18 June 2019

Algeria: Hunger Striker's Death in Custody Alarming, Say UN Experts

GENEVA (18 June 2019) ‑ United Nations experts said today they are alarmed by the death in custody of a human rights defender after a 53-day hunger strike in Algeria.

Members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said they had received reports that Kamel-Edine Fekhar, a doctor and the founder of Tifawt ‑ a foundation promoting the rights of the Mozabite indigenous peoples and minority from the M'zab region of the northern Sahara ‑ had not received timely or adequate medical care before his death on 28 May 2019.

"We are particularly concerned that the necessary care was not provided to Mr. Fekhar while he was under prison authority, which is contrary to Principle 24 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment," the experts said.

Mr. Fekhar, a Mozabite, had been detained since 30 March 2019. The Working Group had considered a previous period of detention since 2015 as arbitrary (see Opinion No. 34/2017) and in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right, calling namely for his immediate release.

Mr. Fekhar was freed on 18 July 2017 and continued his work as a doctor and human rights defender until he was arrested again in March this year.

"We are alarmed by the reported facts and regret the failure to implement the Working Group's opinion on Mr Fekhar's previous arbitrary detention. It is also very worrying that the Algerian authorities, after releasing Mr. Fekhar, did not observe the guarantees of non-recurrence of arbitrary detention of a human rights defender," the independent experts said.

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