rights Committee
05 July 2018
The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Algeria on the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Presenting the report, Lazhar Soualem Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the choice of the Algerian society towards greater freedom was irreversible and that since its independence, Algeria had given pride of place to fundamental freedoms. In its efforts to build a modern state, it embraced values of humanism, civil society and above all, the rule of law without which lasting progress and stable society were not possible. Democratization in Algeria arose from a diversity in the National Assembly, where more than 35 political parties and 28 independent lists were represented, as well as from the existence of 71 political parties and over 100,000 non-governmental organizations. The media had become richer in recent years with 143 newspapers, 43 weeklies and 90 additional publications, and an independent media organization with over 40 media outlets, and there was no censure or monopoly on opinion. The State was dedicated to improving the independence and autonomy of the judiciary, and had set up an independent body for the election oversight. The State had accomplished many human rights achievements, which include gender equality in the labor market, prohibition of ill treatment, freedom of expression in peaceful context, freedom of the press, and freedom of circulation of data, while combatting violence against women was at the heart of public debate.
The reforms including the removal of the state of emergency in 2011, the constitutional review in 2016, and the laws on the electoral system, political parties, and representation of women in the elected assembly bodies, were an evidence of Algeria’s commitment to improve and modernize, Experts acknowledged. Recognizing Algeria’s painful past, Experts reiterated the concern that the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation denied the right to an effective remedy for rights violations, and that by criminalizing all criticism and debate about crimes of the past, it effectively muzzled victims and their families who opposed amnesty and impunity for past violations. Experts took note of a number of substantiated reports of human rights violations by the Algerian army or the Polisario Front in Tindouf region, where jurisdictional powers had been de facto transferred to the Polisario, and urged Algeria to ensure the respect of rights under the Covenant to all persons in its territory and to bring to justice the perpetrators of such violations. Experts stressed the importance of combatting the scourge of terrorism and stressed that all anti-terrorism measures must be respectful of human rights, and went on to raise concern about the lack of explicit prohibition of torture in the Constitution; the use of the death penalty; and the crack down on civil society organizations, journalists and advocates; and the draconian restrictions on the right to peaceful demonstration introduced by the new law that had subjected demonstrations to the good will of the Executive.
The delegation of Algeria consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of National Solidarity, Family and Women’s Status, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Presidency of the Republic, and the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.
The Committee will resume at 3 p.m. today, 5 July, to start the consideration of the report of The Gambia, in the absence of a report.
The Committee has before it the fourth periodic report of Algeria (CCPR/C/DZA/4), the list of issues and the replies to the list of issues.
Presentation of the Report
LAZHAR SOUALEM, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reaffirmed that the choice of the Algerian society towards greater freedom was irreversible. The State supported that choice through the domestication of international treaties, which had primacy over national laws. Since its independence, Algeria had given pride of place to fundamental freedoms in its efforts to build a modern state, and had also embraced values of humanism, civil society and above all, the rule of law, without which lasting progress and stable society were not possible, stressed the Ambassador.
Democratization in Algeria arose from a diversity in the National Assembly, where more than 35 political parties and 28 independent lists were represented, as well as from the existence of 71 political parties and over 100,000 non-governmental organizations. Those numbers had increased with the provisions of two new laws in 2012, contrary to the “reports of subjective literature” trying to express different views. Trade union freedoms were enjoyed by 65 trade unions, while over 20 tripartite meetings with businesses, trade unions and the Government presented an opportunity to find consensual solutions to preserving jobs, improving social protection, and increasing competitiveness, and so contribute to the betterment of the social dialogue. Coupled with the real enjoyment of the freedom of assembly and manifestation, it was an evidence of a democracy, said Mr. Soualem, who then explained that the ban on the demonstrations on public roads in Algiers was linked to considerations specific to the capital. The State could not venture to authorize demonstrations which did not fill the preconditions that would contribute to their peaceful character, continued the head of the delegation.
