Since the 5th century B.C., the indigenous tribes of northern Africa (identified by the Romans as "Berbers") have been pushed back from the coast by successive waves of Phoenician, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Arab, Turkish, and, finally, French invaders. The greatest cultural impact came from the Arab invasions of the 8th and 11th centuries A.D., which brought Islam and the Arabic language. The effects of the most recent (French) occupation--French language and European inspired socialism--are still pervasive.
North African boundaries have shifted during various stages of the conquests. The borders of modern Algeria were created by the French, whose colonization began 1830. To benefit French colonists, most of whom were farmers and businessmen, northern Algeria was eventually organized into overseas departments of France, with representatives in the French National Assembly. France controlled the entire country, but the traditional Muslim population in the rural areas remained separated from the modern economic infrastructure of the European community.
Indigenous Algerians began their revolt on November 1, 1954, to gain rights denied them under French rule. The revolution, launched by a small group of nationalists who called themselves the National Liberation Front (FLN), was a guerrilla war in which both sides used terrorist tactics. Eventually, protracted negotiations led to a cease-fire signed by France and the FLN on March 18, 1962, at Evian, France. The Evian accords also provided for continuing economic, financial, technical, and cultural relations, along with interim administrative arrangements until a referendum on self-determination could be held.
The referendum was held in Algeria on July 1, 1962, and France declared Algeria independent on July 3. On September 8, 1963, a constitution was adopted by referendum, and later that month, Ahmed Ben Bella was formally elected president. On June 19, 1965, President Ben Bella was replaced in a bloodless coup by a Council of the Revolution headed by Minister of Defense Col. Houari Boumediene who was elected president of the republic on December 10, 1976. He died 5 years later.
Following nomination by an FLN Party Congress, Col. Chadli Bendjedid was elected President in 1979 and re-elected in 1984 and 1988. A new constitution was adopted in 1989 that allowed the formation of political associations other than the FLN. It also removed the armed forces, which had run the government since the days of Boumediene, from a designated role in the operation of the government. Among the scores of parties that sprang up under the new constitution, the militant Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was the most successful, winning more than 50% of all votes cast in municipal elections in June 1990 as well as in first stage of national legislative elections held in December 1991.
Faced with the real possibility of a sweeping FIS victory, the government canceled the second stage of elections in January 1992. This action, coupled with political uncertainty and economic turmoil, led to a violent reaction on the part of the Islamists. A campaign of terror in the country, including assassinations, bombings, and massacres, commenced. Charging the FIS with supporting or encouraging such actions, Bendjedid declared a national state of emergency, resigned, and appointed a five-member High Council of State (HCS) to run the government. The HCS officially dissolved and outlawed the FIS in 1992 and began a series of arrests and trials of FIS members that reportedly resulted in over 50,000 members being jailed.
Despite efforts to restore the political process, violence and terrorism characterized the Algeria landscape during the 1990s. In 1994, Lamine Zeroual was appointed Head of State for a 3-year term. During this period, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) launched terrorist campaigns against government figures and institutions to protest the banning of the Islamist parties. A breakaway GIA group--the Salafist Group for Preaching and Call (GSPC)--also undertook terrorist activity in the country. Govenrment officials estimate that more than 100,000 Algerians died during this period.
Zeroual called for presidential elections in 1995, though some parties objected to holding elections that excluded the FIS. Zeroual was elected president with 75% of the vote. By 1997, in an attempt to bring political stability to the nation, the Rassemblement National Democratique (RND) party was formed by a more progressive group of FLN members. Zeroual announced that presidential elections would be held in early 1999, nearly 2 years ahead of the scheduled time.
Algerians went to the polls in April 1999, following a campaign in which seven candidates qualified for election. On the eve of the election, all candidates except Abdelaziz Bouteflika pulled out amid charges of widespread electoral fraud. Bouteflika, the candidate who appeared to enjoy the backing of the military, as well as FLN and RND party regulars, won with an official vote count of 70% of all votes cast. He was inaugurated on April 27, 1999 for a 5-year term.
President Bouteflika's agenda focused initially on restoring security and stability to the country. Following his inauguration, he proposed an official amnesty for those who fought against the government during the 1990s unless they had engaged in "blood crimes," such as rape or murder. This "Civil Concord" policy was widely approved in a nationwide referendum in September 2000. Government officials estimate that 85% of those fighting the regime during the 1990s have accepted the amnesty offer and have been reintegrated into Algerian society. Bouteflika also has launched national commissions to study education and judicial reform, as well as restructuring of the state bureaucracy. His government has set ambitious targets for economic reform and attracting foreign investment.
Three years into Bouteflika's mandate, the security situation in Algeria has improved markedly. However, terrorism has not been totally eliminated, and terrorist incidents still occur, particularly in remote or isolated areas of the country. An estimated 100-120 Algerians are killed monthly, down from a high of 1,200 or more in the mid-1990s. In 2001, Berber activists in the Kabyle region of the country, reacting to the death of a youth in gendarme custody, unleashed a resistance campaign against what they saw as government repression. Strikes and demonstrations in the Kabyle region have become commonplace as a result and some have spread to the capital. Chief among Berber demands is recognition of Amagizh (Berber) as a national language, restitution for death of Kabylies killed or wounded in demonstrations, and some type of autonomy for the region. Representatives of major Kabylie factions are currently in discussions with the government on this matter. In November 2001, devastating floods hit Algeria, killing more than 800 people, mostly in Algiers. The floods caused an estimated $350 million in damages. Algeria is planning for a new round of legislative elections in Spring 2002.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Ben Bella and Boumediene were primarily concerned with threats to their leadership from other figures who had been prominent in the struggle of the FLN against the French colonial presence. During the War of Independence, the FLN had never been a truly unified force; instead, it operated as a coalition of groups based on different ideological, personality, or ethno-regional considerations. As a result, first Ben Bella and then Boumediene were opposed by a range of individuals with strong revolutionary credentials. When Boumediene overthrew Ben Bella and assumed power in 1965, his tight grip on the military enabled him to dominate the opposition elements. After the abortive attempt in late 1967 by armed forces chief of staff Taher Zbiri to depose him, Boumediene's control appeared to be complete, and the opposition was forced either underground or abroad.
To maintain his hold on power, Boumediene relied heavily on the security forces--particularly the intelligence service of the ANP known as Military Security (Sécurité Militaire), which maintained strict surveillance within and beyond the national boundaries of people whose ideologies were considered questionable. All political organizations outside the FLN were considered illegal because the FLN was defined as representing all legitimate political tendencies. Open criticism of the regime was not permitted, and violators were subject to arrest and severe punishment. The murders in Europe of two former FLN leaders, Belkacem Krim and Mohamed Khider, were blamed on Algerian security forces. Many suspected that deaths of other well-known FLN personalities were linked to vengeance exacted through the Sécurité Militaire.
