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Algeria: Meeting between President Bouteflika and ICRC President

21-11-2000 News Release 00/43

Geneva (ICRC) – The President of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, today met with Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Mr Kellenberger expressed satisfaction at the way ICRC work to assist detainees in Algeria was proceeding and highlighted the constructive nature of the dialogue between the organization and the country's authorities, enhanced by the three sets of visits to prisons carried out by the ICRC since October 1999. He conveyed to President Bouteflika the ICRC’s initial conclusions and recommendations concerning detention conditions and the treatment of detainees in prisons administered by the Ministry of Justice and persons taken into custody under the responsibility of the Ministries of Defence and the Interior. He emphasized the importance of the ICRC’s work for the detainees and expressed his hope that the organization would be able to continue developing its dialogue with the Algerian authorities.

To date, the ICRC has been able to visit 23 Ministry of Justice prisons located in various parts of Algeria. ICRC staff have been able to speak in private to 1,183 detainees whom they selected themselves. The visits, which were conducted in accordance with traditional ICRC procedures, also made it possible to gather information about other places of custody in which the detainees visited had been held.

Mr Kellenberger also shared with President Bouteflika his concern at the distress suffered by families who had still heard nothing regarding the fate of loved ones who disappeared during Algeria’s crisis of recent years.

During his visit to Algeria, the ICRC President had talks about the organization's activities in Algeria and around the world with various members of the government including the Prime Minister, Mr Ali Benflis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Abdelaziz Belkhadem, the Minister of Justice, Mr Ahmed Ouayahia, the Minister of Health, Mr Mohamed-Larbi Abdelmoumène, and the Minister of National Solidarity, Mr Ould Abbess.

Detailed talks with Mr Abdelkader Boukhroufa, President of the Algerian Red Crescent, brought confirmation of the two organizations'desire to pursue cooperation projects, in particular psychological and social assistance for women and child victims of the violence, first aid, and work to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law.

On 19 November, President Kellenberger visited Sahrawi refugee camps and camps containing Moroccan prisoners of war near Tindouf. Later he was received by the Secretary-General of the Polisario Front, Mr Mohamed Abdelaziz, with whom he mostly discussed the 1,685 Moroccan prisoners. The ICRC President expressed his disappointment at the Polisario Front's refusal to release and repatriate the prisoners, most of whom have been living in captivity for over 20 years. Mr Abdelaziz nevertheless confirmed the agreements whereby the ICRC visits the prisoners and maintains contact between them and their families.

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