Algeria confronts kidnappings

Algeria just approved emergency measures to combat kidnappings, a week after two abducted children were found dead in Constantine province. (courtesy of www.magharebia.com)

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Sunday (March 17th) held a ministerial meeting on the topic. Snatchings have sparked concern among Algerian families, leading to calls for measures that will ensure the security of children.

During the meeting, Sellal ordered a series of urgent measures to address the phenomenon. According the APS, he stressed a three-pronged approach of sensitisation, prevention, and “hard” and “fast” judicial measures against the perpetrators.

Full measures will be taken, including revision of the penal code, activation of punitive measures, and the implementation of maximum penalties, noted the premier. He also demanded the co-ordination of the security forces’ green phone numbers as a warning system reachable from both mobile and fixed telephones.

Algerian authoritiesRound tables on television and radio will also be organised to encourage the community to contact concerned authorities immediately in case of abduction. Security patrols within residential complexes, playgrounds, public squares and around educational institutions will also be intensified.

The interior ministry will form a work committee that will include several relevant departments intent on fighting this phenomenon.

A report presented during the ministerial meeting noted that 80 per cent of abducted children were freed by security services. The kidnapping incidents that occurred in a number of provinces “raised the concerns of the government”, Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia declared on Saturday. Parents, schools, doctors and psychologists should play a role in prevention, according to the minister. The role of the state is complementary to everyone’s efforts, he added.

The number of kidnapped children in Algeria has risen frightfully. Official security reports circulated to local media revealed the forced disappearance of 276 children in 2012. Most of them were sexually abused, strangled, murdered or mutilated for their organs.

There have been several cases of kidnapped children over the past few months. Six-year old Sanaa Boukleikha was found murdered on Friday in the city of Sebdou after disappearing on Thursday. A week ago, Constantine witnessed the abduction of two children who were murdered after being raped. The bodies of Haroon Bodayrah, 10, and Ibrahim Hashish, 9, were found near their family home. Security forces arrested two suspects.

Thousands demonstrated on Sunday demanding the application of the death penalty against the perpetrators of the crime.

“The phenomenon of abduction… falls in the context of a culture of violence,” said Farouk Ksentini, chairman of the National Advisory Commission for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (CNCPPDH). “This culture did not exist in the past and urgent measures are needed to fight it.”

“It is time to take the necessary measures to reduce this through consultations with security authorities, justice as well as civil society,” he added.

Parents are extremely affected by the increase in kidnappings.

“The increase in kidnapping incidents forced me to escort my kids every morning and to return with them at the end of the morning sessions. I do the same thing for the afternoon sessions,” said Bahia Wasti, the mother of two children in elementary school.

Others stressed the role of psychological care.

“This phenomenon causes long term serious psychological crises and complicated traumas requiring follow-up and accompaniment by specialists for the benefit of family victims in particular,” explained psychologist Zeenat Fatima.

Experts in sociology, law and psychologists called for the development of a special programme to provide emergency psychological care to benefit the families of children victims.