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Excessive Force by the Security Forces

As of February 9, over 50 Algerian civilians have died and hundreds have been injured since January 29 in clashes with security forces around the country.  Many of these confrontations have occurred as Islamists have attempted to block the arrests or trials of preachers, and as security forces have attempted to disperse gatherings near mosques.  

The troops include police, special anti-riot forces and soldiers.  While lawyer Abdennour Ali Yahia, who heads the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, credited the security forces last month with showing more restraint than in the riots of October 1988, when an estimated 500 civilians were killed, the casualty levels in February indicate that the troops are resorting to excessive force in confronting demonstrators who are unarmed or armed only with stones.  Over 50 protesters have been killed by gunfire while not one member of the security forces has been reported killed in the clashes with protesters.  This is prima facie evidence that the forces are using disproportionate force.

With the declaration of the state of emergency, and the recent spate of fatal attacks on police by armed assailants, Middle East Watch is concerned that troops will increase the level of force they use against unarmed demonstrators.  When the army was last called out to put down demonstrations during the state of siege of June 1991, scores of civilians were killed.  The official tally was 55 deaths and 326 injured; the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights said over 300 had been killed.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>February 1992