Algeria: Ahmed Braih, detained in Blida prison under a different name

أحمد محمود أبريه الخليل أحمد

Alkarama and the International Association for the Protection of Human Rights (LIPDH) have informed the UN Human Rights Committee that Ahmed Khalil Mahmoud BRAIH - known as Ahmed BRAIH -, victim of enforced disappearance, has been detained in Blida prison in Algiers under another name assigned by the authorities for, according to his family, concealing his detention. 

On 17 November 2016, Alkarama addressed the United Nations about Ahmed Khalil Mahmoud BRAIH, one of the founders and main leaders of the Polisario Front, who was abducted by members of the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS) in the heart of Algiers on 6 June 2009 after expressing deep disagreement with the other leaders of the movement, particularly because of the serious violations committed in these refugee camps. 

Change of Victim's Identity 

Following a complaint by Alkarama, the Human Rights Committee issued a decision on 27 July 2020 in which it condemned the Algerian authorities, noting that Ahmed BRAIH was a victim of secret detention "by the Algerian authorities and (is) a victim, along with his family, of enforced disappearance." 

The victim's family said they had searched in vain for all these years, addressing numerous authorities and intermediaries to inquire about the victim's fate and whereabouts. 

Finally, the family received information that the victim was registered with the prison administration under the pseudonym "Ould Mahmoud El Khalil Ahmed" instead of his real name "Ahmed Khalil Mahmoud BRAIH" in order to exonerate the authorities from their responsibility for his enforced  disappearance. 

UN decision 

In its decision on Alkarama's complaint, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that Ahmed BRAIH "continues to be held incommunicado by the Algerian authorities and has been the victim, along with his family, of enforced disappearance since 6 January 2009 to April 2011, and again since April 2011 until now." 

The Committee recognized that this situation constitutes a form of torture, not only against the victim but also against his family because of the extreme suffering caused by the disappearance of a loved one. In a decision published on 27 July 2020, the Committee's experts acknowledged the legal impossibility of recourse to a judicial body, after the State party effectively delegated powers to the authorities of the Polisario Front in this regard, as well as the lack of effective remedies for persons detained in the Tindouf camps, thus depriving Ahmed BRAIH and the author of any effective remedy. 

In its decision, the Committee called on the Algerian State to conduct a prompt, effective, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the disappearance of Ahmed Khalil Mahmoud BRAIH and to provide the author with detailed information on the results of this investigation. 

The Committee added that the State party should immediately release Ahmed Khalil Mahmoud BRAIH if he is still being held incommunicado, and return his remains to his family if he is dead in a manner that respects human dignity and in accordance with the cultural norms and traditions of the victim. Finally, the authorities were called upon to prosecute the perpetrators of these serious violations and to provide the victim and his family with full reparations, including appropriate compensation. 

With regard to the Sahrawi refugees living in the Tindouf camps, the Committee recalled that the transfer of powers by the Algerian State to the Polisario Front does not absolve the Algerian authorities of their responsibilities to protect the human rights of the inhabitants of the Tindouf camps. This means that the Algerian state must guarantee the freedom and security of all those in it, and guarantee access to Algerian courts. 

Alkarama's action 

Ahmed BRAIH was arrested on 6 June 2009 on his way to the University of Algiers for a conference at the request of the Polisario General Secretariat. On the morning of January 6, 2009, as he was leaving the Polisario representation near the Bardo Museum in central Algiers on his way to the University, he was forced into an unmarked vehicle by people in civilian clothes and taken to an unknown location. 

In the following days, his relatives contacted Polisario leaders to inquire about his fate, without success. Two months later, a member of the Polisario Front informed them that he was in the military prison in Blida and had visited him. Neither the Algerian authorities nor the Polisario informed them of the reasons for his arrest and detention, despite their many efforts. In April 2011, after multiple attempts with the secretary general of the Polisario that the victim's eldest son was able to obtain, he was authorised to visit his father in the military prison of Blida, where he went accompanied by a member of the Polisario. 

On this occasion, the victim's son was able to speak with him for about twenty minutes under strict surveillance by Algerian soldiers, who contented himself with giving him general news of the family. However, he was unable to obtain any information on the reasons for his arrest and detention and on possible legal proceedings before the military court. This was the last time Ahmed Khalil was seen by his son, who nevertheless returned to the military prison several times in the following weeks to try to visit his father again and hand over clothes and personal belongings. However, he was not allowed to see him again, as the soldiers on duty at the entrance only told him that he could leave these personal belongings and that they would be handed over to him. Ahmed BRAIH's relatives insisted on his release after being threatened by Polisario members, some of whom were even prevented from leaving the Tindouf camps. 

Faced with the Polisario's denial and after exhausting all possible local means, the victim's son, Rachid BRAIH, filed a complaint with the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances through Alkarama in October 2014. However, the Algerian authorities refused to provide information on Ahmed BRAIH's fate. Most of Ahmed BRAIH's sons had to flee the Tindouf camps and seek refuge abroad for fear of reprisals. 

Mandated by the victim's family, Alkarama finally submitted his case to the Human Rights Committee, asking them to call on the State Party to respect its international human rights obligations and to release Ahmed BRAIH and, in any case, to place him under the protection of the law. 

In light of these recent developments, Alkarama and the International Association for the Protection of Human Rights (LIPDH) have once again addressed the United Nations in order to put an end to the suffering of Ahmed BRAIH and his family, stressing the need for the Algerian State, as a party to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to comply with the requests of the United Nations Human Rights Committee to the victim and her family, and to guarantee the rights of all Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camps.