The media in Algeria had become richer in recent years with 143 newspapers, 43 weeklies and 90 additional publications, and an independent media organization with over 40 media outlets. There was no censure or monopoly on opinion, said the Ambassador, adding that all newspapers operated independently, and that journalists enjoyed freedom of opinion and were not imprisoned for publishing opinions. Presidential terms were currently limited to two terms and candidates must have an opponent to run against, he said. The State was dedicated to improving independence and autonomy of the higher council of the magistrates, and had set up an independent body in charge of the oversight of elections.
Mr. Soualem noted many human rights achievements such as gender equality in the labour market, prohibition of ill treatment, freedom of expression in peaceful context, freedom of the press, and freedom of circulation of data, prohibition of violence against children and aid to elderly and persons with disabilities. On matters of constitutionality and administration of justice, there was greater staff throughout the judiciary system and better administration in terms of access to trial. Several amendments had been made to the criminal and penal code and Algeria had abolished the death penalty for certain crimes, including those related to drugs, corruption, counterfeit or money laundering, or economic reasons.
Women rights were at the core of public debate in Algeria, added the Ambassador, drawing the attention to clear representation of women in elected assembly bodies. The State had repressed all forms of violence against women and had zero tolerance policy on those types of acts. Women also had the right to launch trial proceedings against a violator. All persons of religious backgrounds could exercise their beliefs and Mr. Sauloum stressed that the respect of religions should not hinder the freedom of expression and belief of the faithful. The State upheld the principle of the universality of human rights and diversity.
Sexual orientation was a personal and private choice, acknowledged the Ambassador, explaining that the State could not meddle in the lives of citizens in the name of human rights or expose a person’s orientation in the public realm. There was a relentless commitment in Algeria to strive towards the promotion and protection of human rights, he concluded and acknowledged the duty of the State to those who were voiceless.
Questions by Committee Experts
In the discussion that followed, a Committee Expert welcomed the delegation and recalled that the last review of Algeria by this Committee had taken eleven years ago. The State Party’s report, which had been submitted late, included seven references of terrorism, leading the Experts to believe that it was in fact a “light motif which run throughout the report”, however the justification for all the terrorism-related decisions had not been sufficiently provided. The Expert welcomed and acknowledged the reforms Algeria had undertaken, including the removal of the state of emergency in 2011, the 2016 constitutional review, and the organic laws on the electoral system, the political parties, and the representation of women in the elected assembly bodies. Those reforms were an evidence of Algeria’s commitment to improve and modernize.
The Experts asked the delegation for an update on the status of the new National Human Rights Plan; about a parliamentary Human Rights Commission – did it exist, what it role was, whether the competence included the drafting of bills, and if so, if human rights-related bills had been submitted; and the cooperation with regional and international human rights mechanisms, particularly in the light of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report during Algeria’s Universal Periodic Review, which had claimed that Algeria continued to pursue the attitude of non-cooperation with the human rights experts and mechanisms.
Turning to the issue of primacy of the Covenant over the national legislation, the Expert reiterated the Committee’s belief that the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation was contrary to the provisions of the Covenant, as it made it impossible to file an effective appeal for the violation of article 2.3 of the Covenant concerning effective remedy. Furthermore, since the last review in 2011, the role of the Charter had been strengthened. In case of a conflict between the Constitution and a norm on an international treaty ratified by Algeria, which text prevailed? Would the Constitutional Council issue an opinion on the issue? In a conflict between the Charter and the Covenant, which provisions prevailed? How could an individual invoke the provisions of the Covenant before the national courts, and could the delegation inform on those cases?
The Expert welcomed the fact that the judiciary website referenced all the international treaties Algeria was a party to, and urged the delegation to ensure that also full texts of the treaties were easily accessible to the judges and prosecutors. In this vein, could the delegation inform on the content of the Manual of International Law and how accessible it was to judges and prosecutors. How many prosecutors and members of the security and intelligence community had participated in human rights training over the past few years?
