(Beirut) – Police inaction, insufficient shelter space, and ineffective investigation and prosecution often leave domestic violence survivors in Algeria at risk of further mistreatment despite a new law criminalizing spousal abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 59-page report, “‘Your Destiny is to Stay with Him’: State Response to Domestic Violence in Algeria,” found that domestic violence survivors face an uphill struggle to obtain justice and personal security. They face social stigma, economic dependence on the abusers, a shortage of shelters, lack of an adequate response from the police, the prosecutors, and the judges in investigating abuse, and judicial hurdles such as unreasonable evidentiary requirements. Algerian authorities should increase support for domestic violence victims, including directing police and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute cases, and increasing shelter capacity and protection orders to prevent abusers from inflicting further harm.
In December 2015, parliament adopted Law no. 15-19, amending the penal code to specifically criminalize some forms of domestic violence and increase penalties for those responsible. The penal code had previously treated domestic violence under general provisions on assault. Law no. 15-19 makes assault against a spouse or former spouse punishable by up to 20 years in prison and by a life sentence if the attack results in death. The law criminalizes other forms of domestic violence, including psychological and some economic abuse.
Survivors of domestic violence face various hurdles when they try to leave abusive relationships, including social pressure to keep their families together. Even though they have serious injuries, several women told Human Rights Watch that their relatives encouraged them to reconcile with their husbands. The police often gave them the same advice, telling them it is a “private matter” and ignoring the legal provisions criminalizing the abuse. Several lawyers told Human Rights Watch that because of these and other hurdles, most survivors either do not press charges or drop their complaints at the investigative stage.