Date of arrest: 1996-08-20
Forces responsible: Army
Mahmoud Boudjema, father of 10 children, lived in the village of Emir Abdelkader, in Jijel wilaya. The region, mountainous and isolated, had a strong military presence in the 1990s. According to his son, thousands of persons in the region were victims of summary executions, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances following the cancellation of legislative elections.
As for Mahmoud Boudjema, he was arrested at his home by soldiers of the People’s National Army on the night of August 19-20, 1996. That night, several uniformed soldiers pounded on the door of the family home while others broke a window in the bedroom of one of his sons, Abdelkader Boudjema. With kalashnikovs aimed at Abdelkader Boudjema, his mother complied with the soldiers’ orders and opened the front door. The soldiers, who were seeking Ramadan Boudjema, searched the house and asked to see the identification papers of Mahmoud Boudjema. On the commander’s orders, they were prepared to leave, until a member of the military in a balaclava arrived, stating that the person they sought was in fact Mahmoud Boudjema. The soldiers then brutally proceeded to arrest him without mentioning the reasons for the arrest or the place where he would be taken. His children remained with their mother, who had lost consciousness.
The next morning, Mahmoud Boudjema’s family discovered that a military operation had resulted in the arrest of some 20 persons in the village of Emir Abdelkader. One of the residents of the village had driven the persons in question in his bus, which had been commandeered by the army, to the centre of Jijel, to a barracks at the Jijel military district headquarters.
In December 1996, two individuals who had been arrested with Mahmoud Boudjema, stated that they had been held with him the night of the arrest, before being separated. This was the only information received by Mahmoud Boudjema’s family.
According to Mahmoud Boudjema’s son, a climate of generalised terror reigned in the Jijel region. In March 1997, a reprisal operation was conducted by the Emir Abdelkader gendarmerie brigade against the family members of persons disappeared on the night of August 19-20, 1996, who had tried to find out what had happened to their relatives. They were reportedly detained and tortured for 14 days. One of the victims of this operation reported that the head of the brigade, told him: “if you do not confess that you support terrorist groups, you will suffer the same fate as your father”.
After August 20, 1996: Mahmoud Boudjema’s wife, along with the families of others who has been arrested that night, visit the Jijel military district headquarters. There, the soldiers deny that her husband is there and even that they have conducted the raid on the night of August 19-20, 1996. She subsequently visits the barracks several times, without obtaining any information about the fate of her husband.
May 27, 1997: His wife sends a registered letter to the commander of the Jijel military district asking him to intervene and to shed light on her husband’s disappearance.
June 3, 1997: His wife sends a formal complaint to the State Prosecutor of the Jijel Court.
1997-2005: His wife is no longer able to file formal complaints due to the fear of reprisals.
January 2, 2005: His wife petitions the President of the National Advisory Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior, and the Minister of Justice, to no avail.
June 18, 2005: Taher court issues an order dismissing criminal proceedings, without providing Mahmoud Boudjema’s wife with any reasoning.
June 18, 2013: Having exhausted all domestic remedies, Mahmoud Boudjema’s son seizes the UN Human Rights Committee.
Decision of the Human Rights Committee
Right to an effective remedy (including in relation to the author); prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (including in relation to the author); right to liberty and security of the person; respect for the inherent dignity of the human person; recognition as a person before the law; right to privacy; right to family life.
The State party must provide the author with an effective remedy. It requires that States parties make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. In the present case, the State party is in particular obliged to: (a) conduct an in-depth, thorough and impartial investigation into the disappearance of Mahmoud Boudjema and provide the author and his family with detailed information about the results of its investigation; (b) release Mahmoud Boudjema immediately if he is still being held incommunicado; (c) in the event that Mahmoud Boudjema is deceased, hand over his remains to his family; (d) prosecute, try and punish those responsible for the violations that have been committed; (e) provide adequate compensation to the author for the violations perpetrated against him, and to Mahmoud Boudjema, if he is alive; and (f) provide appropriate satisfaction for the author and his family. Notwithstanding the terms of Ordinance No. 06-01, the State party should ensure that it does not impede enjoyment of the right to an effective remedy for crimes such as torture, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. It is also under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations in the future. To that end, the Committee is of the view that the State party should review its legislation in mind of its obligation under article 2 (2) and, in particular, repeal the provisions of Ordinance No. 06-01 that are incompatible with the Covenant, to ensure that the rights enshrined in the Covenant can be enjoyed fully in the State party.