With regards to the Tindouf region, the Expert noted that Algeria had de facto transferred jurisdictional powers to the Polisario for the areas where refugee camps had been set up in 1978. Those areas were outside the jurisdiction of Algerian courts, so the people had to address themselves to the Polisario for any violations of their rights under the Covenant. The Polisario had established, with a tacit agreement of the Algerian authorities, a parallel judicial, prison and police system of its own, to which all persons living in the Tindouf camps and all those with the status of the Sahrawi refugee, were subject to.
In light of the increasing number of substantiated reports of people killed by the Algerian army or the Polisario Front, and also the reports of arbitrary killings and enforced disappearances, what measures did Algeria envisage to put an end to those violations which run counter to its general obligations to ensure the respect of rights under the Covenant to all persons in its territory and under its jurisdiction, whatever their status, and to bring to justice the perpetrators of such violations?
The Committee had issued 24 views on the failures of Algeria to respect its obligations under the Covenant, including on matters of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture and arbitrary detention, recalled the Expert, noting that Algeria had failed to adequately respond to the allegations of serious human rights violations committed by its armed forces, including by 8,000 families of disappeared persons who were seeking truth for tens of thousands of victims. What measures would Algeria take to respond to the allegations by authors of individual communications to the Committee, implement the views issued by the Committee to individual communications, and protect the authors from all forms reprisals?
The national human rights institution, the Human Rights Council set up in March 2017, was under the Office of the President, said another Expert, which raised question about its independence, particularly in terms of appointment of its members: civil society reports claimed that 38 members had been appointed directly or indirectly by the executive. The delegation was asked to comment on this issue and inform about the Council’s mandate, functions, and the budget, and also explain the process of submitting the complaints for human rights violations. The Human Rights Council currently held a B status under the Paris Principles – what would be done to ensure its full compliance with the Paris Principles?
Acknowledging Algeria’s painful past and the contemporary challenges, the Expert was however concerned about the obstacle to remedy by victims of past human rights violations which some provisions of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation presented, whose article 46 criminalized all criticism and debate about crimes of the past and thus effectively muzzled victims and their families who wished to oppose amnesty and impunity for past violations.
The implementation of the Charter did not provide an effective redress and remedy to victims of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention and their families, which remained the Committee’s continued concern. What measures were being taken to find victims of enforced disappearances and provide families with the information; to set up a national central registry of detention centres; and inform whether the report of the National Ad Hoc Commission of Diapered Person had been published?
Another Expert addressed the issue of the fight against terrorism which he said was a serious threat that must be confronted and combatted. Anti-terrorism measures were necessary to protect the population, which must be respectful of human rights. The Expert acknowledged the challenge that a lack of a universally accepted definition of terrorism posed to national legislators, and expressed concern that the definition adopted by Algeria remained too broad and opened the possibility of criminalizing acts which fell in the field of freedom of opinion and assembly, as they could be described as “subversive acts”.
The delegation was asked whether this definition would be reviewed and aligned with the provisions of the Covenant, all the while ensuring the protection of the Covenant rights of terrorist suspects; the procedure in place to guarantee that the limitation of Covenant rights abided with the obligations of necessity and proportionality; comment on imprisoning of human rights defenders and journalists in the context of counter-terrorism; and inform whether the provision of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation which prohibited imprisonment of police and security forces would be changed.
On the prohibition of torture and degrading treatment, the Expert noted that the 2016 Constitution did not specifically prohibit torture; what was more, the definition of torture contained in the Criminal Code was not aligned with the Convention against Torture which Algeria was a party to. Often, the perpetrators of torture were the very same agents of the Department of State Surveillance and Security, and members of the police forces, the gendarmes. The Committee remained concerned about continued report of places of secret detention, and the use of military courts to try civilians.
