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.

 

IS bid to seize Kobane stalls amid air strikes

Six Tunisians killed in police-gunmen standoff

Iraq MPs divide over Kurds deployment to aid Kobane

Suspicious envelopes to consulates in Istanbul prompt alert

Morocco fossils: A rare and vanishing treasure

Germany offers to help Armenia forge peace with Turkey

Libya wakes up from ‘Dubai dream’ to face Somalia-like ‘failed state’

South Yemen separatists vow to intensify secession protests

Relatives of Iraq massacre victims: Blackwater guards should be killed

Ghannouchi makes it clear to Tunisia: It’s either political Islam or Daesh!

Deadly clashes erupt after army raid in northern Lebanon

200 Iraqi Kurd fighters to travel through Turkey to Kobane

Coalition strikes in Syria eliminate more than 500 jihadists in one month

Ahead of elections, new clashes remind Tunisia of need to fight terror

Saudi Arabia jails mothers for preparing sons to wage jihad

Jury finds Blackwater guards guilty of 2007 'massacre' in Iraq

Iraq Kurds approve reinforcements for Kobane

Israel classifies car crash as ‘hit and run terror attack’

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests

Rise of Shiite militias challenges government authority in Iraq

Syria Kurds show impressive resistance to ‘Islamic State’ in Kobane