Report queries civilian killings


Large scale massacres of civilians on the outskirts of Algiers are the latest development in the nearly six-year-old Algerian war, and Amnesty International concentrates its report issued today, Algeria, Civilian population caught in a spiral of violence, on these killings, writes Lara Marlowe. The human rights group gives credence to reports - originally published in The Irish Times - that pro-government death squads might be responsible for some of the killings.

Recent massacres took place near police, gendarmerie or army positions, but Algerians who telephoned or ran to seek help were told the security forces had no mandate to intervene. "In at least two cases," Amnesty says, "several survivors described how people who had tried to escape from villages where a massacre was taking place had actually been turned back by a cordon of members of the security forces who stood by while the villagers were being slaughtered and did not come into the village until after the attackers had left."

Amnesty's conclusions are depressingly similar to those of earlier reports. Abuses committed by "Islamist" guerrillas and government security forces - rape and kidnapping, torture, summary execution, death threats and assassination - continue unabated. Militias set up by the government operate without supervision and outside all due process of law.

Amnesty also criticises the international community, the UN Human Rights Commission and the EU for failing to seriously address human rights abuses in Algeria, and it calls for an international investigation to establish responsibility in the massacre of civilians.