The discussion continued with the topic of discrimination, with Experts inquiring whether there was a clear definition of direct, indirect or multiple discrimination in Algerian law and whether there was a body competent to receive complaints in this area. What grounds of discrimination were stipulated in the law? What specific measures were being taken to protect the rights of the Amazighs?
With regards to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Expert asked about criminalizing sexual acts between persons of the same sex, and went on to note that the Family Law discriminated against women, citing the provision a man who wished a divorce could do it for free, while a woman had to pay her right to divorce. The persistence of the negative gender stereotypes was a concern, especially those that affected divorced women.
As far as violence against women was concerned, domestic violence was often treated as a minor problem, while the absence of a legal definition of rape resulted in it being treated as a petty crime within the justice system. The delegation was asked about the national strategy to combat violence against women and its results, the intentions concerning the criminalization of rape and sanctioning of the perpetrators, and whether the pardon for all forms of domestic violence would be abolished. What were the plans concerning the repeal of the Penal Code article which protected from prosecution all those who kidnaped without violence, or threatened a minor, if they married the victim, or if the victim’s family did not file a complaint?
The Algerian Association for Family Planning claimed that 8,000 abortions happened each year; of those, 200 to 300 were performed clandestinely. Could the delegation comment, or correct those figures, and explain what was being done to prevent clandestine abortions? The Committee was concerned about inequalities in access to abortion, noting that those with means would afford to travel abroad and perform the procedure, while poor women had to resort to clandestine abortion with great risk to their health. What was the status of the legislation that broadened the conditions for access to abortion and was a total decriminalization of abortion envisaged?
There were about thirty legislative provisions in the Penal Code and the Code of Military Justice providing for the death penalty, Experts noted, asking the delegation whether the number of offences carrying the capital punishment would be reduced to only the most serious crimes, as provided for under the Covenant.
Replies by the Delegation
Responding to Experts’ questions and comments, the delegation remarked that Algeria was not the country it had been in the 1990s; today, it was a peaceful country with well-functioning institutions, looking to the future after a terrible ordeal it had experienced. The country’s fight against terrorism had sometimes been seen suspiciously by others, but Algeria had successfully defeated terrorism, militarily and politically, and the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation was a democratic response approved by 97 per cent of the Algerian population. The effects of the tragedy were still continuing and the terrorist groups were still active, on the lookout for a media coup to try to prove that Algeria was not stable, said the delegation, recalling the duty of the State has a duty to implement the Charter. The question of its amendment would be decided by the Algerian population.
Considering its shared borders with several countries, Algeria’s responsibilities in the fight against terrorism were quite complex and had important international complications, continued the delegate. Terrorism was hard to strictly define in the law; this was an issue for all States as none had found a way to reconcile the full enjoyment of all freedoms and the fight against terrorism. Noting the freedom of judges and lawyers in interpreting the law, the delegation reassured the Committee that in this context, Algeria did not practice anything that was in violation with the Covenant. Furthermore, no provisions of the domestic law infringed upon the enjoyment of freedom and rights guaranteed by the Constitution, insisted the delegate, urging vigilance and awareness of those who carried out terrorism under the veil of national freedom movements.
Addressing the questions raised on the territories administered by Polisario, the delegation remarked that of all the United Nations peacekeeping missions, the only one without a human rights component was the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), simply because there were countries which were against it. The delegate stressed that only an impartial mechanism could establish human rights violations in the Tindouf camps, and said that it was not up to the Algerian judiciary to regulate what happened between temporary refugees in the country. The question to be asked was why were those people refugees in a third country in the first place, stressed the delegate.
Algeria’s national human rights institution, the Human Rights Commission, was an outcome of the 2016 constitutional revision, the delegation said. The Commission hired its own staff, in demonstration of the level of independence granted to it by the State, and was largely composed of civil society representatives. The delegation was surprised to hear that they were appointed by the Executive. The president was a woman, its budget was controlled by the Ministry of Finance, and there was no other authority that the Commission had to answer to in terms of funding. The Commission hired its own staff, in demonstration of the level of independence granted to it by the State.
