**This is the second part of a two-part article series covering the Kabyle-Algerian conflict. The first part covered the historical circumstances that led to the heightened conflict in the region.
Le Gouvernement Provisoire de Kabylie in exile (known as ANAVAD) and Le Mouvement pour l’Autodétermination de la Kabylie (MAK) filed joint petitions before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague and the Judicial Court of Paris in September 2021, alleging “genocide.”
The ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, as defined in the Rome Statute establishing the ICC. In order for a non-state party’s case to proceed, the ICC prosecutor must first determine whether the alleged crimes satisfy certain fundamental jurisdictional requirements under the statute. Petitions submitted to the prosecutor are not publicly available from the Court. However, Inside Arabia was able to obtain exclusive extracts of both petitions.
Petition Before the ICC
The ICC petition alleges that Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Deputy Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff of the Algerian army Saïd Chengriha have engaged in a systematic “genocide of the Kabyle people” through a “strategy of ethnic extermination by unprecedented means” involving the weaponization of the Covid-19 pandemic and setting deadly fires.
The largest fires in Algeria and the most significant human losses have occurred in the heart of Kabylie, in Tizi-Ouzou, where hundreds of Kabyles are dying every day, according to the petition. Hospitals in the region have faced an acute shortage of medicines, medical staff, and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, oxygen, ICU beds, etc.
The petition claims that the strategy to exterminate the Kabyle people emanates from a congress convened in western Algeria on August 18 and 20, 2019, to establish a “genocidal enterprise” called “OPERATION ZERO KABYLE.”
The petition recounts public pronouncements featuring hate-mongering and racist characterizations by Algerian officials.
The petition also recounts a series of public pronouncements featuring hate-mongering and racist characterizations by Algerian public officials since 2019, with one party leader and member of parliament allegedly calling the Kabyle people “Jews of the worst kind.” The petition alleges that the Algerian government has specifically targeted President-in-exile Ferhat Mehenni, citing an alleged statement by the Algerian president during a televised speech on August 18, 2021: “We will use all means to make him pay dearly.”
The petitioners’ claim of genocide is based upon the “deliberate infliction” of conditions of existence designed by officials to bring about the physical destruction of the Kabyle people, contrary to Article 6 of the Rome Statute. The petition references public calls to exterminate the Kabyle people; violent repression by the Algerian authorities during demonstrations; the reduction of medical services below the required minimum to combat the coronavirus pandemic; and the eviction of people from their homes.
The petition cites Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations, which provides for people’s right to self-determination, stating that this is “precisely what the Kabyle people have been claiming and seeking to exercise, through legal and pacifist means, for years.” Yet, it states, the “Algerian State and its two-headed power . . . [are] pursuing a strategy of disinformation” to shore up its central power and deny self-determination for the Kabyles.
The petition also cites an Algerian presidential order, issued on June 10, 2021, amending Article 87 of the Algerian Penal Code to criminalize the right to self-determination, making it equivalent to “terrorism,” in defiance of international covenants, the Charter of the United Nations, and Article 32 of the Algerian Constitution.
The petition cites an Algerian presidential order to criminalize the right to self-determination.
Under the totality of the circumstances, according to the petition, the conditions the Algerian state is imposing are “incontestably serious and of a nature to characterize the crime of genocide committed against the Kabyle people.” The petition demands that an investigation be carried out without delay and proceedings be brought against the named perpetrators.
Pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statute, the ICC prosecutor now has jurisdiction and discretion to initiate an investigation regarding alleged crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.
Petition Before the Judicial Court of Paris
ANAVAD and MAK also petitioned the Judicial Court of Paris on September 23, making similar claims as those made before the ICC.
The petition asserts that the Paris Judicial Court is a proper venue as the court has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, war crimes and offenses, acts of torture, and forced disappearances when victims and/or perpetrators are French, as in the case of Mehenni. The headquarters of MAK and Siwel (the Kabyle communications agency which maintains a list of all Kabyles detained to date) are also located on French territory.
