Algeria: the assassination of the young Chaïma revives the debate on the death penalty

Her youthful face and her soft features that invade the Algerian web contrast violently with the crime of which she was the victim. 1er Last October, Chaïma F., 19, was lured into an abandoned service station about fifty kilometers east of Algiers by a convict who had raped her at 16, “before raping her, to hit it, and throw it on the ground to burn it by spraying it with gasoline, ”reports the Attorney General of Boumerdès. Quickly arrested, the alleged assassin is being prosecuted for “rape” and “premeditated murder with the use of torture and barbaric methods”.

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Unanimous condemnation of the “trivialization of violence”

The shock was violent: from discussions in cafes to family meetings, from social networks to traditional media, the “Chaïma” case shocked a whole country. Not only by the savagery suffered by the young girl, but also by hate speech justifying the crime. “She just had to behave well”, “women provoke men” … and other monstrosities have invaded social networks.

The shock wave has crossed the country’s borders: the Femen movement organized an action in Paris last week. In Algiers, a protest rally was organized in the city center on October 8 to denounce this crime, in parallel with another sit-in in front of the Algerian consulate in the 11e Parisian district, denouncing “the laxity of the Algerian state, the complicity of security agents and the judiciary and the trivialization of violence against women by society”.

During the Algerian rally, quickly dispersed by the police, the activists pointed to the authorities’ responsibility: “This government offers no refuge or mechanism to protect the victims of their torturers. This government says it has laws, but in reality women are being asked to forgive their abuser, whether it is their brother or their father or anyone else. “” The women file a complaint and wait three or four years for a judgment to be rendered. These are unacceptable conditions, ”said one of the demonstrators.

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Gaps to fill

According to the group of activists grouped together on the Algeria Feminicides Facebook page, 40 feminicides have been perpetrated since the 1er January 2020 (around sixty in 2019, unofficial figures). “The infamous murder of Chaïma is added to a long list of feminicides which continues to grow in the face of complicit silence, the justification of violence and the absence of real measures”, commented the Free and Independent Collective of women of Béjaïa.

For the lawyer Nadia Aït Zaï, founder of the Information and Documentation Center on the Rights of the Child and of the Woman (CIDDEF), article 40 of the new Constitution – proposed to the referendum vote on 1er next November -, which guarantees the protection of women against violence, is “a good thing”, as well as the State’s commitment to open reception centers for victims who are entitled to free legal aid .

But, according to this longtime lawyer and activist, there are still gaps to be filled. “What we are asking is that this assistance be automatic and that the victim does not need to go and file a case to study his case,” says the lawyer. “Women do not systematically report because of their children or for fear of ending up on the street,” she explains. She hopes that an automatic reporting mechanism will be established that will allow these women to be tracked and the perpetrators of violence to be prosecuted. According to the expert, a monitoring system for attackers should be set up. “Moreover, if this delinquent, who killed Chaïma, had been placed under surveillance after his first assault, this crime could have been avoided”, laments the lawyer. This week, the Algerian gendarmerie announced new procedures for sensitive cases of blackmail or violence with more discreet methods to protect young victims, both from their attackers and from the family circle.

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The debate on the death penalty revived

But beyond that, this crime – followed by two macabre discoveries this week in the east and south of the country of two charred female corpses – has revived the debate around the death penalty. Since 1993, Algeria has applied a moratorium on death sentences, even though the courts continue to pronounce death sentences, especially in terrorism cases. Part of public opinion demanded the reinstatement of the death penalty for the murderer of the young Chaïma, as it had demanded for the murderers and kidnappers of children.

The same debate is shaking our Maghreb neighbors. In Tunisia, following the assassination at the end of September of Rahma Lahmar, 29, in the suburbs of Tunis, by a repeat offender (attempted murder and thefts), President Kaïs Saïed did not hesitate to declare: “We will provide [à l’accusé] all the conditions for self-defense, but if it is proven that he killed one or more people, I do not think that the solution is not to apply the death penalty. In Morocco, where the death penalty has not been applied since 1993, the rape and murder of young Adnan, 11, in Tangier, has ignited the debate around the issue.

For Algerian jurist Nadia Aït Zaï, “capital punishment will not prevent criminals from taking action”. Rather, it calls for tougher sentences: “Condemn until life imprisonment and without grace. Like that, between four walls, he will understand his pain and serve as an example to others. “

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