AI Index: MDE 28/021/2002 16 December 2002
APPEAL CASE - ALGERIA
TORTURE OF TAHAR FAÇOULI
Torture to extract information
It is believed that Tahar Façouli was arrested and tortured to extract information about his contact with Rachid Mesli, an Algerian human rights lawyer living in exile in Switzerland.
Arrest and detention
Tahar Façouli is known to enjoy underwater fishing and it is believed that the relatively unusual punishment of keeping him in a bath of cold water for four days was devised by his torturers as a cruel reference to his hobby.
Human rights lawyer implicated
One of Rachid Mesli’s most recent initiatives was seen in a particularly unfavourable light by the Algerian authorities. In 2001 Rachid Mesli submitted the high-profile cases of Abassi Madani and Ali Benhadj, the two leading figures of the banned Algerian Islamist party, the Front islamique du salut (FIS), Islamic Salvation Front, to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva. The two men were arrested in June 1991 and sentenced to 12 years in prison for "undermining state security" following a trial in a military court in 1992. Abassi Madani was released in 1997, but soon afterwards placed under house arrest, where he remains to this day. Ali Benhadj is still being held in solitary confinement in the Military Prison of Blida.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled in December 2001 that both men were being detained arbitrarily by the Algerian authorities on the basis that the 1992 trial did not comply with international fair trial standards.
Before the ruling, the Algerian authorities informed the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in writing that it was "outraged" that the body had even raised the cases with them.
Around the time of Tahar Façouli’s arrest Rachid Mesli was himself charged in his absence by the Algerian authorities with belonging to an "armed terrorist group" operating abroad, after two men arrested in March 2002 were allegedly forced under torture by the Algerian security forces into making statements in which they "confessed" to having links with him, on the one hand, and, on the other, an armed group.(1) An international arrest warrant for Rachid Mesli was issued and news of this was published widely in the Algerian and international press.
Rachid Mesli worked with great courage throughout the most difficult years of the current internal conflict in Algeria as a human rights lawyer, despite repeated harassment and intimidation from the Algerian authorities on account of his work defending victims of human rights violations by the state. In particular, he spent three years in jail after being sentenced in a grossly unfair trial on the vaguely worded charge of "encouraging terrorism". The use of such vaguely worded charges related to "terrorism" has led to the imprisonement of hundreds of Algerians for activities not normally considered to be unlawful, such as for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. He was adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.
In 2000, a year after his release, he left the country, fearing for his safety and that of his wife and young children, and sought refuge in Switzerland.
Torture in Algeria
What can you do?
Algerian Minister of Justice
Son Excellence M. Mohammed CHARFI
(1) For more information, see Amnesty International’s appeal case of 14 November 2002 entitled Appeal Case - Algeria: Torture of Brahim Ladada and Abdelkrim Khider (AI Index: MDE 28/020/2002)
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