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Algeria

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation in Algeria, with particular reference to its application to human rights violations by the security forces. (99233)

The Algerian people voted for the ‘Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation’ in a referendum in 2005. The Charter, which came into force in February 2006, granted an amnesty to those convicted of terrorist offences or who were prepared to surrender themselves to the security services. The amnesty also extended to government security forces. More than 2,000 terrorist prisoners have since been released under the Charter. In addition the Charter provides for the families of victims of terrorism to register the disappearance or death of their relative and obtain compensation.

The EU issued a statement when the Charter was adopted welcoming the participation of the Algerian people in the referendum and expressing the hope that Algeria will achieve lasting peace and reconciliation, based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and ongoing consultations with its citizens.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to address human rights violations in Algeria, with particular reference to the torture of detainees accused of terrorism. (99234)

Promotion of human rights is central to the UK’s foreign policy. We aim to encourage improved standards through a constructive bilateral relationship with Algeria. We regularly raise human rights in our bilateral discussions with the Algerian Government. I did so during the inaugural UK-Algeria Ministerial Dialogue Forum held in Algiers on 7 June, which I co-chaired with the Algerian Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr. Abdelkader Messahel.

In 2005 the Algerian Government introduced legislation making torture a criminal offence. I am pleased that Amnesty International’s memorandum of April 2006 to the Algerian President, highlights that there have been fewer allegations of torture in police custody, and progress has been made on strengthening safeguards to protect detainees.

In February 2006 the UK sponsored a visit by senior Algerian judges and Ministry of Justice officials to the British judicial and penal systems. We have also funded and facilitated the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College London in developing links with the Algerian prison system. In September 2006 the UK established a new post of a police attaché in our embassy in Algiers to develop links with the Algerian counter terrorism and police forces.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) assessment the UK Government have made of and (b) representations the Government have made to the Algerian authorities on the case of Majid Touati. (99239)

The Government are aware of reports about the detention and trial of Majid Touati. We have not made an assessment of the case.

Promotion of human rights is central to the UK’s foreign policy and we aim to do so through a constructive bilateral relationship with Algeria. We regularly raise human rights in our bilateral discussions with the Algerian Government. I did so during the inaugural UK-Algeria Ministerial Dialogue Forum in Algiers on 7 June, which I co-chaired with the Algerian Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr. Abdelkader Messahel.