Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika should follow through on his promises to punish police who killed and beat residents of the Kabylie region during the past year, Human Rights Watch urged in a letter to the president released today

Since April 18, 2001, more than one hundred civilians have been killed, according to unofficial counts, most of them from live ammunition fired by the security forces. The disturbances began after a gendarme shot and killed a local youth inside the gendarme station in Beni Douala. This killing was followed by a week of demonstrations throughout the Berber-majority region, in which some fifty persons died. Protests have continued sporadically, spreading on occasion to other regions of the country, and intensifying in the last five weeks.

“The sense that the gendarmes can kill and pillage with impunity is one of the grievances fueling the protests,” said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch’s letter urged a full disclosure of all measures being taken to investigate and punish security force members suspected of abuses in handling demonstrations and unrest in the Kabylie.

“As Algeria prepares for parliamentary elections announced for May 30, few steps would better demonstrate a break with the past than a rigorous and transparent handling of such cases,” said Megally.