An Open Letter to the United Nations Delegation going to Algeria

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To their Excellencies

President Mario Soares
Minister Simone Veil
Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral
Prime Minister Abdel Karim Kabariti
Ambassador Donald McHenry
Attorney General Amos Wacko

Members of the United Nations Delegation invited by the Algerian government.

Excellencies,

I have learned that the Algerian Government has invited you to visit Algeria for several days, with the aim of gathering information on the situation in the country and of presenting a report to the United Nations Secretary General, a report which should be made public.

Given that part of your mission is to listen to, but also to hear, what the Algerian society says about what is happening in its country I venture, as an Algerian citizen and as member of the ‘Truth, Justice and Peace in Algeria’ Movement, to share my hopes and fears which your visit arouses, and also my opinion as to what is happening in my country.

Excellencies,

As for my hopes, let me first say that I am delighted and I congratulate you for having been chosen by the General Secretary for this mission. He has decided to choose eminent people of integrity, the majority of whom have shown their attachment to the struggle for the defence of freedom and human rights over a long period.

In consulting your biographies, I tempered my scepticism regarding the efficacy of a delegation without real power, without specialists in the strategies and tactics of counter-insurrectional war, without criminological expertise in the investigation of crimes against humanity, of war crimes and of politicides in the context of conflicts euphemistically termed ‘low-intensity’, a delegation not entitled to investigate and which must be content to observe from afar and draw conclusions. I tempered my scepticism because despite these risks one cannot help but see, in  your delegation, people of great sensitivity and perspicacity who have acquired an understanding of human suffering from personal experience. The compassion evident in the political journey of each of you shows that it is only the preoccupation with what the Algerian people are enduring, and your desire and will to contribute to bringing to end this tragedy, that animates your action.

President Soares, your long battle against Salazar’s dictatorship, your deportation to the Sao Tomé, the prison which you visited twelve times for your political opinions, your exile in Paris for several years, your writings on the subject of freedom in addition to your commitment to defending human rights with your contribution to human rights NGO’s, notably the International League of Human Rights of which you are a member. All this makes you very able to understand why a people rises up against a dictatorship and its injustices and how, in its search for freedom, it pays with its life.

It is equally your case, Prime Minister Gujral, you who were imprisoned back in 1930-31 for participating in a movement for freedom for your country, and again for a second time in 1942 during the ‘Quit India’ campaign. It was a time when Mahatma Ghandi travelled across the sub-continent to educate his people and teach them the meaning of freedom.

As for you, Minister Veil, who suffered at the age of seventeen internment in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps with your mother and two sisters. You who experienced the worst atrocities for the crime of simply being who you are, and who left in the death camps your mother and one of your sisters. You who evoke almost everywhere ‘the conscience of good’, you are well-equipped to understand the true nature of a regime which from its earliest days after the coup d’Etat did not hesitate in deporting tens of thousands of innocents to camps in the South, innocent people taken from the streets for some imprisoned for several years simply for having beard or wearing a kamis at the time of a raid.

Your presence Prime Minister Kabarati, in the delegation is particularly useful. You come from a country with the same culture and traditions. It will be easy for you to note the suffering of a fellow people, you who are very sympathetic to the Arab fraternity. Your presence is even more valuable in that you have experienced in your country, the Hachemite Kingdom of Jordan, the same political experience, the same turmoil, the same animated debates about the participation of Islamists in the country’s government. But, contrary to the attitude of your hosts, you have not chosen the eradication of your political opponents. You have fought them politically, you have sat with them in parliament, thus respecting the will of your fellow citizens who voted for them.

Ambassador McHenry, your fight against the lobbies and their manipulation of opinion in your country has no doubt inoculated you against any attempt at influence of which you will be the target in Algeria. Your various experiences with African regimes has well-equipped you to recognize the subtle mechanisms used to mask their repressive systems and cover them with an appearance of legality. Your support, in your own country, of minority rights, of equal opportunity and of ‘affirmative action’ have surely sharpened your sense of solidarity with the weak, the poor, the oppressed, the exploited, the humiliated, the abandoned, those of little importance in states on non-Law. Every day you will meet such people in the towns and villages in Algeria.

Your lawyer’s education Attorney General Amos Wacko, as that of Mr Soares and Mrs Veil, provides you with the intellectual equipment necessary to discern the true from the false, the good from the bad, the legal from the illegal, the legitimate from the illegitimate in spite of all the rhetoric aiming to confound one with the other. With your logic of Law, all mystifying sophism, all political alchemy which attempts to transform the victim into the torturer and the guilty into the innocent, has no hold on you. In addition, your African sensitivity will no doubt help you to see through the opacity deliberately created around the Algerian situation.

Excellencies,

As for my fears, perhaps you will found them legitimate. They are founded, in general, on a knowledge of history, the values and practices of the Algerian military junta and the diplomacy at its service, and in particular, on the often confirmed experience of its management of lies during visits of missions similar to yours. It is a knowledge inferred from observing the military-diplomatic management of lies during visits of numerous personalities who have travelled to Algeria until now (observers from the United Nations Organisation, the Organisation of African Unity, the Arab League, European ministers and parliamentarians, artists and a few rare journalists). It is a knowledge which should not be rejected a priori, because it can be tested, it has the ability to predict. These fears are based on experiences which should be heeded because the characteristic of the military psyche, and thus of its diplomatic service, is the fear of the insecurity of change, it is the need to reproduce itself, to be foreseeable.

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عباس عروة Abbas Aroua

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