Mourad Dhina, a light in the Algerian darkness, arrested

By Johan Galtung

Galtung here focuses on a human rights case which – like the terrible mass slaughter in Algeria in the 1990s – have attracted little attention in the West. Please circulate the letter to the French prime minister below.

Syria is horrible. Assad should step down immediately, a coalition government should come into being, and a thousand mediators should talk with the many parties, maybe with a federation in view. But Algeria is even worse.

A quarter million killed after democratic elections were denied them, with Western consent, more than twenty years ago.

Why no Algerian Spring? Maybe because the darkness is too deep, too complete, too repressive. Why no protest from the West? Maybe because the Algerian government did all the West wanted, access to oil and gas, to bases, and a promise of possible recognition of Israel. Syria did none of this, none of that.

Mourad Dhina was a totally nonviolent light in that darkness. He was arrested and may be extradited to Algeria. His case is very well stated in the public letter below to the French Prime Minister.

On Sunday, 15 January 2012, French minister of foreign affairs, Alain Juppé, met Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence in Rangoon and decorated her with the insignia of Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honor.

The day after, January 16th, the men of the French minister of interior, Claud Guéant, arrested in Paris the Algerian political figure and human rights defender Mourad Dhina.

So similar conflicts, so similar resistants but very different French treatment.

• • •

M. Le Premier Ministre: Le Dialogue est la voie!

24 January 2012

M. François Fillon, Prime Minister
Hôtel de Matignon 57, rue de Varenne
75700 Paris – FRANCE

Re: Arrest and detention of Alkarama executive director, Dr Mourad Dhina

Mr Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned international and national human rights organizations, call on you not to extradite Dr Mourad Dhina, executive director of Alkarama – a Swiss foundation working on human rights in the Arab world. French police arrested Dr Dhina on Monday 16 January 2012, at the request of the Algerian authorities.

In addition to being Alkarama’s executive director, Dr Dhina is also a founding member of Rachad, a peaceful political association that is legally registered in France and that seeks democratic change in Algeria.

Dr Dhina had been attending a meeting of Rachad in Paris when police arrested him at Paris-Orly airport as he was about to fly back to Geneva, where he resides. Since then, French authorities have stated that they are detaining Dr Dhina at the request of the Algerian authorities, who are seeking his extradition to Algeria for prosecution on charges that he belonged to an armed terrorist group in Switzerland in the 1990s.

On Tuesday 17 January, the President of the Paris Court of Appeal confirmed Dr Dhina’s detention in view of his potential extradition to Algeria, and that Algerian authorities would have 30 days to present the case for his extradition.

Dr Dhina has played a key role in exposing human rights violations in the Arab world through his work at Alkarama. In addition, his political activities have been carried out in lawful exercise of his freedom of expression and association, as guaranteed under international law. Dr Dhina had travelled freely to France on numerous past occasions. We therefore fear that the request by the Algerian authorities may be motivated by a desire to muzzle him because of his political activities with Rachad and his activities as a human rights defender with Alkarama.

We further fear that Dr Dhina would be at risk of torture and ill-treatment if he were sent back to Algeria, given the documented use of torture by the Algerian authorities – most recently referred to by the Committee against Torture during its review of Algeria in 2008. This would be contrary to France’s obligations under articles 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention against Torture.

We also are concerned that Algeria’s record of convicting suspects in manifestly unfair trials in cases involving allegations of terrorism would put Dr Dhina at risk of a conviction and a prison term on the basis of a trial that falls far short of international norms for a fair trial violating the prohibition of non-refoulement.

Given the key role France has played in the establishment of an international system for the promotion and protection of human rights, and the emphasis it places on the respect of human rights domestically, we hope that you will be able to assist us in protecting Dr Dhina’s rights by ensuring that he is not extradited.

Furthermore, if there is no credible evidence that he has committed any crimes that are recognized as such under international standards, we urge French authorities to release him immediately. France must uphold its international obligations with respect to human rights and avoid possible complicity in efforts by Algerian authorities to stifle opposition and human rights activities by Algerians in exile.

Yours sincerely,



Algeria Watch

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Centre Libanais pour les Droits de l’Homme (CLDH)

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EUROMED)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Front Line Defenders

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

Ligue des droits de l’Homme

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

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