Geneva, 23 August 2015
We, the undersigned organizations, are pleased and overwhelmed to learn the release of Mr. Rachid Mesli, Alkarama's Legal Director. Alkarama is a NGO based in Geneva; it acts as a bridge between individual victims in the Arab World and international Human Rights Mechanisms. It is also a member of Amnesty International Switzerland.
According to the information published by Alkarama, Mr. Mesli has to appear before The Turin Court of Appeal on Monday, 24th August. The court rule is expected on the extradition request submitted by Algeria via Interpol.
We recall that the Italian authorities arrested Mr. Rachid Mesli, on Wednesday, 19 August as he was crossing the Swiss-Italian border. He was on vacation, accompanied by his wife and his 14 years old son. Their car was stopped by customs officers at Swiss-Italian border post of the Great St-Bernard tunnel in the Valley of Aosta.
According to information we received, customs officers thoroughly searched the car, and later contacted Swiss and French police and no irregularity was mentioned. Afterward, police contacted Interpol, Mr. Mesli was consequently arrested and his family escorted to Aosta Police station.
At 6.45 pm, the police chief of Aosta informed Mr. Mesli that he was arrested according to an Algerian warrant and that the Tribunal of Turin is going to look into the case. He is not heard by a judge yet and awaiting for the decision of the appeal court of Turin whether to extradite him or not.
We consider his arrest as a deep disgrace to Italy where human rights are supposed to be respected and human rights defenders protected. Mr. Rachid Mesli is a renowned human rights activist who defends victims of oppression in several countries in the Arab world.
We, the undersigned organizations, welcome the release of Rahid Mesli, but deplore his arrest.
We call upon the Italian authorities to:
1- Stop arbitrary measures based on erroneous information
2- Refrain from the extradition of Mr. Mesli to Algeria for safety reasons
3- Ensure all his judicial guarantees and all effective remedies available in Italy
We recall that as a lawyer in Algeria in the 1990s, Mr. Mesli defended the leaders of the country's banned Islamic Salvation Front.
On 31 July 1996, he was abducted at gunpoint by four members of the security forces. He was then detained secretly for over a week, repeatedly beaten and threatened by death and eventually charged with belonging to a "terrorist group"which is a false accusation.
In 1997, he was himself sentenced to three years in prison accused of "supporting terrorism" following a trial later described as biased.
In July 1997, he was acquitted of this charge and instead convicted of having "encouraged terrorism," charge that was not brought to court, hence Mr. Mesli lost the right to a defense.
In 2000, fearing for himself and his family's safety, he left his country to live in Switzerland where he was granted political asylum.
On 6 April 2002, an international arrest warrant was issued against Mr. Mesli.
1- The International Center for Justice and Human Rights, Geneva
2- European Alliance for Human Rights, Paris
3- Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, Geneva
4- Human Rights Monitor, UK
5- International Federation for Rights and Development, Rome
6- Human Rights Solidarity
7- Rights for All, Geneva
8- Association of torture victims in Tunisia, Geneva
9- AFD INTERNATIONAL - Bruxelles