Benjedid, having been designated the FLN nominee for president at an FLN party congress in 1979, had greater legitimacy than his predecessors because of the wide support he enjoyed from fellow military officers. Reinforcing his position over time, he shunted his rivals and potential rivals into minor positions or out of the ruling apparatus altogether. By the mid1980s , the government felt confident enough to release from prison or house arrest all political prisoners including Ben Bella, in detention at the time Benjedid assumed office. Amnesties were also granted to those, among them Zbiri, who had been involved in the plots against Boumediene. Former FLN leaders living abroad were invited to return home.
By the early 1980s, the Islamist movement provided a greater rallying point for opposition elements than did secular leftists. Although Islam was identified with the nationalist struggle against the French, the Algerian government had controlled its practice since independence through the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Superior Islamic Council. The council maintained "official" mosques and paid the salaries of imams (religious leaders). Beginning in 1979, however, concurrent with the religious revolution that toppled the government of Iran, large numbers of young people began to congregate at mosques that operated beyond the control of the authorities. At prayer meetings, imams not paid by the government preached in favor of a more egalitarian society, against the arrogance of the rich, and for an end to corrupt practices in government, business, and religion.
In a pattern of escalating violence during the early 1980s, religious extremists became increasingly active, assaulting women in Western-style dress, questioning the legitimacy of the "Marxist" Algerian government, and calling for an Islamic republic that would use the Quran as its constitution. After a brutal confrontation between Marxist and Islamist demonstrators at the University of Algiers in November 1982, the authorities rounded up and prosecuted for subversion students, imams, and intellectuals linked with the Algerian Islamic Movement headed by Mustapha Bouyali. Bouyali himself remained at large, forming a guerrilla band that was involved in a number of clashes with security forces. He was killed in early 1987, and his group was disbanded.
Serious demonstrations to protest commodity shortages and high prices broke out in Algiers, Oran, and other cities in October 1988. When the police proved unable to curb the outbreak, troops supported by armored vehicles assumed responsibility for security. Large demonstrations were staged by Islamist groups inspired by the intifada, the uprising of Palestinians against Israeli rule on the West Bank of the Jordan River and in the Gaza Strip. It was estimated that more than 500 people were killed after ill-trained soldiers used automatic weapons against the demonstrators. More than 3,500 demonstrators were arrested, but most were released without charges before year's end. Allegations of arbitrary arrest, unfair trials, mistreatment, and torture compounded public anger against the government.
When Benjedid's reforms opened political life to wider public participation, the FIS emerged in 1989 as the primary instrument of the Islamic movement. The FIS achieved rapid success in local elections, especially in the working-class districts of Algiers and other cities. The FIS leaders, determined to remain a legitimate political party, did not acknowledge links with Islamist groups dedicated to violence. The party was banned in March 1992, however, and thousands of its officials and supporters were arrested under the state of emergency. After that time, the FIS appeared to have shifted to a policy of armed response, declaring that the "state violence" of the authorities justified recourse to "means other than dialogue."
Extremist branches of the Islamist movement engaged openly in violence against government targets after the cancellation of the elections. One of the most radical branches, Al Takfir wal Hijra (Repentance and Holy Flight), originally consisted of about 500 Algerian veterans of service in mujahidin (literally "holy warriors" or freedom fighters) forces in Afghanistan. Their acts of urban terrorism often were aimed against police and military posts in order to gather weapons and to demonstrate the government's inability to maintain control.
After the government's crackdown against the FIS in 1992, various other activist Islamist organizations sprang up, with units operating in groups of two to five, without apparent unified command. These groups, difficult to distinguish from each other, targeted police posts, courthouses and other public buildings, and selected public figures. In some cases, assassination targets were announced in advance.
Officials did not ascribe the June 1992 assassination of the chairman of the High Council of State, Mohamed Boudiaf, to terrorist groups, although Islamic activists welcomed the action. The assassin, a junior officer assigned to presidential security, was described as "motivated by religious convictions."
The government interned at least 9,000 persons, many of them elected FIS members of assemblies at the province (wilaya; pl., wilayat) and commune levels, at camps in the Sahara during the spring of 1992. Many of the urban terrorists waged guerrilla warfare from refuges in the mountainous areas adjacent to large cities. Large-scale gendarmerie actions hunted them down. Although the government claimed it had neutralized most terrorist groups, more rigorous measures were imposed in December 1992. These measures included a major sweep by 30,000 army and police personnel directed at every entity connected with the FIS, together with a strict curfew in Algiers and other localities.
After the banning of the FIS in Algeria, many FIS leaders escaped to France, where they reportedly continued to recruit new fighters and collect funds and supplies to pursue the armed struggle in Algeria. The FIS, as a foreign political party, was prohibited from operating on French soil; however, it was represented by the Algerian Brotherhood in France set up by Algerian students. Previously, the Movement for Democracy in Algeria of former President Ben Bella had used intimidation and violence in seeking the support of Algerians resident in France, but such intimidation was no longer considered necessary.
The Berbers, who constitute about one-fifth of the Algerian population, have resisted foreign influences since ancient times. They fought against the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Ottoman Turks, and the French after their 1830 occupation of Algeria. In the fighting between 1954 and 1962 against France, Berber men from the Kabylie region participated in larger numbers than their share of the population warranted.
Since independence the Berbers have maintained a strong ethnic consciousness and a determination to preserve their distinctive cultural identity and language. They have particularly objected to efforts to force them to use Arabic; they regard these efforts as a form of Arab imperialism. Except for a handful of individuals, they have not been identified with the Islamist movement. In common with most other Algerians, they are Sunni Muslims of the Maliki legal school. In 1980 Berber students, protesting that their culture was being suppressed by the government's arabization policies, launched mass demonstrations and a general strike. In the wake of riots at Tizi Ouzou that resulted in a number of deaths and injuries, the government agreed to the teaching of the Berber language as opposed to classical Arabic at certain universities and promised to respect Berber culture. Nevertheless, ten years later, in 1990, the Berbers were again forced to rally in large numbers to protest a new language law requiring total use of Arabic by 1997.
The Berber party, the Front of Socialist Forces (Front des Forces Socialistes--FFS), gained twenty-five of the 231 contested seats in the first round of the legislative elections of December 1991, all of these in the Kabylie region. The FFS leadership did not approve of the military's cancellation of the second stage of the elections. Although strongly rejecting the FIS's demand that Islamic law be extended to all facets of life, the FFS expressed confidence that it could prevail against Islamist pressure.
