Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor Slams Punitive Measures against Striking Prisoners of Conscience in Algeria

The Algerian authorities have been practicing “arbitrary” measures against dozens of striking prisoners of conscience, protesting the extension of their detention, without legal justifications or intentions to try them on terrorism-related and other charges, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement expressing grave concern. As some of them have been detained for years or months for expressing an opinion and peaceful assembly, over 40 Hirak detainees in El Harrash prison announced an open hunger strike on 28 January, the Geneva-based NGO pointed out. “It is feared that the striking detainees’ health would deteriorate if the authorities continue to refuse to negotiate with them. Detainees’ relatives told Euro-Med Monitor that some of those striking have been beaten, showed clear signs of fatigue, and experienced severe weight loss.” A member of the Detainee Defense Committee, a group of lawyers defending the detainees, lawyer Abdelghani Badi, told Euro-Med Monitor that the prison administration has begun distributing hunger strikers to detention centers inside and outside the capital, Algiers. The administration held the remaining strikers in El Harrach prison in solitary confinement cells as a punitive step and to double the psychological and physical pressure on them to stop the strike, Badi said. He added that dozens of other detainees joined the hunger strike, but the exact number is unknown because of the difficulty of communicating with them inside prisons due to the Algerian authorities’ procedures. “The Algerian judiciary bears part of the responsibility for the extension of the detention of detainees for months and years without trial,” the NGO pointed out, adding that since detention centers are under judicial oversight, the judiciary is responsible for the degrading detention conditions of the detainees, which violate the Algerian Prison Organization Code. “The Algerian government should immediately and unconditionally release all those detained in connection with freedom of opinion, expression, and peaceful assembly and stop its policy of arbitrary detention to silence and intimidate opposition activists,” the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor underlined. “The Public Prosecution and the Algerian prison administration should respect detainees’ exercise of the legitimate right of protesting the detention conditions and not punish detainees with physical assault, deportation to penal centers, and isolation in solitary confinement,” the source added.