On February 8, 2018, Alkarama brought the case of detained Algerian human rights defender Rafik Belamrania to the urgent attention of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HR Committee), and to the United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG), expressing concern over the ongoing reprisals against him and urging the Committee to intervene with the authorities to ensure his immediate release.
This call comes after Belamrania was sentenced on appeal on February 5 to one year in prison followed by a two-year suspended sentence and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars. Since he has, to date, spent almost a year in arbitrary detention, Belamrania is expected to be released in the coming weeks. Alkarama highlighted the fact that Belamrania should be accorded reparation for the harm suffered, and that the authorities should issue an official declaration restoring his dignity, reputation and rights, as well as a public apology.
Belamrania’s sentencing and ongoing detention constitute a clear act of reprisal for his peaceful human rights activism. An advocate for the rights of the children of the disappeared in Algeria, Belamrania was initially targeted by the authorities as a result of a complaint he submitted to the HR Committee in 2012 on behalf of his father, Mohammed, who was arrested, tortured, and summarily executed by the army in 1995.
Background on Rafik Belamrania’s case
On February 20, 2017, three days after posting the HR Committee’s decision on his father’s case to his Facebook page, Belamrania was summoned to the Central Security Police Station in the province of Jijel. He was interrogated over the post as well as his complaint to the HR Committee and his activism with Mish’al, an association defending the rights of the children of the disappeared. His house was also searched and all documents related to his work with Mish’al as well as the files of his complaint to the HR Committee were confiscated by the authorities.
Belamrania was charged with “supporting terrorism” by the Public Prosecutor of the Jijel Criminal Court, an accusation regularly used by the judiciary to suppress any form of criticism against the authorities. On November 15, 2017, in the absence of any material evidence, Belamrania was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars, and a further three years’ deprivation of his civil and political rights, entailing that, among other things, he could not be a member of any association nor could he take part in human rights activism. During the trial, the judge questioned Belamrania about the documents seized at his home, and reproached him for "holding a grudge against the State".
After submitting an appeal, on February 5, 2018, Belamrania was sentenced to one year in prison followed by a two-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars.
Reprisals for human rights activism and cooperation with the UN
Belamrania’s arrest and sentencing clearly constitute a measure of reprisals for his human rights activism and his cooperation with the UN human rights mechanisms. This fact was acknowledged by a group of independent UN experts on March 31, 2017 in a letter sent to the Algerian authorities denouncing the fact that Belamrania’s detention and the charges 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 Rafik Belamrania’s case in his annual report on reprisals against those who collaborate with the United Nations.
In light of his appeal, on February 8, Alkarama requested the urgent intervention of the HR Committee to urge the Algerian authorities to put an end to reprisals against Belamrania, to proceed with his immediate release and appropriate reparation and compensation for the harm he suffered, as well as to reform the anti-terrorism laws which allow such reprisals.
“The sentencing of Rafik under the pretext of supporting terrorism, for having simply seized the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations to claim his right to truth and justice following the assassination of his father by the army, sets an alarming precedent," said Rachid Mesli, Alkarama’s Legal Director. “His sentencing also strikingly illustrates the stigmatisation that victims’ families still face in 2018, highlighting the urgent need to investigate and establish the truth on past crimes,” he concluded.
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