Inquiry into missing Algerians urged

Algerian human-rights groups have called for an independent investigation into the detentions and disappearances of more than 6000 civilians by the security forces during the 1990s.

    Six thousand disappeared from towns and cities in the conflict

    They rejected a much-awaited report this week by a government commission which laid the blame on agents acting
    individually during a war on rebels.
    "Unfortunately there is no political will to search for the truth. These disappearances were not isolated incidents," National Association of the Families of the Disappeared (ANFD) president, Lila Iril, said. 
    "We want an independent commission with all the powers at its disposal to be able to call on anyone for questioning, even
    the highest authorities," she said.
    More than 6000 civilians, which the commission said were wrongly suspected of having ties to rebels, are feared dead.
    Report slammed

    Human-rights groups said the controversial report handed to President Abd al-Aziz Butaflika was flawed, as the government appointed commission headed by lawyer Faruq Kasintini had no legal power to carry out an in-depth inquiry or bring anyone to court.

    The Algerian civil war killed over
    150,000 people during the 1990s

    Algeria plunged into near civil war when armed anti-government groups unleashed a holy war after the army cancelled legislative elections in 1992 that the radical Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was set to win.

    The army feared an Iranian-style revolution.
    Authorities estimate that 150,000 people died during the following uprising. Violence has sharply fallen in recent years.
    Talking publicly about the disappeared and who may be responsible has long been taboo in Algeria, a country with a strong military past which is in the process of building its own democracy.
    No comment

    The authorities have not commented on the report. 
    Kasintini acknowledged that he had failed to obtain the name of any security force member implicated, saying local authorities had told his commission those interrogated were later released.

    "Unfortunately there is no political will to search for the truth. These disappearances were not isolated incidents"

    Lila Iril,
    National Association of the Families of the Disappeared

    Human-rights groups said this would make it difficult to bring anyone to court. 
    The 12-month investigation is part of Butaflika's national reconciliation plan to unite a country torn apart by the Muslim uprising.

    It comes before an expected general amnesty for rebels still fighting and security forces members accused of criminal acts.

    "We do not have another alternative to bring an end to insecurity and to achieve a reconciliation that the majority of the Algerians would like to see come true," Butaflika said in comments published in the newspaper al-Mujahid on Sunday. 
    Compensation urged

    President Butaflika says Algeria
    must put the violence behind it

    Kasintini recommended the state compensate the families for the loss of their loved ones and accept responsibility for failing to provide sufficient security during the 1990s to prevent the so-called disappearances. 
    "This is not enough for us because we still don't know who took away our children and where their bodies are," Fatima Yus, president of SOS Disparus, a group representing families of the missing, said.
    "We cannot pardon the killers if we don't know who they are," Yus, whose grandson disappeared in 1997, said.
    Kasintini, who dismisses these groups as politically motivated, said Algeria should not dig too deep into its past because of the risks of social ruptures. He rejected a South African-style truth commission. 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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