As for questions raised on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, the delegation explained that in Algerian culture, a marriage between two men or two women was not acceptable, and it was in this context that the country had voted against the resolution on the establishment of a mandate on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Human Rights Council. This also explained why Algeria did not intend to revise the provisions on the subject, remarked the delegation, noting that the United Nations Charter did not allow impose concepts on countries that did not correspond to its culture. However, this diversity of States in the United Nations also gave the Organization its’ strength.
Turning to the questions on abortion, the delegation said that 95 percent of births took place in a medical setting. Because clandestine abortions were clandestine, data and statistics were not available.
There were no secret detention centres in Algeria, insisted the delegate, calling upon those who alleged so to present evidence of their claims. All places of detention and custody centres were under the strict control of the judiciary; no authority or individual could take it upon themselves to arbitrarily detain a person, which represented a serious crime. The Code of Criminal Procedures provided for very strict provisions on police custody, granting each person deprived of liberty the right to a visit by his or her lawyer.
As for the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, Algeria was bound by the decision of the African Union not to accede to this treaty. A delegate referred to the question raised on the training for judicial staff and said that there were ongoing training courses for prosecutors and magistrates, as well as for prison and security staff. Those focused on improving their knowledge and understanding of various human rights issues.
The delegation said, concerning the statute of religious freedoms, that 90 percent of the Algerian population were Muslim but other religions co-existed peacefully. There had been cases of foreign religious leaders entering the country on a tourist visa, who then undertook unauthorised activities, violating the law in the process. The delegate recalled the prohibition of collecting money in places of worship, building a mosque without a permit, working as a minister without State authorization, or leading worship in parks or garages without authorization, regardless of religion.
A delegate said, in relation to questions raised on enforced disappearances, that the President of Algeria had requested the Human Rights Commission to assist in gathering information into a single document and make recommendations. Its conclusions were being used to draft laws and develop support measures for victims and the families of victims.
The Commission to Combat Violence against Women had been set up to implement the national strategy on combating violence against women, including by improving the support for victims, bolstering prevention of violence, increasing women’s empowerment and independence, and raising awareness. In the first half of 2017, more than 7,000 women had benefitted from various types of assistance, and of those more than 700 had been re-integrated into family homes. There were two national centres for victims of violence, and a third was being established; five establishments were for the temporary care of victims, and there were specialized centres for protection and assistance to young victims of violence. A national award on combating violence against women had been set up to encourage creative activities and steer the awareness of the population towards this issue. In addition, campaigns, adverts and awareness-raising days had been rolled out across the country.
With regards to the claims that human rights violations were taking place in the part of the Algerian territory delegated by the Government to the liberation movement, the delegation stressed that there were organizations which provided assistance and protection to the Sahrawi refugees for 40 years, including a number of United Nations agencies and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) made of hundreds of people from different spheres. Also present in the Tindouf camps and assisting the refugees people was the international consortium of non-governmental organizations, in which a number of European organizations participated. Given such an international presence on the ground, and the fact that many organizations worked with refugees, in their communities and in their tents for 40 years, was it really possible to believe the allegations levelled about the situation of refugees, and the complicity of such organizations and their staff in the crimes, wondered the delegation. Algeria was engaged with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the African Union, to refute those allegations of ill treatment, and violations in the camps.
The Constitution prohibited discrimination between citizens any grounds, including in health, employment and education, while the only authority that could receive complaints of discrimination was the judiciary. Algeria was not based on ethnicity, the delegation said, explaining that census was not carried out on the basis of ethnicity, because it would create discrimination on the basis of ethnicity. The delegate explained that everyone in Algeria was Amazigh and insisted that the question of identity had been historically manipulated in the country for external entities. Because there were no minorities, there was thus no hate speech against minorities.