The hydrocarbons sector is the backbone of the economy, accounting for roughly 60% of budget revenues, 30% of GDP, and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the fifth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the second largest gas exporter; it ranks 14th in oil reserves. Algeria's financial and economic indicators improved during the mid-1990s, in part because of policy reforms supported by the IMF and debt rescheduling from the Paris Club. Algeria's finances in 2000 and 2001 benefited from the temporary spike in oil prices and the government's tight fiscal policy, leading to a large increase in the trade surplus, record highs in foreign exchange reserves, and reduction in foreign debt. The government's continued efforts to diversify the economy by attracting foreign and domestic investment outside the energy sector has had little success in reducing high unemployment and improving living standards. In 2001, the government signed an Association Treaty with the European Union that will eventually lower tariffs and increase trade.
Islam, the religion of almost all of the Algerian people, pervades most aspects of life. It provides the society with its central social and cultural identity and gives most individuals their basic ethical and attitudinal orientation. Orthodox observance of the faith is much less widespread and steadfast than is identification with Islam.
Since the revolution, regimes have sought to develop an Islamic Arab socialist state, and a cabinet-level ministry acts for the government in religious affairs. Although the Boumediene regime consistently sought, to a far greater extent than its predecessor, to increase Islamic awareness and to reduce Western influence, the rights of non-Muslims continued to be respected. The Bendjedid government pursued a similar policy.
During the seventh century, Muslim conquerors reached North Africa, and by the beginning of the eighth century the Berbers had been for the most part converted to Islam. Orthodox Sunni Islam, the larger of the two great branches of the faith, is the form practiced by the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Algeria. Shia Islam is not represented apart from a few members of the Ibadi sect, a Shia offshoot.
Before the Arab incursions, most of the Berber inhabitants of the area's mountainous interior were pagan. Some had adopted Judaism, and in the coastal plains many had accepted Christianity under the Romans. A wave of Arab incursions into the Maghrib in the latter half of the seventh century and the early eighth century introduced Islam to parts of the area.
One of the dominant characteristics of Islam in North Africa was the cult of holy men, or maraboutism. Marabouts were believed to have baraka, or divine grace, as reflected in their ability to perform miracles. Recognized as just and spiritual men, marabouts often had extensive followings locally and regionally. Muslims believed that baraka could be inherited, or that a marabout could confer it on a follower.
The turuq (sing., tariqa, way or path), or brotherhoods, were another feature of Islam in the Maghrib from the Middle Ages onward. Each brotherhood had its own prescribed path to salvation, its own rituals, signs, symbols, and mysteries. The brotherhoods were prevalent in the rural and mountainous areas of Algeria and other parts of North Africa. Their leaders were often marabouts or shaykhs. The more orthodox Sunni Muslims dominated the urban centers, where traditionally trained men of religion, the ulama, conducted the religious and legal affairs of the Muslim community.
The shahada (testimony) states the central belief of Islam: "There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his Prophet." This simple profession of faith is repeated on many ritual occasions, and recital in full and unquestioning sincerity designates one a Muslim. The God preached by Muhammad was not one previously unknown to his countrymen because Allah, rather than a particular name, is the Arabic for God. Muhammad denied the existence of the many minor gods and spirits worshiped before his ministry and declared the omnipotence of the unique creator, God. "Islam" means submission, and the one who submits to God is a Muslim. Muhammad is the "seal of the Prophets"; his revelation is said to complete for all time the series of biblical revelations received by Jews and Christians. God is believed to have remained one and the same throughout time, but humans strayed from God's true teachings until set right by Muhammad. Muslims recognize the prophets and sages of the biblical tradition, such as Abraham and Moses, and consider Jesus to be another prophet. Islam accepts the concepts of guardian angels, the Day of Judgment, general resurrection, heaven and hell, and an eternal life for the soul.
The duties of the Muslim form the "five pillars" of faith. These are shahada, testimony and recitation of the creed; salat, daily prayer; zakat, almsgiving; sawm, fasting; and hajj, pilgrimage. The believer is to pray in a prescribed manner after purification through ritual ablutions at dawn, midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Prescribed genuflections and prostrations are to accompany the prayers, which the worshiper recites while facing Mecca.
Whenever possible, men pray in congregation at the mosque under an imam, or prayer leader, and on Friday they are obliged to do so. Women may also attend public worship at the mosque, where they are segregated from the men, although most frequently those who pray do so in seclusion at home. A special functionary, the muezzin, intones a call to prayer to the entire community at the appropriate hours; people out of earshot determine the proper hour by other means.
In the early days of Islam, the authorities imposed a tax on personal property proportionate to the individual's wealth, which was distributed to the mosques and to the needy. In the modern era, zakat, or almsgiving, while still a duty of the believer, has become a more private matter. Properties contributed to support religious activities have usually been administered as religious foundations, or habus in North Africa.
The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is Ramadan, a period of obligatory fasting in commemoration of Muhammad's receipt of God's revelation, the Quran. During this month, all but the sick and certain others are enjoined from eating, drinking, smoking, or sexual intercourse during the daylight hours.
Finally, all Muslims at least once in their lifetime should, if possible, make the hajj to the holy city of Mecca. There they participate in special rites held at several locations during the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.
The Prophet enjoined his followers to convert nonbelievers to the true faith. Jews and Christians, whose religions he recognized as the precursors of Islam and who were called "people of the book" because of their holy scriptures, were permitted to continue their own communal and religious life as long as they recognized the temporal domain of Muslim authorities, paid their taxes, and did not proselytize or otherwise interfere with the practice of Islam.
Soon after arriving in Algeria, the French colonial regime set about undermining traditional Muslim Algerian culture. According to Islam, however, a Muslim society permanently subject to non-Muslim rulers is unacceptable. Muslims believe that nonMuslim rule must be ended as quickly as possible and Muslim rulers restored to power. For this reason, Islam was a strong element of the resistance movement to the French.
After independence the Algerian government asserted state control over religious activities for purposes of national consolidation and political control. Islam became the religion of the state in the new constitution and the religion of its leaders. No laws could be enacted that would be contrary to Islamic tenets or that would in any way undermine Islamic beliefs and principles. The state monopolized the building of mosques, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs controlled an estimated 5,000 public mosques by the mid-1980s. Imams were trained, appointed, and paid by the state, and the Friday khutba, or sermon, was issued to them by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. That ministry also administered religious property (the habus), provided for religious education and training in schools, and created special institutes for Islamic learning.
