ALGERIA RESPONSIBLE FOR VIOLATIONS COMMITTED AGAINST TEWFIK DJAOU
In a decision dated 25 November 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has clearly established once again the responsibility of Algeria for the violations suffered by one of the victims of the repression of the 1990s, Tawfik DJAOU, who has been missing since his abduction in Constantine by agents of the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS).
Alkarama submitted a complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee concerning the disappearance of the victim at the request of his father, Mr. Mohamed Djaou, unfortunately deceased now, to obtain the official recognition of the direct responsibility of the Algerian authorities.
Mohamed Djaou, then president of the National Coordination of the Families of the Disappeared, was a veteran of the National Liberation Army (ALN), and had long served as a police officer in Constantine after independence. As such, and because of his past experience as an ALN fighter and former police officer, he had been asked several times by the DRS to lead an armed militia in Constantine under the pretext of "the fight against terrorism".
He had been summoned several times to the barracks of Bellevue where the commander of the DRS tried to convince him to commit himself, offers that he regularly declined. Faced with his refusal, he threatened to attack him and his family. A few weeks later, he put his threats into action by abducting his son in his commercial premises in the center of Constantine.
Abduction of Tewfik Djaou
On that day, 29 October 1997, Tewkif Djaou, then 35 years old, was in his jewelry store with his brother Farid and several employees when, at around 9:00 am, heavily armed agents in civilian clothes and uniforms arrived on the scene in several vehicles. Witnesses reported that the military, who had come in large numbers, had closed the street to traffic and that only three of them had entered the jewelry store.
All these witnesses also reported that the three soldiers then searched the place taking all the jewels exposed in the shop before asking the victim to open the safe they emptied, stealing also a significant quantity of jewels and the totality of the money which was in it.
After taking the jewelry and money, they handcuffed Tewfik and forced him into the trunk of one of the vehicles before taking him to an unknown destination.
Informed of the arrest of his son and realizing that the DRS had carried out their threats, Mohamed Djaou immediately went to the Bellevue barracks and asked to see his son. The military totally denied holding Tewfik.
However, the victim's family learned two months later from a released detainee that their son was indeed in the Bellevue barracks, a testimony that was confirmed the following May by another released detainee who even stated that Tewfik Djaou had been severely tortured, including with electricity, during his detention.
However, neither the judiciary nor the military authorities have acknowledged the arrest and detention of Tewfik Djaou, despite all the efforts and attempts of his father to obtain news of him.
Faced with the authorities' denial, Alkarama, mandated by the victim's father, turned to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
The impossibility to invoke the Charter for Reconciliation
In its decision, the Committee indicated that the provisions of the "Charter for Reconciliation" are non-invocable to persons who invoke the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) or who have submitted or may submit communications to the Committee. As in its previous decisions, the UN body stated that the application of the Charter reduces the scope of the Covenant ratified by Algeria in 1989.
The numerous violations of the Covenant committed by the Algerian authorities
Enforced disappearance constitutes "a unique and integrated set of acts representing a continuing violation of several rights enshrined in this instrument, such as the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right to liberty and security of the person."
By refusing to acknowledge Tewfik Djaou's deprivation of liberty and by concealing his fate in spite of searches by his family, the Algerian authorities deliberately removed Tewfik Djaou from the protection of the law and placed his life at constant and grave risk. The Committee's independent experts have therefore found that Algeria has failed in its obligation to protect Tewfik Djaou's life.
Tewfik Djaou was also arbitrarily arrested without a warrant on October 29, 1997, and was neither charged nor brought before a judicial authority to which he could have challenged the legality of his detention as provided for in the ICCPR. For these reasons, the Human Rights Committee characterized his deprivation of liberty as arbitrary.
Furthermore, the Committee re-emphasized the obligation of States parties "to ensure that everyone has access to effective and enforceable remedies for the enforcement of their rights under the Covenant", including judicial and administrative mechanisms.
The Committee's experts thus recognized the responsibility of the authorities in Algiers because of the legal impossibility of recourse to a judicial body after the promulgation of the Charter, which prohibits recourse to justice to shed light on the most serious crimes committed by the security services.
The Committee calls on Algeria to investigate the disappearance of Tewfik Djaou
The UN body therefore completely rejected the State Party's arguments and granted Alkarama's request, calling on the authorities in Algiers to "conduct a prompt, effective, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the disappearance of Tewfik Djaou and to provide detailed information on the results of this investigation.” The State Party was also called upon to release him if he is still being held incommunicado, to return his remains to his family in the event of his death, and to prosecute those responsible for the violations committed while providing the family with adequate reparation.
Algeria must publish the decision and provide information to the Committee
Algeria has 180 days to inform the Committee of the measures it has taken to implement the decision and to make it public.
In the framework of the follow-up procedure instituted by the UN body in relation to the individual complaint, Alkarama will, during its next annual programme, give particular importance to the implementation of all the decisions already rendered by the Human Rights Committee so that the dignity and rights of the victims and their relatives are finally restored.