Rights Organizations Weigh In
During its 69th Session in November and December, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its Commissioner-Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Algeria disclosed that they had sent a letter to Tebboune, seeking answers to numerous allegations.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights sent a letter to Tebboune, seeking answers.
The letter itself sent on September 27, is not available on the Commission’s website. However, according to le Congrès Mondiale Amazigh (CMA), an NGO that defends Amazigh rights, the letter recited a litany of allegations. First, it cited the arbitrary detention without trial of CMA Co-Chair Kamira Naït Sid and at least 160 Kabyle members of the independence movement.
Second, it alleged that the Algerian government failed to adequately fight or investigate the fatal fires that have killed 140 to 250 people and destroyed entire villages, crops, orchards, and forests. Third, the letter claimed that the government prevented localities in Kabylia from taking measures to protect their residents from the spread of COVID-19. And fourth, the said government blocked the delivery of desperately needed respirators and ventilators sent to Kabylia from Europe.
Finally, the letter asserted that, if the allegations are true, such actions would be a violation of at least eight articles of the African Charter, to which Algeria is a party, as well as various other human rights instruments.
Pursuant to the rules of the African Commission, the Algerian government was required to respond to the serious allegations within three months, the CMA told Inside Arabia. However, the CMA was not aware that Algeria had responded to the letter.
Emails sent by Inside Arabia to the African Commission and the Algerian Embassy in Washington, DC have gone unanswered.
In November, another rights group, the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization (UNPO), launched a campaign to review the repression of the Kabyle civil society movement and the plight of the people living in Kabylia.
“Kabyles in France and the USA had sent medical supplies to help the population in the region, only to see these supplies diverted by the Algerian government officials to allocate among themselves,” UNPO stated. As the Delta variant struck Kabylia “particularly hard,” it added, “ordinary people [were] without oxygen tanks or protective equipment when being admitted to hospital for Covid-19.”
Five UN Special Rapporteurs wrote a letter to the Algerian government in December, calling out its disregard of fundamental human rights, particularly with respect to how the Algerian state defines “terrorism” and weaponizes anti-terrorism legislation to crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly.
Five UN Special Rapporteurs wrote to the Algerian government, calling out its disregard of fundamental human rights.
In somewhat of a non-sequitur, Algeria responded to the Special Rapporteurs’ allegations in a letter, asserting that concerns regarding its antiterrorism legislation are unfounded because there is no “international consensus on the definition of terrorism.”
Nevertheless, the Algerian state is forging its own sweeping definitions of terrorism. On February 13, Algiers issued a decree registering a number of persons and entities on its national list of terrorist persons and entities published in Algeria’s Official Bulletin. It classified 16 people, including Ferhat Mehenni and several other leaders of MAK, as well as two organizations, as “terrorists.”
This classification would have allowed the state to take “necessary measures” to prohibit activities of persons or entities on the list. This would have included seizing and/or freezing their funds and funds derived from their property or that of others acting on their behalf, and prohibiting them from traveling, according to this reporting.
However, just three hours after it had been posted online, the official bulletin was inexplicably taken down. Aksel Belabbaci, adviser to the president of MAK, called the decree “absurd.” Regardless, the Algerian government had already declared MAK a terrorist organization in May 2021 and issued an international arrest warrant for Mehenni.
The Crack Down Escalates, Arrests and Torture Continue
With all eyes now on Ukraine, the Algerian regime is escalating its crack down on political opponents.
With all eyes seemingly now on Ukraine, the Algerian regime is escalating its crack down on political opponents. MAK spokesman Aksel Meziane told Inside Arabia the arrests continue and “the tortures have not stopped.” It has now been seven months since Kamira Naït Sid was put in pre-trial detention, and she has not received the hearing she is entitled to after four months even under Algerian law. She, like all female prisoners, contrary to her usual practice, is also being forced to wear a hijab, according to Meziane.
It is apparent that Algiers has no intention of complying with international law or respecting human rights. In the meantime, international actors and rights watchdogs seem to have little influence, thus leaving the Kabyle people facing annihilation of their land, their livelihoods, their health, and their persons and bringing the Algerian state closer than ever to achieving its apparent goal of eradicating them.