“Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation” in Algeria: Threatening Contradictions

The Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation was enacted in August 2005 and approved by referendum on September 29, 2005. The law stipulates the closure of cases of prosecution and the termination of sentences for people who committed acts of violence between 1992 and 2006, excluding those responsible for some specific acts. The law provides for compensation of victims but it bans the Islamic Salvation Front from political activity. Through this law, the government forsakes prosecuting security forces for acts perpetrated during the years of war and bans all forms of opposition to the Charter, raising ethical and legal questions. By choosing to resort to popular arbitration through a referendum, the government hoped to pre-empt public and parliamentary debates on the Charter, avoid a reform of the Constitution which protects freedom of thought. By this, government is exposing itself to criticism for violating the International Charter for Human Rights to which Algeria is a signatory. Beyond legal and ethical issues, this process driven from the top might be seen in the future as a missed opportunity for achieving a genuine “horizontal reconciliation”. Can peace and democracy be built on these bases?