ALGERIA - Moratorium on executions
State of civil and political rights: Not free
Constitution: 8 September 1963; effective 22 November 1976; revised several times the last on November 12, 2008
Legal System: socialist, based on French and Islamic law
Legislative System: bicameral Parliament consists of the National People's Assembly (Al-Majlis Ech-Chaabi Al-Watani) and the Council of Nations
Judicial System: Supreme Court
Religion: Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99%, Christian and Jewish 1%
Method of execution: shooting
Date of last execution: 1993
Prisoners on death row: At least 943 (up to July, 22, 2015 www.deathpenaltyworldwide.org)
International Treaties on the Death Penalty and Human Rights:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- 1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
- Convention on the Rights of the Child
- Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
- Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty) (only signed)
Algeria’s laws prescribe the death penalty for a range of crimes
including ordinary crimes. In 1992 the scope of the death penalty was
extended to terrorist offences.
The Penal Code provides for the application of the death penalty for
serious offences including: treason and espionage, attempts to change
the regime or actions aimed at incitement, destruction of territory,
sabotage to public and economic utilities, massacres and slaughters,
participation in armed bands or in insurrectionary movements,
counterfeiting, murder, acts of torture or cruelty, kidnapping and
The political events of 1991/92 which culminated in an annulment of the
vote following the election of the Islamic Front, and subsequent acts of
terrorism, led to the declaration of a state of emergency and the
introduction of special laws in September 1992 (anti-terrorism decree)
extending the application of the death penalty. This special decree was
almost entirely included in the ordinary law of 1995 that is currently
Former President Liamine Zeroual declared a moratorium on executions in
December 1993 and no executions have been carried out since. The last
executions took place in August 1993, when seven armed Islamists were
executed. They had been condemned to death for a 1992 attack on Algiers
airport by special courts, which have since been dissolved.
On April 15, 1999, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected President of
Algeria. After 7 years of civil war, 100,000 murders, hundreds of
missing people, unemployment and institutional difficulties, the new
President launched a policy for reconciliation. Since then, on the
legislative front, a number of offenses for which capital punishment was
provided were subject to a cancellation pure and simple (such as
economic crimes) or a revision that led to the replacement of capital
punishment by imprisonment. Furthermore, no new law in Algeria provides
for the death penalty. In addition, several death sentences were
commuted to prison terms by presidential pardon.
In June 1999, the Algerian Parliament approved a law providing for
reduced prison terms to be meted out to members of armed Islamic
fundamentalist groups. Militant fundamentalists who had not perpetrated
any killings for six months and were ready to testify against their
accomplices could benefit under this law. The following month President
Abdelaziz Bouteflika pardoned thousands of fundamentalists on the basis
of this national reconciliation law, which was approved by a majority of
84.96% of voters in a national referendum held in September 1999.
In 2001 President Bouteflika pardoned 7,000 prisoners and 115 inmates
condemned to death had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
However, terrorist attacks and subsequent capital sentences have
continued to the present day.
On June 27, 2004 Justice Minister Tayeb Belaiz pledged to abandon the
death penalty for all but serious crimes such as terrorism and treason,
media reports said. The newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on June 29, 2004
reported that Belaiz’s proposal also aimed to put an end to the
widely-condemned practice of torture in Algerian prisons and could be
submitted to parliament by autumn. The EU had repeatedly requested
Algeria to abolish the death penalty and eradicate torture. Algeria
intended to co-operate more closely with European authorities, that
refuse to hand over Algerian nationals detained on the continent on
charges of terrorism because of the existence of the death penalty in
the north African state.
The European Convention on Human Rights binds EU countries to reject
extradition requests if there is a possibility of a death sentence. On
April 3, 2006, Algeria approved a new criminal code that did not scrap
the death penalty. It had seemed as though the government was intent on
abolishing capital punishment, however, the new code retained a full
version of ‘Article 5’ foreseeing its application.
In 2012 and the first months of 2013, dozens of death sentences for
terrorism, most in absentia, have been pronounced but not carried out in
Algeria. At least 38 death sentences were imposed in 2015, mostly against people tried in absentia for terrorism-related offences.
In recent years, some political activists, associations and lawyers pleaded for restoring the death penalty in Algeria, especially following the surge in crimes against children, which led to the introduction in December 2013 of new provisions in the Algerian Penal Code concerning the death penalty for child abductors in case the victim dies.
On 13 November 2014, Justice Minister Tayeb Louh said the restoration of the suspended death penalty in the country required an open and objective debate. Louh made the remarks as he answered a question asked by parliament members at the lower house on the reasons for non- application of the death penalty in Algeria. He said this issue should include all classes of society because of its political, social and moral characters. “Judicial sanction, in its modern sense, is not of a vindictive nature, but rather aims to protect the society by identifying personal and social causes leading to crime,” Louh said.
On 29 May 2012, Algeria was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights
Council. With regard to the issue of the death penalty, Minister for
Foreign Affairs Mourad Medelci said that the cultural specificities and
beliefs of Algerian society needed to be taken into account, in addition
to the international standards to which Algeria adhered.
At the international level, Algeria is part of the Support Group to the
International Commission for the promotion of the moratorium and the
abolition of the death penalty. He also co-sponsored the UN General
Assembly Resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty.
On December 19, 2016 Algeria voted in favour of the
Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN
General Assembly, but did not confirm the co-sponsorship.