Amnesty International (AI) has called on Algerian authorities to drop all charges against five activists that exposed torture of a child in police custody.
Mohamed Tadjadit, Malik Riahi, Noureddine Khimoud, Souheib Debbaghi and Ahmed Tarek Debbaghi were arrested on 04 April, 2021, after Tadjadit and Debbaghi disseminated a video in which a 15-year-old boy alleges that he was sexually assaulted by the police.
The five activists have been charged with publishing fake news and undermining the private life of a minor by publishing a picture that may harm the child.
‘Despite the fact that this video went viral in Algeria, causing outrage over the reports of torture of a child, including attempted rape, the Algerian authorities’ response was to silence the messengers instead of investigating the reports’, AI’s Deputy Regional Director for the North Africa, Amna Guellali, said in a statement.
‘The circumstances of the activists’ arrests, alongside the prosecutor’s hateful and unsubstantiated accusations, point to this being an act of reprisal for the release of the video.
‘The charges brought against all five are related to their exercise of freedom of expression in publicising a child’s testimony. The Algerian authorities must immediately drop all charges, release the five activists and respect their obligations under international law to protect victims and witnesses of torture and other ill-treatment from retaliation’.
The Maghreb country is a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, which means Algeria is legally obliged to promptly and impartially investigate all complaints and reports of torture.
The United States, in a 2020 report, noted human rights issues – including arbitrary detention, serious restrictions on freedom of expression and press, arrests of journalists and substantial interference with freedoms of peaceful assembly and association – in Algeria.
Also, Human Right Watch (HRW) reported in 2020 that despite President Tebboune’s promise of dialogue, authorities continued to arrest and imprison protesters, activists, and journalists.
Freedom House also rated the North African nation as ‘not free’ in its 2022 Freedom in the World study of political rights and civil liberties with Algeria earning 32 points out of a possible 100.
Source: Amnesty International
Photo source: Ryad Kramdi/AFP via Getty Images