Algeria: The Case of Tewfik Djaou's Abduction from his Jewellery Shop by the Security Services Now before the UN Human Rights Committee
In February 2015, the family of Tewfik Djaou, disappeared since his abduction in 1997 in Constantine by agents of the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS), asked Alkarama to address the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRCtee) with a complaint regarding the disappearance of their son, in order to formally recognise the direct responsibility of the Algerian authorities and to obtain compensation.
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The author of the complaint, Djaou Mohamed, Chairman of the National Coordination of Families of the Disappeared (NCFD) and father of the victim, is a veteran of the National Liberation Army (ALN) and had long worked as a police officer in Constantine after independence. As such, and because of his past experience as a fighter in the ALN and as a police officer, he has been approached several times by intelligence to direct an armed militia in Constantine under the pretext of the "fight against terrorism".
Summoned several times to the barracks of DRS in Bellevue – a town in the Wilaya district of Mostaganem, located in the northwest of the country – DRS officers tried to convince him to sign a proposal that he repeatedly declined. When he refused, the officers threatened to retaliate against him and his family. A few weeks later, they eventually acted on their threats by abducting his son in his shop in the centre of Constantine.
Arrest of Tewfik Djaou
On 29 October 1997, Tewkif Djaou then aged 35, was in his jewellery shop with his brother Farid and several employees when, around 9am, some plainclothes and uniformed, heavily armed officers arrived at the scene with several vehicles. The witnesses reported that soldiers had come in large numbers, closed the street to traffic and that three of them had entered the jewellery shop.
All witnesses also reported that three soldiers, one of which has been formally recognised, then searched the premises before seizing all jewellery in the window display, asking the victim to open the safety deposit and emptying its contents, thus stealing a large amount of jewels and all of the money from the safe.
Denial of the authorities
After taking the jewels and the 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 realising that the DRS had acted on their threats, Mohamed Djaou went immediately to the barracks in Bellevue and asked to see his son, but the officers strongly denied holding Tewfik.
Two months later, the family of the victim was told by a released prisoner that their son was in the Bellevue barracks, a testimony that was confirmed the following May by another released prisoner, who specified that he had been severely tortured and electrocuted during his detention.
Neither the justice system nor military authorities have however acknowledged Tewfik's arrest and detention, despite all the attempts by his father to get news from him.
Complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee (HRCtee)
Faced with the obvious bad faith of the Algerian authorities to shed light on the fate of the victim and to return the jewellery stolen by the DRS agents, Tewfik's family has appealed to Alkarama to contact the Human Rights Committee (HRCtee), under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR-OP1) – which Algeria acceded to on 12 September 1989 – in order to obtain official recognition of the responsibility of the Algerian authorities in Tewfik's disappearance, opening an investigation into the circumstances of his disappearance and the prosecution of those responsible for this crime, some of which are well-known and have already been identified.
Last year, following complaints submitted by Alkarama, the HRCtee issued four decisions condemning Algeria, recognising the multiple violations against victims and years of suffering for their relatives, as in the case of the Bourefis family, the Fedsi brothers, Lakhdar Bouzenia and Nedjma Bouzaout.
Following a decision by the Committee condemning the State for violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – ratified by Algeria in September 1989 – the State has six months to inform the HRCtee of measures taken to implement its decision.
It is, however, worrying to note that none of these decisions have been implemented to date. In contrast, the only reaction from Algeria to the decisions of the HRCtee has been to have the mentioned families summoned by the security services for questioning regarding these complaints, in an operation that is more akin to intimidation and reprisals than to a real will to implement UN decisions and put an end to the suffering of the families concerned .
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