Those measures, however, did not satisfy everyone. As early as 1964 a militant Islamic movement, called Al Qiyam (values), emerged and became the precursor of the Islamic Salvation Front of the 1990s. Al Qiyam called for a more dominant role for Islam in Algeria's legal and political systems and opposed what it saw as Western practices in the social and cultural life of Algerians.
Although militant Islamism was suppressed, it reappeared in the 1970s under a different name and with a new organization. The movement began spreading to university campuses, where it was encouraged by the state as a counterbalance to left-wing student movements. By the 1980s, the movement had become even stronger, and bloody clashes erupted at the Ben Aknoun campus of the University of Algiers in November 1982. The violence resulted in the state's cracking down on the movement, a confrontation that would intensify throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
The rise of Islamism had a significant impact on Algerian society. More women began wearing the veil, some because they had become more conservative religiously and others because the veil kept them from being harassed on the streets, on campuses, or at work. Islamists also prevented the enactment of a more liberal family code despite pressure from feminist groups and associations.
Christianity came to North Africa in the Roman era. Its influence declined during the chaotic period of the Vandal invasions but was strengthened in the succeeding Byzantine period, only to disappear gradually after the Arab invasions of the seventh century.
The Roman Catholic Church was reintroduced after the French conquest, when the diocese of Algiers was established in 1838. Proselytization of the Muslim population was at first strictly prohibited; later the prohibition was less vigorously enforced, but few conversions took place. The several Roman Catholic missions established in Algeria were concerned with charitable and relief work; the establishment of schools, workshops, and infirmaries; and the training of staff for the new establishments. Some of the missionaries of these organizations remained in the country after independence, working among the poorer segments of the population. In the early 1980s, the Roman Catholic population numbered about 45,000, most of whom were foreigners or Algerians who had married French or Italians. In addition, there was a small Protestant community. Because the government adopted a policy of not inquiring about religious affiliation in censuses or surveys to avoid provoking religious tensions, the number of Christians in the early 1990s was not known.
The Jewish community is of considerable antiquity, some members claiming descent from immigrants from Palestine at the time of the Romans. The majority are descendants of refugees from Spanish persecution early in the fifteenth century. They numbered about 140,000 before the Algerian revolutionary period, but at independence in 1962 nearly all of them left the country. Because the 1870 Crémieux Decrees, which aimed at assimilating the colons of Algeria to France, gave Jews full citizenship, most member of the Jewish community emigrated to France.
The government of independent Algeria discouraged antiSemitism , and the small remaining Jewish population appeared to have stabilized at roughly 1,000. It was thought to be close to this number in the early 1990s. Although no untoward incidents occurred during the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, a group of youths sacked the only remaining synagogue in Algiers in early 1977.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
The crime rate in Algeria is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Algeria. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Algeria will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2001 was 1.49 per 100,000 population for Algeria, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.61 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2001 was 1.05 for Algeria, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 31.77 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2001 was 10.58 for Algeria, 4.08 for Japan, and 148.50 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2001 was 42.58 for Algeria, 23.78 for Japan, and 318.55 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2001 was 30.08 for Algeria, 233.60 for Japan, and 740.80 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2001 was 106.59 for Algeria, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2484.64 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2001 was 6.34 for Algeria, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 430.64 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 259.76 for Algeria, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4160.51 for USA. (Note that Japan data are for year 2000)
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1999 and 2001, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 0.69 to 1.49 per 100,000 population, an increase of 115.9%. The rate for rape increased from 0.66 to 1.05, an increase of 59.1%. The rate of robbery increased from 2.66 to 10.58, an increase of 297.7%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 67.63 to 103.63, an increase of 53.2%. The rate for burglary increased from 13.65 to 30.08, an increase of 120.4%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 1.70 to 6.34, an increase of 272.9%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 86.99 to 153.17, an increase of 76.1%.
Note: No data were reported for larceny in 1999.
The legal system of Algeria is based on French and Islamic law. The judicial review of legislative acts in ad hoc Constitutional Council composed of various public officials, including several Supreme Court justices. In addition, legal system has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Responsibility for maintaining law and order is shared by the Gendarmerie Nationale and the Sûreté Nationale. Operations against subversives are conducted by various civilian organizations as well as by Military Security (Sécurité Militaire--SM). The gendarmerie, active principally in rural areas and remote mountain and desert regions, and the Sûreté, an urban police force, were both formed after independence in 1962 and were patterned after their counterparts in metropolitan France. Both organizations carry out normal police duties, although they handle routine internal security functions as well. Military Security is responsible for foreign intelligence, military offenses, and civilian espionage and subversion, especially at times of a breakdown of public order. )
The SM operates under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, as does the gendarmerie, although the latter is considered a paramilitary adjunct to the armed forces. In the early 1990s, the SM had about 6,000 to 10,000 military personnel equipped with shotguns and other small arms organized into counterterrorist brigades. SM personnel are commanded by an army general and report directly to the minister of national defense. Active in Algiers and the surrounding area, they have as their mission to investigate and respond to intelligence provided by the police and the gendarmerie. A Republican Guard Brigade of 1,200 persons is also available to deal with civil disturbances. It is equipped with light tanks and armored vehicles.
The Gendarmerie Nationale serves as the main rural police force. It was commanded in 1993 by Major General Abbas Ghezaiel, who reported directly to the minister of national defense. In 1993 gendarmerie personnel constituted a total force of 35,000. Although generally regarded as a versatile and competent paramilitary force, the gendarmerie since 1988 has been severely tested in dealing with civil disorder. It frequently has lacked sufficient manpower at the scene of disorder and its units have been inadequately trained and equipped for riot control. The gendarmerie, however, has demonstrated the ability to root out terrorist groups operating from mountain hideouts.
The gendarmerie is responsible for maintaining law and order in villages, towns, and rural areas; providing security surveillance over local inhabitants; and representing government authority in remote regions, especially where tensions and conflicts have occurred in the past. The gendarmerie is organized in battalions, whose component companies and platoons are dispersed to individual communities and desert outposts. Its regional headquarters are in the same cities as the six military regional headquarters; it has subdivisions in the forty-eight wilayat. A highly mobile force, the gendarmerie possesses a modern communications system connecting its various units with one another and with the army. Gendarmerie equipment includes light armored weapons and transport and patrol vehicles. The force in 1993 had forty-four Panhard armored personnel carriers, fifty Fahd armored personnel carriers, and twenty-eight Mi-2 light helicopters. In addition to utilizing training provided by the French since independence, the gendarmerie operates its own schools for introductory and advanced studies. The gendarmerie's main training center is at Sidi Bel Abbes, the former headquarters of France's Foreign Legion. The academy for officers is at Isser, about 150 kilometers east of Algiers.
