AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
April 30, 1999 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Christine Haenn: +1 202 544-0200 ext.225
FIRST LADY HILARY CLINTON SUPPORTS ALGERIAN MOTHERS OF THE "DISAPPEARED"
WASHINGTON, D.C. At a meeting with a delegation of Algerian Mothers
of the "Disappeared", an Algerian human rights lawyer, and Amnesty
International USA officials today, First Lady Hilary Clinton agreed
to bring the issue of "disappearances" in Algeria to the broadest
possible audience and expressed support for Amnesty International's
request that the US government approach Algerian President Abdelaziz
Bouteflika on access for the UN working group on "disappearances" and
for non-governmental organizations, and urge the Algerian government
to schedule visits from the UN special rapporteurs on torture and
"We are delighted that Ms. Clinton has taken a personal interest
in the Algerian Mothers of the "Disappeared" following her trip to
North Africa and, agreed to support strong measures that will help
families find their "disappeared" loved ones and protect Algerian
activists from being "disappeared" themselves," said AIUSA Executive
Director Dr. William F. Schulz. The issue of "disappearances" is a
critical human rights issue in Algeria and was an issue in the recent
presidential election. The US government's leadership in this area
will send the right signal on the need for of the protection of human
rights in Algeria.
The delegation that met with Ms. Clinton today includes Mrs.
Nassera Dutour, spokesperson, Collective of the Families of the
"Disappeared", Mrs. Houria Benslimane, whose daughter "disappeared",
and Mr. Mustapha Bouchachi, a prominent human rights lawyer on
hundreds of cases of the "disappeared". They were joined by Amnesty
International USA representatives, Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive
Director, Mr. Abderrahim Sabir, country specialist on Algeria, and
Ms. Maureen Greenwood, Advocacy Director for Europe and the Middle
Mrs. Benslimane's twenty-nine year-old daughter, Amina
Benslimane, "disappeared" on 13 December 1994, after taking
photographs documenting human rights abuses. Her mother later heard
that her daughter was taken by security forces and died following
being tortured to death in front of two generals. To date, the
Algerian government denies any knowledge of her daughter. Mrs.
Benslimane wants to know where her daughter's body is buried so she
can conduct a proper burial.
Amnesty International reports that in the past six years some
3000 Algerian men and women have "disappeared" after being taken away
by security forces. Until last year, the issue of "disappearances"
was a taboo subject in Algeria and received little attention in the
international arena. For years, families of the "disappeared"
refrained from publicly protesting out of fear for the safety of
their detained relatives and themselves. However, in 1998, more and
more families of "disappeared" overcame their fear and their protests
have forced debate on the issue in parliament and in the press.