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Algeria: National reconciliation fails to address needs of IDPs

29 September 2009

justice for those affected by the conflict: it granted a blanket amnesty for human rights violations committed during the conflict by state armed forces, and a de- cree for its implementation criminalised speech about violations committed by the security forces (AI, 2006, USDOS 2008). Furthermore, both the Charter and the 1999 Law left many problems unsolved; for instance, dozens of members of armed groups reportedly re-enlisted after having surrendered (AI, 2003).

The conflict ended in 2002, but while se- curity has since improved considerably, violence has continued. Firstly, clashes continued between the government and remaining armed groups. Secondly, an organisation known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emerged from the union of al Qaeda and a splinter group of the GIA, and re-intensified at- tacks against Western targets and the Al- gerian security forces throughout 2007 and 2008, including the 2007 Algiers bombing that killed 17 United Nations (UN) staff, and the abduction of a UN special envoy (BBC, 2009; BBC, 11 De- cember 2007; UK Home Office, 2 No- vember 2007; Tomás, 14 June 2007; Center for Contemporary Conflict, No- vember 2006).

The government’s measures to counter these new attacks have sometimes had an adverse impact on affected groups includ- ing those displaced by the conflict. They have sometimes targeted human rights defenders or those providing legal coun- sel to people accused of terrorism (AI, 2009). The state of emergency has con- tinued since 1992 despite the concerns then expressed by the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC, 2007), and in violation of the country’s constitution (Mustapha

Bouchachi, El Khabar, 2009). Among other limitations of rights, freedom of movement may be restricted by the inte- rior minister and even provincial gover- nors, who have power to deny residency in certain districts to people regarded as threats to public order (USDoS, 2009).

Constitutional reforms which have al- lowed the President to stay in power for a third term have further reduced the space for institutional political opposition, creat- ing a breeding ground for radicalism (Maître Ali Yahia Abdenour, 2009). Fol- lowing the President’s re-election in April 2009, the same ministers have remained in place. This has happened in a context of increasing control of the media and limita- tions to freedom of speech and of associa- tion (LADDH, 2009; USDoS, 2009).

Numbers of IDPs and patterns of displacement

There are no available estimates on the number of people displaced by the con- flict in Algeria and the information on the subject is fragmented. During and after the conflict, because of difficulties in ac- cessing the affected areas (USDoS, 2008), international organisations were unable to issue informed estimates of the number of IDPs. Furthermore, existing reports do not always differentiate be- tween IDPs and those who moved pri- marily for economic reasons, as high degrees of poverty-driven urban migra- tion have also been observed.

One of the few international sources of IDP numbers is the European Union (EU), which in its development strategy for Algeria for the period from 2002 to 2006 cited that violence displaced one million people (EU, Strategy 2002-2006,


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