Military Security is the principal and most effective intelligence service in the country. Its chief in 1993, General Mohamed Médiène, was believed to number among the more influential officers of the ANP. After Boumediene took power in 1965, he relied on Military Security to strengthen his control over the ANP during the difficult process of amalgamating "external" and "internal" ALN personnel, some of whom were of questionable loyalty. Military Security became the dominant security service in the 1970s, responsible to the head of state for monitoring and maintaining files on all potential sources of opposition to the national leadership.
Although theoretically bound by the same legal restrictions as the Sûreté and gendarmerie, Military Security is less circumscribed in its operations. Frequent cases of incommunicado detention of suspects have been ascribed mainly to Military Security. An important role in the area of national security was later assumed by the General Delegation for Documentation and Security (Delégation Générale de Documentation et Sûreté--DGDS) as the principal civilian apparatus for conducting foreign intelligence and countering internal subversion. The security services are believed to infiltrate Islamist groups, to employ paid informers for monitoring opposition movements, and to practice extensive telephone surveillance without prior court authorization as required by law. During and after the riots of October 1988, widely published accounts told of torture and other human rights abuses of detainees. Both Military Security and the DGDS were implicated in the brutal treatment of detainees to obtain confessions or extract information on clandestine political activists. Government officials have acknowledged that individual cases of improper behavior by security forces occurred but stressed that torture was not sanctioned and that evidence of it would be investigated.
In September 1990, Benjedid announced the dissolution of the DGDS after criticism of its repressive role in the 1988 riots. The dissolution coincided with other government reforms to remove barriers to individual liberties. Informed sources believed, however, that this action did not represent an end to domestic intelligence operations but rather a transfer of DGDS functions to other security bodies. Surveying the intelligence picture in August 1992, the French periodical Jeune Afrique concluded that Military Security, with its abundant documentation on the leadership and organization of the violent Islamist groups, remained the senior intelligence body concerned with internal security. Other intelligence groups include a Coordinating Directorate of Territorial Security, an Antiterrorist Detachment, and a working group of the High Council of State charged with political and security matters. The precise functions and jurisdictions of these bodies remain fluid, according to Jeune Afrique.
The Sûreté Nationale is the primary policing authority in Algeria's principal cities and other urban areas. Subordinated administratively to the Ministry of Interior, the Sûreté is charged with maintaining law and order, protecting life and property, investigating crimes, and apprehending offenders. In addition, it performs other routine police functions, including traffic control.
Under the direction of its inspector general, the Sûreté in 1993 consisted of a force of 16,000 and is believed to be organized along the lines of its French counterpart, with operational and investigative branches and supporting services. The judiciary police branch is responsible for criminal investigations, working in close coordination with the Office of the Public Prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice. Police elements assigned to the capitals of the wilayat are under the nominal control of the individual governors. A special riot police force is equipped with modern riot-control gear. Although the police were able to cope with urban disturbances and violence during the early and mid-1980s, the military had to be called in to help quell the severe riots in late 1988.
Elements of the Sûreté also play a role in countering threats to the government arising from political subversion. The Sûreté assigns police contingents to work with customs inspectors at legal points of entry to control illegal activities. Their main concerns are apprehending undesirable immigrants and contraband traffickers.
The Government's security apparatus is composed of the army, air force, navy, the national gendarmerie, the national police, communal guards, and local self-defense forces. All of these elements are involved in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations and are under the control of the Government. The security forces committed serious human rights abuses, although allegations of such abuses continued to decline.
The security forces committed extrajudicial killings, mostly during clashes with armed terrorist groups. The number of such killings in connection with such clashes decreased by about 19 percent during the year compared with 2000. On March 11, security forces backed by helicopters pursued and killed seven suspected terrorists in Skikda, 316 miles east of Algiers. In late April, Government forces surrounded for 11 days an abandoned mine used as a stronghold by the terrorist Salifast Group for Call and Combat calling for the terrorists to surrender. Security forces then used explosives to collapse the mine, killing 70 persons. The Government maintains that security forces resort to lethal force only in the context of armed clashes with terrorists. The Government also contends that, as a matter of policy, disciplinary action is taken against soldiers or policemen who are guilty of violating human rights, and that some disciplinary action was taken during the year. However, the government does not release routinely specific information regarding punishments of military and security force personnel.
There were no credible reports during the year of disappearances in which the security forces were implicated. However, there have been credible reports of thousands of disappearances occurring over a period of several years in the mid-90's, many of which involved the security forces. A Ministry of Interior office in each district accepts cases from resident families of those reported missing. Credible sources state that the offices have provided little useful information to the families of those who disappeared. On May 10, the Minister of Interior told the National Assembly that the Ministry had agreed to investigate 4,880 cases. The Ministry reported that it provided information to the families in 3,000 of those cases. In 1,600 of the cases, families requested administrative action to obtain death certificates for their missing relatives. While there have been no reported prosecutions of security-force personnel stemming from these cases, government officials reported in November 2000 that between 350 and 400 security officials had been punished for "human rights abuses." Families of the missing persons, defense attorneys, and local human rights groups insist that the Government could do more to solve the outstanding cases. The Government asserts that the majority of reported cases of disappearances either were committed by terrorists disguised as security forces or involved former armed Islamist supporters who went underground to avoid terrorist reprisals.
Both the Constitution and legislation ban torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; however, according to local human rights groups and defense lawyers, the police at times resort to torture when interrogating persons including those suspected of being involved with, or having sympathies for, armed insurgency groups.
There continued to be reports of police torture and other abuse of detainees during the year. After its October 2000 visit, Amnesty International stated that although there were "substantially fewer" cases of torture "in comparison to some years ago," such cases nevertheless "continue to occur." Many victims of torture hesitate to make public such allegations due to fear of government retaliation.
The Interior Ministry and the National Observatory of Human Rights (ONDH) have stated publicly that the Government would punish those persons who violated the law and practiced torture. Government officials reported in November 2000 that between 350 and 400 security officials had been punished for human rights abuses, although the Government provided no details regarding the abuses that such officials committed or the punishment that they received. There was no independent mechanism available to verify the Government's claim.
In early August 2000, the Government announced new policies, enacted into law and implemented in July, concerning the Police Judiciaire (PJ), the officers who interrogate suspects when they first are arrested to determine whether there are grounds for prosecution. Local judges now are required to grade the performance of PJ officers operating in their jurisdiction in an effort to ensure that the officers comply with the law in their treatment of suspects. In addition any suspect held in preventative detention is to undergo a medical examination at the end of the detention, whether the suspect requests it or not. International NGO's and local lawyers have reported that these new procedures were generally being followed in practice.