Responding to Experts’ concerns about journalists charged with terrorism, the delegation explained that a journalist was a person who studied journalism, was accredited as a journalist, and carried out journalism as a professional activity. It was therefore not possible to consider everyone a journalist thus the proceedings were not brought against individuals because they were journalists. Journalists were sometime prosecuted but not for being journalists, stressed the delegate, warning against creating an amalgamated professional category that would escape the reach of the law.
Rape was in fact a criminal offense and all acts of rape were tried by criminal courts; the forgiveness clause did not apply. On the death penalty, the delegation explained that in criminal cases, if the accused was absent, the system of trial in absentia applied, which meant that the judge automatically handed down the highest punishment. This was a judicial custom which explained capital sentences in certain cases; however, when a defendant was present before the court, a capital punishment verdict was very rare.
The law made provisions for legal aid to women victims of violence. A lawyer was assigned to a victim and followed the case through all levels of the judiciary system, including the Supreme Court. The State was creating a compensation fund for women undergoing divorce proceedings, to ensure that divorced women received alimony in cases where the former husband was unable to pay.
The Convention against Torture was legally binding, said the delegate, affirming that the definition of torture in the Criminal Code was aligned with the Convention. It was very rare to see a case of torture which was an outdated practice in Algeria, and there was full legal accountability for anyone who engaged in acts of torture. Every detainee had to undergo a medical examination during and after custody, and in addition, there were unscheduled medical visits as well as visits to places of detention by human rights institutions. The State had several safeguards and mechanisms in place to mitigate torture in the judicial system.
Questions by Committee Experts
In the next round of questions, Committee Experts praised the efforts to modernize the justice system, but remained concern about the strong power of the executive branch - the executive power appointed all magistrates, raising questions about the independence of the judicial system. Regrettably, the magistrates could not strike at the risk of being sacked, and the Justice Minister could dismiss a judge for serious misconduct. What was the timetable for the completion of judicial reform and how would it strengthen the judicial independence?
An Expert noted the State’s draconian restrictions on the right to peaceful demonstration introduced by the new law, which had subjected demonstrations to the good will of the Executive, under the risk of a penal sanction. The delegation was asked to describe measures in place to prevent the use of excessive force by law enforcement agents when suppressing demonstrations, whether the decree that prohibited any demonstration in Algiers would be repealed, and if the system of authorization prior to a demonstration would be ended. How many requests for demonstration had been refused, what was the proportion of refusal, and how many complaints had been filed by the unions following a refusal of registration?
A significant number of evangelical churches had received an order to close citing non-compliance with security standards, while a number of persons had been arrested for the possession of illegal religious materials. Could the delegation comment, keeping in mind the right to freedom of warship and religion? What was the attitude of the State towards person not fasting during the Ramadan?
There was a concern that confessions obtained through torture were not strictly prohibited, particularly in the context of the fight against terrorism. Was the State able to bolster legislation by including a provision which would exclude the use of such confessions? What training modules have been put in place for law enforcement officials in this respect?
The delegation was asked to explain the custody procedure and what was being done to reduce its duration, and also reduce the excessive length of – and the number of detainees in - pre-trial detention.
What was the timetable for the implementation of the Asylum Seekers and Refugees Act, Experts asked, noting that there were more than 7,000 asylum seekers and a few hundred refugees in Algeria? Refugees must be able to benefit from the rights guaranteed by the Covenant, which was applicable to all persons residing in the State party’s territory. What was being done to offer the protection to refugees, and in particular to asylum-seeking children so that they would not be victims of abuse? Algeria had not yet acceded to the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness which was essential in ensuring effective protection of children’s rights.
