Posts Tagged ‘Algerian Civil War’

Mourad Dhina, Algerian head of the human rights organization Alkarama detained in France

January 20, 2012

On 17 January 2012, the Geneva-based Alkarama group, which campaigns for human rights in Arab countries, said its executive director Mourad Dhina was arrested and detained in France at Paris-Orly airport. Alkarama spokesman Michael Romig said Dhina appeared before a French magistrate on Tuesday to hear Algeria’s extradition request on decades-old terrorism charges and was then returned to custody. This a complex case with heavy political overtones.Dhina was a former top official in the Islamic Salvation Front (le ‘FIS’), the organisation which was poised to win the Algerian elections in 1992, which then led to an army crackdown and a decade-long bloody civil war, with severe violations from both sides.

Dhina has lived in Switzerland for 20 years, but – contrary to some press statements – he was not a recognized refugee. He is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained physicist who worked at CERN. He became an opponent of the Algerian government following the coup d’état of January 1992 that banned the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), starting the Algerian Civil War. After being spokesman for the Coordination Committee of the FIS, he became head of the Executive Office of the FIS from October 2002 to October 2004, and in 2006 he discretely left the party, but more because he regarded it as ineffective than because he disapproved of its violent methods. In 2007, he co-founded Rachad , an organisation dedicated to overthrowing the Algerian government through mass nonviolent resistance. He rejects any reconciliation with the present regime. According to Le Matin de Dimanche  of 15 October 2006  his position is: “There was a putsch in Algeria in 1992, so I find armed resistance legitimate. I said and I’ll say it again.”

According to a Wikipedia entry he was accused by the former French minister Charles Pasqua of having links with arms dealers, and therefore he left Saint-Genis-Pouilly, Geneva in 1993. When he was sentenced in absentia to twenty years imprisonment in his country he replied “I am honored to have been condemned by tyrants. History, one day, will prove me right”

Because the Algerian Embassy in Bern regularly asked for his extradition, Mourad stated in the same 2006 interview in le Dimanche de Dimanche: «Nous n’avons pas de documents pour voyager. Nous ne pouvons pas quitter la Suisse». In spite of this he appears to have travelled several times through French territory without having been arrested. So, why was he now arrested? And what is the likelihood of him being extradited? Clearly his vehement opposition and use of television aimed at Algeria must anger the Government but that would not be the right ground for extradition. But the timing seems to indicate that there might be such a link. If it is the old charges of terrorism, then it will depend op the strength of the evidence. In this context it is pity that Dhina’s taking distance from the FIS was not accompanied by a clear condemnation of human rights violations also by the FIS itself. Even if one qualifies the Algerian conflict as a civil war, it does not condone violation of humanitarian law by any party. Let’s see what happens!