Authorities frequently infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the home, but the state of emergency authorizes provincial governors to issue exceptional warrants at any time. Security forces also entered residences without warrants. According to defense attorneys, police who execute searches without a warrant routinely fail to identify themselves as police and abuse persons who ask for identification. Security forces deployed an extensive network of secret informers against both terrorist targets and political opponents. The Government monitors the telephones of, and sometimes disconnects service to, political opponents, journalists, and human rights groups. There are reports of police arresting close relatives of suspected terrorists in order to force the suspects to surrender.
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the security forces continued arbitrarily to arrest and detain citizens, although such practices continued to decrease during the year.
The Constitution stipulates that incommunicado detention in criminal cases prior to arraignment may not exceed 48 hours, after which the suspect must be charged or released. However, according to the 1992 Antiterrorist Law, the police may hold suspects in prearraignment detention for up to 12 days, although police must inform suspects of the charges against them. In practice the security forces generally adhered to this 12-day limit in terrorist cases and to the 48-hour limit in non-terrorist cases during the year.
The 1992 Antiterrorist Law suspended the requirement that the police obtain warrants in order to make an arrest. During the year, the police made limited use of this law. However, according to defense attorneys, police who execute searches without a warrant routinely fail to identify themselves as police and abuse those who ask for identification.
In April three students were arrested in two separate incidents in the Kabylie region. One died in custody and the other two subsequently were released. The death in custody precipitated demonstrations and riots in the region throughout the spring and summer.
The Government detained and soon thereafter released hundreds of persons in connection with the demonstrations and riots that took place in the Kabylie region in the spring and summer. Amnesty International reported that the police tortured or otherwise abused persons in custody.
At year's end, FIS president Abassi Madani, who was released from prison in 1997, remained under house arrest and was allowed to receive visits only from members of his family, although he made numerous press statements and conducted interviews while under house arrest. Jailed oppositionist and FIS vice president Ali Belhadj, who had been held incommunicado from 1992 until 1998, was allowed contact with members of his family, who spoke to the press on his behalf.
Police and communal guards sometimes detain persons at checkpoints. There are reports of police arresting close relatives of suspected terrorists in order to force the suspects to surrender. According to Amnesty International, on April 4, 2000, police arrested 73-year-old El-Hadj M'lik in front of several witnesses. He had been questioned previously concerning his sons, one of whom is believed to be a member of a terrorist group. Security officials reassured the family, on two separate occasions, that M'lik would be returned to them. However, he had not been returned by year's end and the government has released no further information on the case during the year.
Prolonged pretrial detention is a problem. Persons accused of crimes sometimes did not receive expeditious trials; however, instances of long-term detention appeared to decrease somewhat during the past year. Hundreds of state enterprise officials who were arrested on charges of corruption in 1996 remained in detention. Three or four of the higher-ranking detainees were released in 2000. Some local human rights activists and NGO's claim that the Government continues to keep some former prisoners under surveillance and requires them to report periodically to police.
Forced exile is not a legal form of punishment and is not known to be practiced. However, numerous cases of self-imposed exile involve former FIS members or individuals who maintain that they have been accused falsely of terrorism as punishment for openly criticizing government policies.
The judicial system, in common with other aspects of Algeria's culture, shares features of its French and Arab traditions. Throughout the French colonial period, secular courts prevailed as the final judicial authority, although Islamic sharia courts had jurisdiction over lower level cases, including civil cases, criminal offenses, family law, and other personal matters. Secular courts in Algeria owed their existence to the earlier Turkish administrative control, however, not French imposition. The French courts replaced the Turkish courts and, in so doing, modified them to reflect French principles of justice. The secular courts were authorized to review sharia court decisions, although for the majority of Algerians, the sharia court was the final source of judicial authority. Following independence in 1962, the government promised to create a new judicial system that would eliminate the French colonial legacy and reflect more accurately the ideological orientation of the new state, which was committed both to socialism and the Arab and Islamic tradition. The revised legal system was not created until 1975, under Boumediene, when new civil and criminal codes were announced.
These codes reflected the divergent nature of socialist and traditional Islamic notions of justice. Family law, personal status (especially regarding the rights of women), and certain criminal penalties were divisive issues and many were simply omitted from the new judicial codes. In the 1980s, Benjedid proposed a family code, which drew extensive public criticism but was ultimately passed in 1984.
Judges are appointed by the executive branch, and their appointment may be challenged only by the High Judicial Council. Judges are not tenured, although they remain relatively free from political pressure. The 1976 constitution asserted a judicial responsibility to uphold the principles of the revolution; this commitment has lessened in importance, however, as Algeria has moved away from its socialist origins.
The judicial tradition has stipulated that defendants be fully aware of the charges against them, that they have free access to legal counsel, and that they be able to contest a judicial outcome in a court of appeal. The constitution upholds basic principles of personal liberty and justice and prohibits the unnecessary holding of individuals for questioning for longer than forty-eight hours. Under Benjedid's political liberalization, constitutional respect for individual freedoms expanded. A number of political prisoners were released, and the elimination of exit visas and the legalization of political associations facilitated the exercise of free speech, movement, and expression.
Individual freedoms were, however, subordinate to military concerns and issues of national security and have been regularly suspended under periods of martial law. The military leadership in the early 1990s suspended almost all institutions of state, including those of the judicial branch. Islamist leaders and other criminal offenders have been tried by military tribunals and have received heavy sentences of imprisonment or death. The HCE, as the military presidency, is an authoritarian government responsible only to itself. Even at the best of times, the executive is not subordinate to the judicial branch, the president serving as head of the High Judicial Council. In the early 1990s, however, cases arising out of the state of emergency as opposed to ordinary civil or criminal cases have been assigned to the military tribunals.
Ordinary criminal cases are heard in the regular civil court system by judges appointed by the Ministry of Justice through an independent board. Criminal cases are heard in forty-eight provincial courts, which have jurisdiction over more serious crimes as well as appellate jurisdiction over lower courts in local tribunals (tribunaux), which have original jurisdiction for less serious offenses. According to the United States Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1992, the judiciary is generally independent of executive or military control, except in cases involving security or public order. During the period of martial law in 1991 and the state of emergency in 1992, this independence was largely circumvented.