An Expert pointed out that two new laws appeared to be an attempt to crack down on civil society organizations, journalists and advocates, and noted that many associations were still waiting for legal recognition. Associations are constantly threatened with having to close their doors because of the accusation of interference in state affairs, a ground provided for by law to withdraw accreditation from an NGO. The right to freedom of expression was limited by very broad requirements, and the law governing the media was very restrictive for the exercise of the profession. The Penal Code seemed to be the most used basis to limit the work of journalists. What was the current state of civil society participation in public fairs, and the rights granted to parliamentary opposition?
Experts expressed great concern about the state of Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf region over the previous 40 years and asked about measures adopted by the State to assist them and mitigate violence and human rights violations. They referred to the National Charter for Peace and Reconciliation and stressed the obligation of the State to put an end to civil war given that the right to peace was the very first human right. Algeria should make special efforts for mothers looking for their disappeared children and open investigations into this issue.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation explained that some non-governmental organizations had difficulties because they could not justify the use of public money and said that the new law reflected their obligation to ensure that the funding received must correspond to their purposes as non-governmental organizations, and fit their mandate. It also aimed to improve the traceability of financing, especially abroad, said a delegate, underlining that under no circumstances could a State authorize the creation of an association that run counter to the values of the society. The only body that could reject an organization was the court, she said, explaining that the way in which associations were recognized had moved from an accreditation system to a declarative system.
Building a mosque required a building permit; each construction site must have visible sign with information on what was being built and under the permission by which local authority. Religious texts in Algeria were regulated and had to reflect the value of tolerance and be authorized. The State had the right to ask citizens, residents and tourists about books and their usage. A person who did not fast could not eat in front of fasting people, which represented the minimum level of decorum required by the State. There were no legal sanctions against individuals who did not observe fasting in Ramadan.
Turning to Experts’ concerns on the situation of Sahrawi refugees, the delegation agreed that they must be given protection and assistance until their situation changed. Working with the United Nations Refugee Agency, those refugees were able to visit family in the occupied territory and their families could come visit them in the Algerian territory. As in all countries of the world, it was possible to enter and leave the territory with documents in good standing through recognized border points. Allegations of torture and enforced disappearances in Tindouf were unfounded, the delegation said, as demonstrated by the United Nations’ documents.
A delegate acknowledged that there were laws for the child protection and the national committee for the prevention of trafficking persons had mechanisms in place to address the issues of child trafficking. There were also mechanisms to ensure rigorous and targeted follow up on transnational crime-related aspects such as the trafficking of persons. There were dedicated centres and judges working to identify victims of trafficking among non-unaccompanied minors, who were placed in care and received targeted medical assistance.
The delegation emphasized that in no case did justice took into account confessions obtained under torture and stressed that torture was no longer practiced in Algeria. A series of measures to prevent torture in all places of custody had been taken. The number of pre-trial detainees was within the international standards.
The Supreme Council of Judiciary was an independent body composed mainly of judges, it this body decided on retirement of magistrates, the judicial appointments, or sanctions. The President of the Republic only signed the decree of appointment, explained the delegation. The Council was presided over by the president of the Supreme Court, who oversaw 6,400 judges, almost half of who were women. Judges were completely independent in their rulings and sentencing, stressed the delegation.
As for the law on peaceful demonstrations, the delegation explained that the Government was currently working on new legislation to bring into the Constitution, and this was considered a priority, as was keeping of public order. The delegation codified that only the judiciary had the authority to issue travel bans and prevent persons from leaving the national territory.
LAZHAR SOUALEM, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his concluding remarks, explained that there were numerous projects under way in Algeria which would address many of the issues put forth by the Committee. Algeria had emerged from a very difficult period with wounds that needed time to heal, but it was galvanized and looking to the future. The Charter of Peace and National Reconciliation was an ongoing process, he said, which fit with the reality and helped the State find a way out of the civil war crisis. Expressing appreciation for the non-governmental organizations’ reports, the head of the delegation urged the Committee to make its own opinion and in this to consider the reports of the State party and other sources.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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