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Human Rights Watch Calls For Formal U.N. Probe of Algerian Massacres

Human Rights Watch today called on the Algerian government to allow the United Nations to conduct a proper investigation into the massacres that have killed thousands of women, men and children in recent years.

The Algerian authorities have steadfastly refused to cooperate with U.N. human rights bodies, such as the special rapporteurs on torture and on extrajudicial executions, who have sought to visit Algeria. The report issued today was the work of "a panel of eminent persons" appointed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The panel, which visited Algeria from July 22 to August 4, did not conduct a formal probe, but merely "gathered information on the situation in Algeria."

"The diplomats' visit is no substitute for a formal on-site investigation by U.N. human rights experts," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the organization's Middle East and North Africa Division. "We call on the Algerian government to take the next step -- to open up the country to international human rights investigators."

The panel was not mandated to conduct such an investigation nor did it have the resources to do so.

Before, during and since the visit by the U.N. panel, massacres have continued in Algeria. Human Rights Watch also urged the Algerian government to set up its own credible investigation into the massacres and other arbitrary killings and extrajudicial executions and to bring to justice those responsible.

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