In December 1992, special antiterrorist courts with civilian judges were established to try crimes specifically relating to terrorism. According to the Department of State, these courts are believed to have been formed so that the government might have greater influence over the outcome of security-related criminal cases. A State Security Court, which had previously tried cases involving endangerment of national security, had been abolished in 1989 as part of Benjedid's political reform program. Muslim sharia law predominated in local courts but there were no Islamic courts as such. Military courts dealt with offenses by military personnel and all types of espionage cases. During the 1991 state of emergency, about 700 persons were tried in military courts whose jurisdictions had been widened to include acts endangering national security. The trials of seven FIS leaders in 1992 were among those heard by military courts. Some of the rights normally accorded in civil courts were ignored or circumscribed in the military courts.
Defendants in civil courts usually have full access to counsel who can function freely without governmental interference. The Algerian Bar Association provides pro bono legal services to defendants unable to pay for their own lawyer. In connection with criminal investigations, detention for questioning normally cannot exceed forty-eight hours, but an antiterrorist law issued in 1992 permits prearraignment detentions of up to twelve days.
Detainees must be informed immediately of the nature of charges against them. Once charged, a person can be held under pretrial detention indefinitely while the case is being investigated. No bail system exists, but provisional liberty may be granted if the detainee can demonstrate availability at all stages of the inquiry. Lawyers are entitled to have access to their clients at all times under visual supervision of a guard. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses and present evidence. Trials are public, and defendants have the right of appeal.
Prior to the civil unrest of 1991 and 1992, the government had introduced political reforms that liberalized the justice system with respect to actions deemed to threaten internal security. Previously, citizens could be arrested for expressing views critical of or different from those of the government, for disturbing the public order, for associating with illegal organizations, or, in extreme cases, for threatening state security. The new constitution of 1989 provides the right to form political parties and civic associations and to strike, and strengthens the right of freedom of expression and opinion. Nevertheless, under legislation introduced in 1990, persons convicted of publishing information endangering state security or national unity can be sentenced for a term of up to ten years. Criticizing Islam or another revealed religion can bring a penalty of up to three years' imprisonment.
According to Amnesty International, more than 100 persons were under sentence of death at the close of 1992. At least twenty-six Islamists were sentenced to death after the banning of the FIS in 1992, but no executions were actually carried out in 1992. More than 100 civilians and supporters of Islamic opposition groups were killed by security forces during 1992, and more than 1,000 people were in detention at the end of 1992 according to government sources.
The principal leaders of the FIS arrested in 1991--Abbassi Madani and Ali Benhadj--were tried by a military court in mid1992 for fomenting rebellion against the state. They could have been given the death sentence, but government prosecutors asked for life imprisonment. The court's sentence of twelve years was lighter than expected. Its leniency was construed as having been dictated by the government in an effort to ease tensions and improve the atmosphere for possible reconciliation with more moderate Islamic factions.
In 1987, reversing its previous policy, the government officially recognized a human rights group, the Algerian League of Human Rights. Legal status was subsequently accorded to the Committee Against Torture, which investigated allegations of government torture, as well as to a number of other human rights organizations. They have been permitted to lobby, publicize their findings, and publish reports on the treatment of detainees.
Under the 1991 state of emergency and the 1992 martial law decrees that gave military and security authorities wide latitude to enforce public order, large numbers of Islamists were detained. The government acknowledged that it detained 9,000 persons at eight desert camps without formal charges in 1992. By the end of the year, 1,000 were still held in four remaining camps, despite government plans to close them down. FIS leaders claimed that the number of those rounded up by the government had actually reached 30,000.
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the Government does not always respect the independence of the judicial system. The Minister of Justice appoints the judges. A judge's term is 10 years. The Government reportedly may remove judges at will. In November 1999, President Bouteflika named a commission to review the functioning of the judiciary and to recommend ways to improve it. In August 2000, after the commission submitted its report that was published in the Government's Official Journal, the President announced a massive reorganization of the judiciary. He changed approximately 80 percent of the heads of the 187 lower courts and all but three of the presidents of the 37 higher-level courts. Most of the court heads were reassigned to new locations; however, a number were replaced outright. Whereas women previously only headed a few courts, women at year's end headed 26.
The judiciary is composed of the civil courts, which try cases involving civilians, and the military courts, which have tried civilians on security and terrorism charges. There is also a Constitutional Council, which reviews the constitutionality of treaties, laws, and regulations. Although the Council is not part of the judiciary, it has the authority to nullify laws found unconstitutional. The Council has nine members: Three of the members (including the council president) are appointed by the President; two are elected by the upper house of the Parliament; two are elected by the lower house of the Parliament; one is elected by the Supreme Court; and one is elected by the Council of State. Regular criminal courts try those individuals accused of security-related offenses. Long-term detentions of suspects awaiting trial again appeared to decrease somewhat during the year.
According to the Constitution, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. They have the right to confront their accusers and may appeal the conviction. Trials are public, and defendants have the right to legal counsel. However, the authorities do not always respect all legal provisions regarding defendants' rights, and continue to deny due process. Some lawyers do not accept cases of defendants accused of security-related offenses, due to fear of retribution from the security forces. Defense lawyers for members of the banned FIS have suffered harassment, death threats, and arrest.
There are no credible estimates of the number of political prisoners; some observers estimate the number to be several thousand. An unknown number of persons who could be considered political prisoners are serving prison sentences because of their Islamist sympathies and membership in the FIS. There are credible estimates that the Government released 5,000 political prisoners after President Bouteflika's 1999 election.
The prison system is operated as a separate function of the Ministry of Justice. The system includes many facilities established and operated by the French during their rule. Persons convicted of lesser crimes are sent to provincial civil prisons. Those found guilty of more serious crimes, including murder, kidnapping, or rape, which carry a potential death sentence, serve time in one of three penitentiaries. Persons convicted of treason, terrorism, and other crimes against the state are also sent to the penitentiaries.
According to the United States Department of State, conditions in both types of institutions range from primitive to modern. Conditions in the penitentiaries are said to be worse than in the more numerous civil prisons. At El Harrach, the main prison in Algiers, prisoners are often crowded together, and sanitary facilities are poor. Inmates at other prisons, especially those in outlying areas, are thought to live under better conditions. Prisoners are segregated according to the seriousness of their crimes and the length of their sentences.
Medical care is described as rudimentary in most cases, although a local doctor under contract visits each prison regularly to treat sick prisoners. Seriously ill prisoners are sent to local hospitals. Inmates of civil prisons can receive visits from their families once a week. It is more difficult to visit prisoners held in penitentiaries. Conjugal visits are sometimes permitted at the discretion of local prison authorities. The prison diet is described as bland and starchy. Visiting families may bring food to augment the inadequate prison fare.
