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TESTIMONY OF FERHAT MEHENNI ON TORTURE IN ALGERIA – Siwel

MILAN (SIWEL) – During a conference debate organized by the University of Milan-Bicocca in the prestigious Palazzina Appiani on the theme ” A hybrid and pluralistic Algeria. The Search for Democracy in the Sixty Years of Independence (1962-2022)‘ the President of the Kabyle Provisional Government in Exile (Anavad) and the Movement for Kabylia Self-Determination (MAK), Ferhat Mehenni, gives his detailed testimony on the torture he has suffered at the hands of the Algerian regime. “The FLN system persists in Algeria, it was born from violence and torture practices and it has become second nature to him,” he recalls, recalling that the torture he experienced in the ’70s and ’80s is still alive today in 2022 to be practiced on Kabyle citizens in general and MAK activists in particular.

Recall that during the Boumediene and Chadli dictatorships, as co-founder of the first Algerian League for Human Rights, Ferhat Mehenni knew Algerian prisons 12 times and only yesterday, November 21, 2022, was honored by the recent death sentence of the Algerian colonial regime, by an unjust one Regulatory justice judged to be at the forefront of a peaceful movement fighting politically for the right of the Kabyle people to self-determination and the regaining of Kabylia’s independence.

Below is the full text of the statement made by President Ferhat Mehenni just during this conference, organized by the poet, essayist and publisher Arnoldo Mosca Mondadori together with Professor Vermondo Brugnatelli, specialist in Berber language and professor of Arabic culture at the University of Milan, was moderated -Bicocca:

TORTURE IN ALGERIA
TESTIMONY BY FERHAT MEHENNI

Torture is the use of force against a person to extract confessions and information, to force them to do something against their will, or to punish them for what they have done…

According to the UN Convention against Torture, torture is “any act by which severe physical or mental pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted on a person, particularly in order to obtain information or a confession from that person or another third party, to punish him for an act which he or a third party has committed or is suspected of intimidating or pressuring, or intimidating or pressuring any third party, or for any other reason based on any form of discrimination, if such pain or suffering by a public official or any other person acting in an official capacity or at his or her initiative or with his or her express or implied consent. »

It is a remnant of the barbaric times that were particularly fond of dictatorships and rogue states.

I heard about the torture when I was six years old. In 1957, during the war against France, my father was responsible for preparing food for groups of traveling Maquisards. The house where they meet, 50 meters from ours, has been confiscated and its occupants have been forced to live elsewhere. The owners of another adjacent house also had to leave the house. In addition, a barracks were installed in these two houses from the operation of the Green Berets.

The war was in full swing. My brother, four years older than me, was chosen by my father to be his waiter boy. He helped him take food and silverware from the house to Maquisard headquarters and bring back the empty and leftovers. It was he who told us what he saw in our guests. One day he told us that there was a prisoner. A traitor in the language of the time. His fate was terrible. His torturers opened his chest with hot irons before sprinkling salt on his severe wounds to get him to confess his treason. Whether he confessed it or not, he was going to be killed anyway.

After the Maquisards left, the French soldiers took their places in the same premises. As they left, we discovered the body of a horribly mutilated young man.
As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been arrested 12 times. When I was first arrested on November 30, 1976, I was taken to the gendarmerie barracks called Barberousse. I had not suffered any violence during my interrogation that day. But the cell in which I spent the night was so dirty and smelly that I couldn’t sleep a wink all night. The day after my second arrest, on the morning of April 17, 1980, I was tortured in an office at the central police station in Algiers. I was entrusted to three police officers whose boss, a certain Smail, was only there to ask questions. Was I FFS or not? It was in a normal office, on the 4th or 5th floor. There was a table, 4 or 5 wooden chairs and a bucket with a mop emerging from dirty water. It was “in case he loses consciousness,” one of them said. I was then made to sit in a chair and put one hand under the back of the furniture and the other over it to handcuff myself behind my back. So I couldn’t get up without taking the chair with me. The interrogation began and I refused to answer the questions. The two torturers wanted to hit me, but they didn’t have the courage at first. To achieve this, a trigger was needed. One of them insulted me and I returned his insult. He was then freed from his scruples about indulging in violence on my body. After a first beating, the interrogation continued. I declined again. So they reach for another chair, putting both of my legs through the gap between the seat and the backrest, and then turning them around so that the latter rests on my kneecaps. One of the two men stood on my lap and pushed with all his weight. The pain was so bad I thought my kneecaps would break. What I was afraid of then; it was a disfigurement or an infirmity for life. I would rather die than live beaten or disabled. It had lasted all morning. I don’t know if it was two, three or four hours. For me it was an eternity. After receiving nothing in the end, I was put back in the cell where a uniformed police officer took pity on me and brought me a small cup of hot milk.

When I was last arrested in 1985, I was not tortured. There wasn’t even an interrogation. I was taken directly to the examining magistrate of the state security court in Médéa (200 km south of Algiers). He had issued an arrest warrant recommending solitary confinement in Berrouaghia prison and I found myself on death row. Without the vigilance of my friends who were in the same prison, I would have spent several days there. After being sentenced to three years in prison, I was transferred to Tazoult-Lambèse on December 19, 1985, where a strong admissions committee was waiting for us. Not supporting the beatings I inflicted on my fellow inmates, I shouted to stop beating them. Then they came at me in a group and I was the worst off. I was all bloody and my nose has been shattered ever since. To this day I have nasal cartilages sticking out of the flesh in my nostrils.

In 1986, after our release following our sentencing by the State Security Court, our lead attorney, Me Hocine Zahouane, informed us that when he was arrested following the Boumediene coup in 1965, he had crossed Kasdi Merbah in the corridors of his interrogation site. Knowing each other well, the first was Benbelliste and friend of Med Harbi, with whom he led the review of the only African Revolution party, and the other was Mohamed Boussouf’s lieutenant, assassin of Abane Ramdane and second knife of Boumediene, he said : Are you reduced to that? points to the blood smearing the floor. Merbah cynically replied, “Don’t worry, we don’t torture here! Besides, you will check it yourself! In fact, he was immediately put in an office where he endured hell of torture.

When I say this, it means that the FLN system was born out of violence and the practice of torture, and it has become second nature to it. He can’t get rid of it.

The MAK activists who have been arrested since June 2021 have all been tortured. They were all stripped naked, beaten with all sorts of means, doused with ice water and verbally abused. They were hung up naked by their feet and most of them were raped. There is one who, in order to force him to sign a confession he never made, according to which the MAK ordered the burning of Kabylie, sought the services of his wife to witness her rape.

The report of the newspapers of the Algerian power on the process of the assassination of Djamel Bensmail, although they censored the explanations about the tortures to which the co-defendants were subjected during the week of their interrogations, reports that all the detainees denounced the fact that the contents of the interrogation reports attributed to them did not come from them but from their torturers.

Because of all these revelations before the judge, a new complaint against Algeria is being drafted at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This inhuman and degrading treatment outrages the human conscience and calls for international sanctions, even if only symbolically.

Milan on 11/20/2022
Ferhat Mehenni

SEAL 201830 NOV. 22

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