On November 15, 2017, Algerian human rights defender Rafik Belamrania was sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Jijel Criminal Court for “supporting terrorism”. He was sentenced to a further three years' deprivation of his civil and political rights, which entails that, among other things, he cannot be a member of any association nor take part in human rights activism.
This sentence constitutes a reprisal for his peaceful activism, namely his advocacy for the rights of the children of the disappeared, as well as the complaint he submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HR Committee) on behalf of his father, Mohammed, who was arrested in 1995, tortured, and summarily executed by the army.
In 2012, after trying in vain to obtain justice at the domestic level, Belamrania called upon the HR Committee to recognise the serious violations to which his father was subjected.
On February 17, 2017, three days after posting the Committee's decision on his Facebook page, Belamrania was summoned to the Central Security Police Station of the Jijel wilaya where he was interrogated about his Facebook post under the pretext that he “damaged the reputation of members of the local administration he accused of corruption”.
However, the interrogation quickly turned to his complaint to the HR Committee and his activism within Mish’al, the association of children of the disappeared, which he co-founded. His house was also searched and all the documents of the Mish’al association confiscated, along with the file containing the complaint he submitted to the HR Committee.
Belamrania was charged with “supporting terrorism” by the Public Prosecutor of the Jijel Court under article 87 bis (4) of the Penal Code, and detained. This accusation is regularly used by the judiciary to suppress any form of criticism against the authorities.
On March 31, 2017, a group of UN experts sent a letter to the Algerian authorities expressing their great concern about these acts of intimidation, and denouncing the fact that his detention and the charges held against him were “related to his legitimate and peaceful activities in defending human rights and in particular his right to freedom of expression”.
In addition, in September 2017, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres raised the case of Rafik Belamrania in his annual report on reprisals against those who collaborate with the UN.
On November 15, 2017, Belamrania appeared before the Jijel Criminal Court. During the hearing, the judge asked him to provide explanations on the files of victims of enforced disappearances seized by the police. The Prosecutor accused him of “holding a grudge against the State”, thus interpreting his peaceful activism and his complaint to a UN body as the expression of a hostile attitude towards the country. His lawyers denounced the politicised nature of these accusations.
Despite Belamrania denying all these charges, and the absence of any material evidence against him, he was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 100,000 Algerian dinars, as well as an additional three years' deprivation of his civil and political rights.
“The sentencing of Rafik Belamrania following a politicised trial sets an alarming precedent. The unacceptable reprisals against him are a clear impediment to his fundamental right to seek justice and learn the truth about the crimes committed against his father,” said Rachid Mesli, Alkarama’s legal director.
On November 21, 2017, Alkarama wrote to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and Secretary-General asking them to remind the Algerian authorities to put an end to the violations against Belamrania and to release him immediately.
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