Date: March 14, 2023
ARTICLE 19, together with 16 other human rights organisations, have written a joint letter to the government of Tunisia regarding the case of Algerian human rights defender Zakaria (‘Zaki’) Hannache. Algerian authorities have called for Hannache, who is currently in exile Tunisia, to be extradited to Algeria. The organisations urge the government not to comply with this request, and remind Tunisian authorities that he is entitled to protection as a refugee. The United Nations Committee against Torture has also appealed to the government not to extradite Hannache. If he is returned to Algeria, he is likely to face persecution and ill treatment.
The full letter follows.
To the government of Tunisia,
We, the undersigned human rights organisations, write to express our deep concern about the current situation of Zakaria (‘Zaki’) Hannache, an Algerian human rights defender, whose extradition has been recently requested by the Algerian authorities. We hereby wish to remind you that he enjoys international protection as a refugee and that the UN Committee against Torture asked you, as recently as 6 March 2023, not to extradite him to Algeria.
Since 2019, Hannache has been documenting and publishing information on the arrests and prosecutions of prisoners of conscience in Algeria, particularly in relation to the peaceful protest movement known as Hirak.
Following his arrest in February 2022, he faced several charges linked to his activism. After being detained for 6 weeks in Algeria, he was provisionally released on bail in March 2022. In the following months, Hannache was subject to acts of intimidation and pressure, prompting him to travel to Tunisia, where he sought medical support in August 2022.
On 9 November, 2022, Hannache learned that he had been summoned to a hearing in the court of Sidi M’hamed in Algiers, scheduled for 13 November. This prompted him to apply for asylum with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the next day. He learned that Tunisian police, specifically the anti-terrorist brigade, had inquired about him in at least two locations in Tunis during the week of 15 November. He was granted refugee status by the UNHCR on 18 November, 2022.
Tunisia has previously cooperated with Algeria in its efforts to forcibly return exiled peaceful opponents and human rights defenders. This was apparently the case for Slimane Bouhafs, a UNHCR-recognised refugee, and Christian Amazigh activist who was abducted and forcibly returned from Tunis on 25 August 2021.
Fearing a repetition of the dangerous precedent set by the extrajudicial return of Slimane Bouhafs, MENA Rights Group and a Tunis-based human rights researcher submitted a request for interim measures on behalf of Zaki Hannache before the UN Committee against Torture, which were transmitted to your government on 5 December 2022.
On 2 March 2023, Hannache learned that the court of Sidi M’hamed had sentenced him in absentia to 3 years in prison. Neither he nor his lawyers were aware of the trial’s occurrence. One of his lawyers coincidentally discovered the decision while dealing with a separate case in court. Another of his lawyers confirmed that an international arrest warrant and an extradition request were sent by Algeria the same day. In light of this new development, the Committee against Torture sent you a follow-up communication on 6 March, 2023, asking you not to extradite Hannache.
The undersigned organisations recall that as a refugee, Hannache is protected from refoulement by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention that your country has ratified as well as under the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. As a State party to the 1984 Convention against Torture, Tunisia is bound not to expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. As such, we call on your government to respect Hannache’s international protection and to inform the Committee against Torture of your willingness not to extradite him while his case is under review.
– Amnesty International Tunisia
– ARTICLE 19
– Cairo Institute For Human Rights (CIHRS)
– Centre Justitia pour la protection juridique des droits de l’Homme en Algérie
– EuroMed Rights
– FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
– Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux FTDES
– Human Rights Foundation (HRF)
– Human Rights Watch (HRW)
– HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
– International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
– Ligue Algérienne de défense des droits humains – LADDH ALGÉRIE
– MENA Rights Group
– Minority Rights Group
– Terre d’Asile Tunisie
– World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders