The prison system is operated as a separate function of the Ministry
of Justice. The system includes many facilities established and
operated by the French during their rule. Persons convicted of
lesser crimes are sent to provincial civil prisons. Those found
guilty of more serious crimes, including murder, kidnapping, or
rape, which carry a potential death sentence, serve time in one
of three penitentiaries. Persons convicted of treason, terrorism,
and other crimes against the state are also sent to the penitentiaries.
According to the United States Department of State, conditions
in both types of institutions range from primitive to modern.
Conditions in the penitentiaries are said to be worse than in
the more numerous civil prisons. At El Harrach, the main prison
in Algiers, prisoners are often crowded together, and sanitary
facilities are poor. Inmates at other prisons, especially those
in outlying areas, are thought to live under better conditions.
Prisoners are segregated according to the seriousness of their
crimes and the length of their sentences.
Medical care is described as rudimentary in most cases, although
a local doctor under contract visits each prison regularly to
treat sick prisoners. Seriously ill prisoners are sent to local
hospitals. Inmates of civil prisons can receive visits from their
families once a week. It is more difficult to visit prisoners
held in penitentiaries. Conjugal visits are sometimes permitted
at the discretion of local prison authorities. The prison diet
is described as bland and starchy. Visiting families may bring
food to augment the inadequate prison fare.
Detainees in the Saharan security camps have been forced to contend
with extreme heat, poor food, inadequate bedding, and overcrowding.
Next of kin often have not been notified about inmates' detention,
and many detainees have been released near the camps without transportation
home. A medical team under the auspices of the Algerian League
of Human Rights found no evidence of torture in the detention
camps, however. The United States Department of State has observed
that in 1992 there were fewer reports of torture and brutal treatment
than in prior years. The government has responded to concerns
that have been raised about conditions in prisons and desert internment
camps by organizations such as Amnesty International and has promised
to remind military commanders of their responsibility to safeguard
the rights of internees.
* * *
Most of the data on the strength and equipment of the armed forces
are based on The Military Balance, 1993-1994, and on
Jane's Fighting Ships, 1992-93. Little detailed information
has been disclosed by Algerian authorities on the structure and
performance standards of the service branches. The role of the
military in the political crisis of 1991-92 has been analyzed
by several authorities, including Guy Mandron in Jane's Intelligence
Review and John P. Entelis and Lisa J. Arone in Middle
East Policy. Numerous articles in the French periodical,
Jeune Afrique, have followed the efforts of the security
forces to maintain order against violence by Islamic radicals.
Alastair Horne's A Savage War of Peace is a balanced
and comprehensive account of the military and political aspects
of the Algerian War of Independence. The functioning of the criminal
justice system and the record of the police and the gendarmerie
in the struggle against Islamic-inspired dissidence are summarized
in the United States Department of State's annual Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices and in annual reports by
Amnesty International. (For further information and complete citations,
Data as of December 1993