First Published: 2005-09-27

 
Algeria to vote on controversial peace charter
 

Peace charter includes effective amnesty for many of the armed Islamic militants.

 

Middle East Online

Algeria's opposition has called for boycott of referendum

ALGIERS - After more than a decade of bloodletting in Algeria that has left at least 150,000 people dead, a controversial blueprint for peace sponsored by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is to be put to a referendum on Thursday.

Bouteflika has campaigned hard to elicit support for his Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, whose highlights include an effective amnesty for many of the armed Islamic militants who rose up after the army cancelled a 1992 election their politicians were poised to win.

The president argues that his plan offers the country its only hope of achieving peace and thereby attaining social and economic development.

Algeria's political opposition and human rights groups have urged the electorate to reject the charter on the grounds, claiming it does not turn the page on years of catastrophic violence but sweeps it under the carpet.

Algeria's opposition Socialist Forces Front (FFS) has called for a boycott of the referendum, arguing that it "cannot endorse a text that glorifies force and deprecates political mediation, consecrates impunity and amnesty, and in the end negotiates away pain and suffering".

The independent League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) has dismissed the referendum as "scandalous and absurd", claiming "nobody has a right to vote no".

"We're not against peace and reconciliation, but we do oppose this charter since we don't think it will bring peace," LADHH President Abdennour Ali-Yahia, a lawyer, said of the text.

The charter's text, which some have criticised as overly vague, would end legal proceedings against detained, exiled or fugitive Islamic extremists "who have already halted their armed activity and surrendered to the authorities".

The government estimates there are about 1,000 armed extremists, whose aim is to install an Islamic state, still at large in Algeria.

Only "those involved in mass massacres, rapes and bomb attacks in public places" would be excluded.

The charter reads: "the sovereign Algerian people ... mandates the president of the republic to take all steps necessary to implement the measures".

For Ali-Yahia, this would mean "the head of state will be able to rule by decree and curtail all liberties by claiming that this charter is a people's mandate."

Earlier this month, Bouteflika told a rally in the northeastern region of Kabylie that there was "no alternative solution" to the proposed charter.

The head of state enjoys support from parties forming the "presidential alliance" as well as from the unexpected quarter of the Trotskyite Workers Party.

The charter also paves the way for compensation to be paid to "victims of the national tragedy," including families of the "disappeared", those arrested by security services and never seen again.

The LADHH estimates these to number 18,000 people, while the official human rights commission says they number 6,000.

"They were taken away and killed by the security services across the country. So, the order must have come from the military leadership," said Ali-Yahia.

Bouteflika launched a "civil reconciliation" initiative at the start of his first five-year term in 1999, leading to a partial amnesty for thousands of Islamist rebels who laid down their arms.

The program was endorsed overwhelmingly in a referendum in September that year, and Bouteflika was reelected in 2004, largely because the peace initiative helped quell the fighting.

 

‘Intense awareness of interests’ but no ‘perfect agreement between Egypt and US

UAE prosecutor refers 41 people to trial on terrorism charges

'PKK suicide attack' kills two soldiers in eastern Turkey

Israel faces mounting pressure after baby killing in arson attack

Iraq TV comedian combats jihadists with laughs

Kerry to Middle East allies: Iran deal will make region safer

Egypt court again postpones verdict in retrial of Jazeera reporters

Al-Nusra Front releases video to show ‘capture’ of US-trained rebels

Egypt court postpones verdict on brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri

Immigration surpasses economy as major concern in Europe

Plane crash kills family members of Bin Laden

Iraq protesters vent anger over poor services

ISIS flexes muscles in eastern Libya

Syria army pushes back rebels near Latakia province

Arbil urges PKK to move out of Iraq Kurdistan

Yemen government returns to Aden with eyes set on Sanaa

Erdogan calls for early elections if no coalition

Palestinian baby killed in arson attack by Jewish settlers

Kurds in Diyarbakir fear return to war

State of emergency in Tunisia extended

Jerusalem Gay Pride attack suspect lashes out in court

'Kurdish Obama' faces his biggest test

Yemen blockade 'killing' as many civilians as war

EU urges Israel to show 'zero tolerance for settler violence'

Cash-strapped Tunisia's Syphax airline grounds flights

Pentagon denies US-trained rebels captured in Syria

Morocco king calls for development of remote regions

Host of US celebrities endorses Iran nuclear deal

PKK braces for fight with Turkey in Iraq mountain bastions

Kurdish party chief dismisses Turkey anti-IS raids

Thomas Cook warns Tunisia attacks affect annual results

Three Al-Jazeera journalists await Egypt retrial verdict

Kuwait uncovers new IS cell

One Turkish police killed in attack blamed on PKK

Israel approves law allowing force feeding of prisoners

New sexist gaffe of Turkish deputy PM: 'As a woman, be quiet!

UN envoy invites Syrians to ‘thematic’ talks

Egypt's gift to the world: Suez Canal Axis

Pentagon to worried lawmakers: We will remain vigilant on Iran

Hamas calls for revolt against Palestinian Authority

ISIS claims deadly car bomb in Yemen capital

Allies tolerate Turkey's double game to boost IS fight

Somalia ‘making progress’ despite insecurity and election delay

Germany, Iraqi Kurds say Turkey should resume peace process

Syria skeptical about Turkey's intentions in fight against ISIS