Detainees in the Saharan security camps have been forced to contend with extreme heat, poor food, inadequate bedding, and overcrowding. Next of kin often have not been notified about inmates' detention, and many detainees have been released near the camps without transportation home. A medical team under the auspices of the Algerian League of Human Rights found no evidence of torture in the detention camps, however. The United States Department of State has observed that in 1992 there were fewer reports of torture and brutal treatment than in prior years. The government has responded to concerns that have been raised about conditions in prisons and desert internment camps by organizations such as Amnesty International and has promised to remind military commanders of their responsibility to safeguard the rights of internees.
Alastair Horne's A Savage War of Peace is a balanced and comprehensive account of the military and political aspects of the Algerian War of Independence. The functioning of the criminal justice system and the record of the police and the gendarmerie in the struggle against Islamic-inspired dissidence are summarized in the United States Department of State's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and in annual reports by Amnesty International.
Prison conditions are Spartan, but generally meet international standards. An international NGO noted that the Government continued to improve prison conditions. Prisoners generally were found to be in good health and benefited from adequate food and expanded visitation rights. The provision of medical treatment remained limited.
In general the Government does not permit independent monitoring of prisons or detention centers. However, since October 1999, the Government allowed regular International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visits to prisons administered by the Ministry of Justice. The ICRC did not visit FIS leaders in prison or under house arrest.
Women's rights advocates assert that spousal abuse is common, but there are no reliable statistics regarding its extent. Spousal abuse is more frequent in rural than urban areas and among less-educated persons. There are no specific laws against spousal rape. Rape is illegal, and in principle a spouse could be charged under the law. However, there are strong societal pressures against a woman seeking legal redress against her spouse for rape, and there have been no reports of the law being applied in such cases. Battered women must obtain medical certification of the physical effects of an assault before they lodge a complaint with the police. However, because of societal pressures, women frequently are reluctant to endure this process. There are very few facilities offering safe haven for abused women, and many more are needed. Women's rights groups have experienced difficulty in drawing attention to spousal abuse as an important social problem, largely due to societal attitudes. There are several rape-crisis centers run by women's groups, but they have few resources.
There is a rape crisis center that specializes in caring for women who are victims of rape by terrorists. On July 14, a group of young men raided a shantytown area near the oil town of Hassi-Messaoud, raping and seriously wounding dozens of single women who live there. The violence was incited by an imam who accused the women of prostitution and questioned why they were working while men in the town were unemployed. On July 23, a similar attack took place in the area of Tebessa, a trading center east of Algiers.
During the year, extremists sometimes specifically targeted women. There were numerous incidents of women and girls being killed and mutilated in massacres. Armed terrorist groups reportedly kidnapped young women and held them captive for extended periods for the purposes of rape and servitude.
The law prohibits prostitution, and it is not considered to be a problem.
Some aspects of the law and many traditional social practices discriminate against women. The 1984 Family Code, which is based in large part on Shari'a, treats women as minors under the legal guardianship of a husband or male relative. For example, a woman must obtain a father's approval to marry. Divorce is difficult for a wife to obtain except in cases of abandonment or the husband's conviction for a serious crime. Husbands generally obtain the right to the family's home in the case of divorce. Custody of the children normally is awarded to the mother, but she may not enroll them in a particular school or take them out of the country without the father's authorization. Only males are able to confer citizenship on their children. Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims; Muslim men may marry non-Muslim women.
The Family Code also affirms the Islamic practice of allowing a man to marry up to four wives, although this rarely occurs in practice. A wife may sue for divorce if her husband does not inform her of his intent to marry another woman prior to the marriage.
Women suffer from discrimination in inheritance claims; in accordance with Shari'a, women are entitled to a smaller portion of an estate than are male children or a deceased husband's brothers. According to Shari'a, such a distinction is justified because other provisions require that the husband's income and assets are to be used to support the family, while the wife's remain, in principle, her own. However, in practice women do not always have exclusive control over assets that they bring to a marriage or income that they earn themselves. Married females under 19 years of age may not travel abroad without their husbands' permission. However, women may take out business loans and are the sole custodians of their dowries. In its 2000 report, the International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts (COE) noted that the Government has stated that, despite incorporating equality between men and women into the legislative and regulatory texts governing the workplace, in practice women still are confronted with discrimination in employment resulting from stereotypes that exist regarding a woman's place in society.
While social pressure against women pursuing higher education or a career exists throughout the country, it is much stronger in rural areas than in major urban areas. Women constitute only 10 percent of the work force. Nonetheless, women may own businesses, enter into contracts, and pursue opportunities in government, medicine, law, education, the media, and the armed forces. About 25 percent of judges are women, a percentage that has been growing in recent years. President Bouteflika's changes to the judiciary in August increased the number of courts headed by women.
Although the law bans sexual discrimination in the workplace, the leaders of women's organizations report that violations are commonplace. Labor Ministry inspectors do little to enforce the law.
The Government attempts to protect children. It provides free education for children 6 to 15 years of age. Approximately 94 to 96 percent of children attend at least some school. More than 85 percent of children complete the ninth grade. Boys and girls generally receive the same treatment in education, although girls are slightly more likely to drop out. The Government provides free medical care for all citizens--albeit in often rudimentary facilities. The Ministry of Youth and Sports has programs for children, but such programs face serious funding problems.
Child abuse is a problem. Hospitals treat numerous child-abuse cases every year, but many cases go unreported. Laws against child abuse have not led to notable numbers of prosecutions against offenders. Legal experts maintain that the Penal and Family Codes do not offer children sufficient protection. NGO's that specialize in care of children cite an increase in domestic violence aimed at children, which they attribute to the "culture of violence" developed during the years since 1992 and the social dislocations caused by the movement of rural families to the cities to escape terrorist violence. Such NGO's have educational programs aimed at reducing the level of violence, but lack funding. Children often are the victims of terrorist attacks.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
The law does not prohibit specifically trafficking in persons. Armed terrorist groups frequently kidnapped young women and held them captive for weeks at a time, during which group members raped them and forced them into servitude. There is a rape crisis center in Algiers that specializes in caring for women who are victims of rape by terrorists.
There is no official evidence of widespread money laundering in Algeria, but there are unofficial reports of money laundering being carried out in conjunction with various types of smuggling. In particular, hashish is smuggled into Morocco and smugglers reportedly purchase Algerian farmland near border (the costliest in the country), either to stock the hashish or facilitate contact with Moroccan producers.
Algeria is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. However, it has not enacted any laws against money laundering. There is a requirement that any foreign currency imported into the country be declared upon entry, but it is not clear how strictly this is enforced.