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.
The experts: Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ms Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people; Mr. Fernand de Varennes RP, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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